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Colorado - Notice Via Facebook?

By Emily Kelley, Esq.

There is a new case in the 10 th Circuit that has generated some buzz in the domestic law community with regard to adoptions and notifying fathers that they are in fact fathers via Facebook. [1] [2]

It is well established that both parents have a right to raise their children. It stands to follow that a parent can only exercise those rights if they know that they in fact have a child. But what happens if that father isn't properly notified? A father can't act as a father if he doesn't know that he is one. There are cases in several jurisdictions where a father only learns that he has a child when adoption proceedings commence. One such case was In re Adoption of K.P.M.A. where a man from Oklahoma, who had a right to know he was a father, was notified of such exclusively via Facebook. In re Adoption of K.P.M.A., -- P.3d – (Okla. 2014). [3] During the adoption proceedings, the father of the child fought against having his paternal rights terminated claiming that Facebook was not a reasonable way to notify him that he had a child on the way and in a 6 to 3 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with him. The Court held that notifying someone that they were a father via Facebook is not proper notice because of the following:

"[Facebook] is an unreliable method of communication if the accountholder does not check it regularly or have it configured in such a way as to provide notification of unread messages by some other means . . . This Court is unwilling to declare notice via Facebook alone sufficient to meet the requirements of the due process clauses of the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions because it is not reasonably certain to inform those affected. . . . It is, rather, a mere gesture." Id. at 12 (Okla. 2014) citing Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 315 (1950).

This is not the first time notice by Facebook has been in the news. A family court in New York recently gave permission for a father to serve his ex-wife via Facebook so that he may notify her of his intentions to stop paying child support. [4]

While both these rulings occurred outside of Colorado, Oklahoma and Colorado are in the same Circuit meaning the ruling could be seen as persuasive. In Colorado, if an address of the father is known, then the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure for Service of Process are followed. If an address is not known, service by publication is permitted. While Colorado has not faced a similar case that we are aware of, the attorneys at Feldmann Nagel are always on the watch for national changes and trends. If you are involved in a situation where notice is required, including adoption, child custody, or any domestic case, call the attorneys at Feldmann Nagel to help you you navigate the proceedings.

Categories: Family Law, Adoption, Paternity

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