It’s 2:30 p.m., and I’m back where I started out at 11 o’clock this morning. Back where I sat for two and a half hours yesterday before I had to leave so I could check on a job lead. Back at the place where I’ve probably spent more time during the last nine years than any other, besides home. The one place more than any other I’d rather not be: Family court.
At 1 p.m. today, they told most of us to leave and come back again at two. I was back on time, but couldn’t get upstairs. More than 100 people stood in line in front of me, all of us waiting our turn for the metal detector. Moms, dads, children in strollers. A true New York melting pot.
To our right, suited, tied court officers and attorneys flashed credentials and breezed past the barricades. I used to be one of them. In the days before I became a stay-at-home mom. Before my ex-husband abandoned me, broke up our home, and wrongfully sued me for divorce. In the days when money, security and health insurance flowed freely. Before I ever dreamed I’d end up here. In this line.
In the queue I now belong in. My resources and law school pedigree probably still make me a candidate for that other line. The one where you can breeze in and out more easily. But I’m more comfortable in this one. I know about the pain in this line because it is also mine.
To my right, on the polished white marble, I see these words: “Justice for the family is justice for the community.”
The last time I reached out to the halls of justice for help, they let me down. The time before that they weren’t here for me either. And the one before. I smile at the mom holding her baby who’s in front of me. She returns the smile. She’s probably been here before, too. And yet she’s still hopeful, like me, even though we both know the truth about what goes on inside.