DD was pretty upset last week. It seems that some very good friends of hers, a married couple, have run into a great deal of financial difficulty. She finished school last July, and after a long and sometimes discouraging search, landed her first full-time job only last month. She has a lot of student loans to pay off. He was also in school up to about two years ago, when he quit and got a full-time job (not in his chosen field) because they were getting too far into debt. He also has a lot of student loans to pay off – but didn’t get the degree to show for it. Then, early last summer, he got quite ill and although his doctors haven’t yet figured out exactly what it is (he is still undergoing a lot of tests), part of the illness is that he has extremely low blood pressure and he was told he couldn’t work until they find some medication that actually works for him. He didn’t mind the not working too much, because he had just inherited some money from his recently deceased grandmother, so he was planning to use that money to complete his education starting in September and would have had to quit his job anyway – except that he was hoping to work for the entire summer till then.
They are living in a government subsidized housing complex and have been threatened with eviction (I’m not sure why, but I suspect it may be because they are behind on their rent, minimal as it may be), plus they are using the food bank to supplement their diet – they really are poor!
Oh – and they are also doing their best to support his three young children from his previous marriage. These three children live with their mother maybe 50% of the time, I think, and with their dad and step-mom the rest of the time. And kids are expensive. They eat, wear shoes and clothes (and grow out of them), need haircuts and toys and all kinds of other stuff. But he is a very committed, very involved, very loving dad, and it’s clear that his kids adore him and their step-mom.
AND the ex-wife is now taking him back to court to get more child support and to cut down his access to his children. No one is quite sure why she thinks he shouldn’t have the kids more often or why she thinks she needs more money from him (much less where it is going to come from!), but she clearly doesn’t believe that he is seriously next to destitute nor that his doctor ordered him to stop working at the beginning of the summer due to his ill-health. Of course he has all kinds of documents to prove all of this, but he will still have to take time off school in January to go to court. Yes, he could represent himself, but although he says he does have lots of good days, it could be a bad day on the day their court case is scheduled. If it is, he will be pale and exhausted, almost unable to walk, and certainly unable to coherently present his case to the judge. It’s just too iffy, so the man needs to lawyer up for that court appearance. Unfortunately, he has been unable to find a lawyer to take on his case on a pro bono basis. There seem to be just too many people in similar situations as his, and not enough lawyers willing and able to take on all those people. He did find one firm that was willing to cut their price for him, but even that was out of his financial reach. DD’s friend has filed all the necessary court papers himself already, he just wants a real live lawyer to understand his case and to represent him in that court room.
And as a law student in her first semester of training, this is killing DD. These people are, as I said, really close friends of hers, and although she knew that they haven’t had it easy financially for a couple of years, they’ve never complained and she had no idea it had become this bad. She would love to help them out, but obviously she isn’t yet a lawyer. I’m sure she would go to court with him, but he needs a full-fledged lawyer, not a supportive friend with only a few months of law school under her belt.
DD related all this to me yesterday and today, wanting to share her angst, I guess. I thought a lot about it. I know these friends of hers, and they are good people. I like them very much. This whole situation is troubling me too. It’s just not right or fair, what’s happening to these people!
I asked DD about how much of a lawyer’s time her friend would need, considering that he has already done all the required paperwork himself. She figured that someone could get up to speed on the case in about an hour, and that the court appearance would be much less than that, something like half an hour at most. So probably 1000$ would cover it, she estimated, depending upon the actual hourly rate charged, of course.
Now, I’m lucky enough to have a well-paying job and money in the bank (the recent teachers’ strike notwithstanding!). I have always had what I needed and I have never experienced poverty. I’m careful with my money, and I’m actually quite clever with it. Despite all that – or maybe because of it? – I’ve decided to do something that is very uncharacteristic of me. I’m going to offer DD’s friends 1000$ towards a lawyer and whatever else they may need. I will tell them that they can call it a long-term loan if they want, but that I am NOT actually expecting them to repay me. I don’t know if they will take it, but things sound desperate, so DD figures they just might.
I hope they do. Because although life sometimes isn’t fair, sometimes you can do something about that.