The “For Lease” signs are going up with greater regularity each day. The “For Sale” signs are getting dusty, all over town. Businesses are closing. Deflation is happening all across the board, that process whereby prices drop in order to get something going.
In my building, there has been a suite available for over four months now. In the 10 years that we have been practicing family law in our building, the longest that I can recall a space remaining vacant is two months. We are located on Pico Boulevard, across from the Speakeasy Bar. We are the only office complex on either side of the street for two blocks, each way. It’s a great location, and clean building.
As I speak to other business owners, the gnawing sound of “digging in for the long haul” is getting louder in their voices. Across the city we are seeing more and more clearance sales, going out of business signs and people are cutting back in ways that they never would have last year. Just this past Sunday Circuit City closed all their stores permanently.
I spoke to a mortgage broker last week who hasn’t closed a deal in over six months. My contractor clients are all scrambling to get some work, any work, just to have some cash flow.
I’m seeing many more clients who are looking to lower their child support payments because they just don’t have the money anymore; they’ve lost their jobs, or they work on commission, or their hours are being cut back. It’s heartbreaking.
I have many clients who are coming to me seeking advice on their marital situations. They want to get divorced, but don’t have the means to do so. What used to allow people to get out of a marriage quickly was the fact that they could sell the house, payoff the joint debt, and move on with their lives.
Not so much now. With home values below what the mortgages are, people are facing the very harsh realities that they have to work their way out of the debt they’ve acquired over the course of their marriage. Mostly I hear from the men, they are the ones who have to relocate, and are realizing that they can’t. They don’t have the means to set up an apartment, and continue to pay the mortgage.
For those of us on the frontlines of this economic tragi-comedy, we are seeing the pain spread across the city. There is no group of people who are not being effected by the losses in jobs. The ripple effects of the slowdown are being felt in all quarters, from my dry cleaners to the grocery store manager I spoke with who is being inundated with job requests.
I have a client who is being hounded by his first wife for more child support, and he’s trying to plan the divorce from the second wife, all the while asking me, what happens if he gets laid off and can’t pay either of them.
The sad answer is that nothing really happens, other than the child support piles up, but if he doesn’t have the money no judge in her right mind is going to put him in jail. His response to me was, “well, at least in jail I’d be guaranteed three hots and a cot!” I suppose gallows humor is a natural response to the times we are living in.
On the other hand there is a silver lining for some couples. Tough times are forcing people to stick together in ways they never had to before. It may make them pull together and act married, the way they promised they would be. It might foster the togetherness that easy money and short term fixes prevent.
I know this will pass. I know we will get back to being a vibrant economy. It may be next quarter, it may be next year. All things pass, and this is just one more thing that needs to be survived.
I’m reminded of my mother a great deal these days. As a product of the Great Depression she tended to be a tough old bird. I recall one time I was in some emotional pain over my latest romantic downturn, and I asked her when does the pain go away. Her pithy response is just as useful today in light of our current troubles, as it was to my teen angst then.
David Pisarra is a divorce attorney who specializes in father’s rights and men’s issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.