We’re down to the wire on 2010. I think I’m going to make it. I won’t miss this year at all. It’s been one long, weird rollercoaster ride.

In the first quarter of this year, I was off to the races. I was defending dads from Ventura to Orange County. It was a hectic period where stimulus money was being poured into the economy and people were spending in the hopes of getting the economy back on track.

Then came April.

It was like someone shut off the country. My phone would go days without ringing. It was spooky. I hadn’t done anything different from the previous months. My advertising and marketing were all the same, but everything came to a screeching halt.

The doldrums of our economy hit hard. And they hit everyone hard. Most harshly affected were the realtors. As home sales ground to a halt, they were in dire straits. They seemed to be the only ones calling me — hoping to scare up a listing.

For me, I was meeting with potential new clients who desperately wanted to hire me to get them out of a marriage that was long dead, and they didn’t have the available retainers. This year I have counseled husbands who were being abused by their wives, physically, and they were unable to come with the retainer I asked for.

I can’t remember how many fathers I’ve met who haven’t seen their children in weeks because they can’t afford to get a court order for visitation and mom won’t let them see the kids.

The second quarter of this year was by far the worst I’ve had in 12 years in practice. I’ve never had to work so hard to generate new clients. It was a common story I have heard from everyone who is self-employed or in sales: “I’m working twice as hard for half as much.”

The good news is that all the downtime allowed me to complete my books. The first, “A Man’s Guide To Divorce Strategy,” went on sale on Amazon in November, followed in short order by “A Man’s Guide To Child Custody.” The third in the series, “A Man’s Guide To Domestic Violence,” is due out in January.

This economic downturn has been a harrowing experience for many of us. I’m not used to having the phones be so quiet. I don’t like the austerity that was created in the country and that I felt in my friends and fellow business owners. I imagine it was very much like what people went through in the Great Depression. I can see how if that continued for much longer it would have a long lasting effect on the psyche. I know I was changed by this experience, for we are always changed by what we go through.

The third quarter was almost as bad as the second, but the thaw was beginning. I saw it in the realtors who were able to complete a real estate deal. Much of the business of family law follows the real estate market; when home sales drop, so do divorces. The real estate market slowly came back online in July and my broker friends were getting busier. The “sold” signs were popping up again.

As we entered the fourth quarter, the phone was starting to ring, with clients who wanted to retain me. Fathers would again be able to see their children and the holidays were going to be a bit easier to get through for some of them.

I don’t know what this next year will bring. I’m hesitant to make any predictions other than that February will follow January, and it will be rainy. It seems like the feeling of panic and anxiety has passed for most of us into a low level apprehension and being cautiously optimistic about the future.

The great contraction of our economy seems to have relaxed somewhat, and with that comes a giddy happiness that we survived. But it’s not over. The problems that led us down that road are still being worked out. The banking industry is still mired in confusion. The legions of unemployed are not finding work any time soon and the huge corporate bankruptcies are not going to be undone.

But with all that said, new small companies are being formed as people dig deep and find a new faith in themselves to start over. Banks are recognizing that if there is no flow of money, there is no profit to be had.

Realtors are very much the canary in the coal mine of our economy. Their activity level indicates to many of us what our current situation is, and what the future holds. As they are getting busier, it is good news for all of us as an indication that 2011 may just be a better year than 2010.

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. His books are available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969.c

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