Family Law Unraveled

The latest from Margaret's blog

View From the Dark Side

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I love my job. Many people don’t understand that – they think that being a divorce lawyer sounds depressing. I tell them otherwise; I tell them that divorce is transformative for many of my clients, and that being a part of that process is meaningful and rewarding work.

However. Bearing witness to the dark underside of so many people’s lives over the years can give one a jaded view of human nature.  I thought about this late one night last week while driving past the 30th Street Post Office, whizzing by the brightly lit lobby lined with hundreds and hundreds of post office boxes, locked, silent, unassuming.  Do you know anyone who uses a P.O. box?, I asked my husband. No, he said; why would someone?  What a difference between our life experiences. I know so very many reasons why. And driving by that silver wall of boxes, all I could think of was the secrets stored within. The letters from clandestine lovers. The bills from creditors, hidden from unsuspecting husbands or wives who sleeps soundly at night, completely unaware of the financial catastrophe being wrought by drug/gambling/shopping addictions. Or the mail that would otherwise be read by a controlling spouse were it to come to the joint residence: the letter from the lawyer, the doctor, the sibling, the ally. Or the mail that would be intercepted and destroyed for no reason, just because. And then there are those boxes – lots of them, gleaming under the bright florescent lights – rented by women, and some men as well, who are living in fear and hiding, boxes rented to ensure that no home address will ever appear on any document, no trail will be left by which a potentially homicidal ex could find them.

I’ve had many clients say “I bet you’ve never heard this before,” or “This must be the craziest case you’ve ever had.” When I was a young lawyer, those statements were sometimes true, but now, hardly ever. The double life with the secret family, hidden for a decade; the porn addiction that takes over a life 24/7; the mom who refuses to let dad take a family photo with their son at kindergarten graduation because it is her custody day; the husband who burns his ex-wife’s wedding dress in the back yard; and the list goes go on and on.

But despite this gloomy look into the dark recesses of the human heart, the ultimate takeaway, for me, is more positive than negative. I see enough people who rise to conquer adversity, who struggle to do the right thing for their kids and themselves in the most challenging of circumstances, who amaze me with their ability to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move forward.  So yes, there are many secrets out there, hidden in boxes both literal and figurative.  But the best-kept one of all may be that hope does seem to spring eternal, and people who have plumbed the depths continue to rise to the surface.

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