Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bucket of Pepper

Most of what I do each day is watch a lawyer mediate a child support dispute, then draft an order representing the agreement the parties reach.  I don't think I'd want to do it forever, but so far it's been fascinating to watch these real people with their real problems find real solutions.

Mom X is having trouble with Dad X paying his child support.*  Notably, courts order child support, so failing to pay child support can lead to a finding of contempt, and that means jail.  There are dozens of cases where dad stays out of jail by hand-paying his child support each month at the courthouse.  Dad X is one of those cases.

Today, Dad X told Mom X that his brother was getting married.  She offered to give Brother X a Sam's Club-sized bucket of black pepper, and Dad X laughed easily.  "Do you remember that time in Amarillo?  When his mashed potatoes had too much black pepper?" he asked.  "Yeah," she said, "we spent all night in the hospital waiting for the swelling to go down."

When we meet people only once or in isolated situations, we tend to crystallize their identities with those circumstances.  My fourth grade teacher, for example, will always be (in my mind) exactly as she was in 1993.  But hearing Mom X and Dad X talk about Brother X, I realized that these people had identities beyond their child support dispute. 

Once upon a time, they were strangers.  Then they met and fell in love.  He met her parents; she met his.  They got married and had children.  Then something broke.  They got divorced: she got the kids and he got a monthly child support bill.  Now they're stuck dealing with each other for the rest of their lives.  Each month, he promises that he's "this close" to getting a "good" job, and she promises not to kill him.

You just don't get stories like that in a securities regulation practice.



*Please note that some facts have been changed to protect anonymity and help me keep my job.  I have not, however, changed any names.  There are really characters named Mom X and Dad X.  Mom X + Dad X = Racer X.

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