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Dog Days

Summer is in full humid sticky lazy force. Traffic is light on the way to work. The evenings are long and social. Court dates are continued due to vacation schedules. Opposing counsel will get back to you a week from Tuesday instead of tomorrow. In the world of civil litigation, the pace of work slows down. Not necessarily so for the family lawyer. Summertime brings a set of predictable crises which occur year after year.

One is vacation. One parent has a trip planned and the other does or doesn’t do something which interferes with the ability to take the trip. Dad doesn’t sign the consent form to get the passports. Mom is now hedging on the informal agreement to switch the schedule in the court order so that Dad can take the kids to his family reunion. Or one parent actually opposes the trip itself: the country is too dangerous to travel to. I have had two hearings in the past few years where the other parent tried to prevent my client from taking their kids to Israel – one time the judge let the kids go, another time not. Tensions run high as people worry that long planned vacations will be derailed.

Another is school choice. September looms and summer is showdown time for parents who don’t agree where their children should attend school in the fall. If they can’t come to some resolution, a court may have to decide, so negotiations amp up, and petitions get filed. School registrars get pulled into the fray.

What should be times of happiness and relaxation for families become anything but. This can take its toll on lawyers, too, who want to kick back and enjoy their own families. Since my kids left home I find that I work more (which is probably a good thing, given the cost of two college tuitions) and my clients’ lives and problems become more front and center, as I don’t have the welcome distraction of my own kids to attend to when I go home. I don’t think that’s such a good thing; I know that I’m better at my job when I have more of a balance in my life.

So this summer, to counteract that trend and center me back to home and hearth, I decided we should get a puppy. My college student daughter who is living at home this summer thought this was a great idea too; my husband, not so much, but he came around in a big way. The puppy – named Zakumi, after the South African mascot for the World Cup – is now three months old, adorable, and providing exactly the sort of balance I was looking for. I work hard, worry about my clients when I’m at work, then come home and we hang out in the back yard eating, drinking and playing tug of war with Kumi. Friends and neighbors stop by to meet the newest addition to the family. Kumi flops down in the heat and I do too, thinking lazily about how he’s trashed my flower beds but finding that I really don’t care.