Case of the Day Safadjou v. Mohammadi

The case of the day is Safadjou v. Mohammadi (N.Y. App. Div. 2013). The case was on appeal from a judgment in a divorce and child custody case. The husband had introduced evidence tending to show that the wife had left the United States with the couple’s child and that she intended to remain in Iran with her family. He had obtained leave from the judge to serve the summons by personal service on the wife’s parents, service by mail in Iran, and service on the wife’s Iranian attorneys. When these methods proved ineffectual, the judge authorized service by email. After the judgment, the wife challenged that order.

Under CPLR 308(5), the judge had discretion to authorize service by alternate means when other methods of service are “impracticable.”1 On appeal, the court held that the judge had not abused his discretion in the circumstances, given that Iran is not a party to the Hague Service Convention and the US and Iran lack diplomatic relations that could facilitate service of the summons in response to a letter rogatory. Note that since Iran is not a party to the Convention, the issue about whether the Convention permits service by email does not arise, and in any event, it seems the wife’s address was unknown.

  1. Contrast FRCP 4(f)(3), which permits alternate methods of service but does not require a showing of impracticability of other methods (though some courts do require a plaintiff to try other methods first).

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