We had a client whom I’ll call Emily Jameson (obviously, a fictitious name). After suffering in a physically abusive relationship with her husband Tim, Emily fled from their home in Florida to Pennsylvania. She retained our firm to help her obtain a simple no-fault divorce . . . she just wanted to be divorced and to move on. We were on board to help her, but the tricky part was that we had no idea where Tim was.
After Emily left Tim, she knew that he was living with his parents who were also in Florida. She also knew that at some point, he was living somewhere in Massachusetts with an aunt of his. So, while we didn’t know exactly where he was, at least we had a launching point or two. Since we had their address, started by trying to have Tim served at his parents’ house in Florida, but they told our server he wasn’t living there. Knowing that he had a criminal record, I did some online docket searching. Luckily for us, Florida is one of those states that has descriptive online dockets, so I was able to find Tim’s record as well as the various hearings he had coming up. I was sure that this was it! We knew the day, the courthouse, the courtroom…it was a sure thing! We sent a process server to the courthouse only to learn that Tim didn’t show up for his hearing. We tried again on another court date; but, yet again, he didn’t appear. Our attorney handling Emily’s case even tried to speak with the assigned public defender. Nothing was working, time was passing, and Emily wasn’t getting any closer to putting this marriage behind her to continue healing. As disappointing as it was, I felt even more motivated to find Tim.
I did some investigating via public records and Facebook. Using information from both of those tools, I found Tim’s aunt on her public Facebook page and noticed in one of her posts she mentioned how she had been “bowling with Tim.” Aha. So, Tim was in Massachusetts. Tim’s aunt’s Facebook page also indicated that she worked at a local bar in Gloucester, Massachusetts, so I called a process server in that area. The process server I called referred me to Keith Keating – a process server located right in Gloucester. I called Keith and as a lifelong Gloucester resident (I can’t remember if he told me that or I just assumed that from our conversation), it sounded as if he knew everyone in the town. Having been through Gloucester before, I imagined the vibe of this scenic blue-collar New England fisherman’s town…I imagined Keith Keating starting his day early with a cup of black coffee…and in between work, he would interact with the other Gloucester residents he’s known for all of his life – families intertwined by a shared history – their conversations colorful and honest, narrated by charming accents.
I spoke with Keith a couple of days later. He told me he went down to the bar and talked to some people who were able to get him in touch with Tim. Eventually, after some conversations and planning, he was able to serve Tim with the divorce complaint. He described Tim as being very paranoid and nervous. Also, Tim didn’t have an address – he was homeless, sleeping on people’s couches and sticking around in town because people were giving him work.
It felt like a huge accomplishment. Really, it WAS a huge accomplishment. As big as the world is, through research, strategy, networking, and the right personality, we were able to tackle an enormous obstacle.
Next, we had to wait for Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum 90-day waiting period to elapse before having Keith find Tim again to have him sign the consent and waiver. As soon as 90 long days rolled by, I contacted Keith again to see if he could get Tim to sign both. Keith tried to find Tim at his regular haunts, but no one knew where he was. It seemed we were at a dead end. The client was informed of her options since it looked like we couldn’t find Tim. She chose for us to have Keith give it another shot. So, I called Keith and armed him with a bit more information.: After a call to a resource at Philadelphia Family Court, I was able to find out that Tim was receiving disability checks and having them sent to another bar in Gloucester. Keith told me he knew the owner of that bar (of course he did!) and would do some digging. A few days went by and I received a call from Keith letting me know that he’d been in touch with Tim and they were going to meet so he could sign the consent and waiver. Although they set a time to meet, Keith waited for an hour, but Tim never showed up. A few days later, they were in touch again and set another time to meet. I waited to hear back from Keith and finally, I came into work on a Monday and was greeted with a voicemail from him and a fax with Tim’s signed consent and waiver. Emily was thrilled and was looking forward to being divorced before her upcoming 30th birthday. With a little nudging (okay, so it was borderline begging!) and kindness from the court, we were able to get Emily’s decree signed right on her birthday.
I called Keith and told him we couldn’t have done it without him – which I am 100% sure that we could not have. He’s very humble and he kind of laughed it off, mentioning that he did call in a couple of favors from people. And he said just to direct people his way if we ever have any more work in those parts (that means you too! Keating Constable Service – Gloucester, Massachusetts – (978) 283-9977!) I really feel that he diligently used all his resources, put himself out there, went completely above and beyond, and made a huge difference in our client’s life by going the extra mile. If he only knew the gravity of that impact.