EDIT: Edited the PS to reflect the comments so far. Edited down to 752 words.
The first feeling of responsibility--a feeling of maturation beyond measured years. This was the feeling resonating through my nine-year-old self as I sat cradling a wailing bundle of blankets. I was holding my first nephew Stewie. Being the youngest brother to four older sisters, never before had I felt so grown up. This was my opportunity for someone to finally look up to me.
Proud as those moments were, the reality of the marriage between Stewie’s father Peter and my oldest sister soon spilled forward. The glowing uncle-nephew relationship image I had painted in my mind began to deteriorate. Peter would charm anyone to a smile, but behind closed doors would riddle my sister with bullets of contempt, vulgarities, and threats. My sister spiraled into depression, followed by anorexia and attempted suicide whilst the hateful strings-of-words from Peter continued. Stewie all the while was caught in the middle for every single moment.
I witnessed all from afar until finally my sister sought a divorce three years after the birth of my nephew. The divorce spurred forth a legal battle almost as bitter as the marriage it was ending. Stewie again lay in the middle as both Peter and my sister fought for custody. Both pumped thousands of dollars into various attorneys in which nothing constructive for the sake of my nephew seemed to be accomplished. At only twelve-years-old, I didn’t understand the exact procedure of the ensuing divorce, but I yearned to jump in and do something, no matter how vague the meaning of ‘something.’ After the divorce was finally settled, Peter emerged with full custody of Stewie. My sister subsequently moved to California and today is only able to see her son three to four times a year.
Peter did little to allow us to see Stewie after the divorce—excuses and flat-out refusals were something we were used to. This past summer marked the first opportunity I had to see Stewie in two years. He was twelve years old and looked as such, but soon I realized there was much more beneath his seemingly normal appearance. He was quiet, and although content, had a noticeable sullen aura about him. He appeared to be seventeen in a twelve-year-old body. There are no doubts that the conflicts he experienced through his parents’ marriage and the handling of the divorce directly impacted his personality and maturity as a twelve-year-old boy. I still feel the same yearning I felt before when thinking of Stewie’s life in wishing I could have made a difference in the outcome of the divorce. Throughout the divorce, Stewie was touted in the middle as a trophy to be won in a sort of materialistic possession. In reality, he was a little boy who needed caring parents, separate or apart.
Realizing that Stewie’s experience is not unique to him has shown me that I can take the spark originally developed for my nephew and still make a difference. There are thousands of similar cases happening at any one time across the nation. Today, that spark is the source of my drive to practice family law. Family law cases involving juveniles introduce a third party contained in the middle between the two arguing parties—a condition that adds another level of complexity to an already complex legal system. I believe there to be a moral obligation to maintain the absolute best interests of the juvenile involved in any legal case. The best interest of a juvenile is sometimes forgotten about in the pursuit of self-interest of each arguing party. I hope to one day specialize in divorce and custody conflicts and take a direct role in preventing the treatment of juveniles as mere objects fought over within a court room. As an attorney, I aspire to guide towards the best interest of the juvenile rather than the self-interest of the client.
For someone not even old enough to drive, the indirect impact of my nephew on my motivations are larger than he will ever know. What started as a simple yearning to do anything during the divorce has today matured into a well-guided passion to practice family law. I bring to the University of Nebraska College of Law a persistent work ethic and an undeterred drive to succeed fuelled by a specific purpose. The events leading up to this point are now a closed chapter in my life; however the pages beginning my days as a family law attorney are just starting to be written. When the pen is eventually laid down, it will be a new chapter worth reading.