We Asked Actual Divorce Lawyers If They're As Terrible As They Seem In 'Marriage Story'


In Noah Baumbach’s new Netflix movie “Marriage Story,” former pair Nicole and Charlie want to go the consciously uncoupling route with their divorce. They employ the service of a mediator at initial, a person who asks them to enumerate the things they appreciate about every single other, then study their lists aloud.

That does not function out, but they adhere to their peace agreement. “We’ll figure this out,” Charlie, portrayed by Adam Driver, naively states early on in the film. “We want the very same issues.”

At minimum they look to, until finally their divorce lawyers enter the picture. Nicole (played by Scarlett Johansson) hires Nora, a rough-as-nails divorce lawyer portrayed by Laura Dern donning her Renata Klein best. Charlie hires a extra mild-mannered attorney performed by Alan Alda at to start with, but to preserve up, he ultimately enlists the support of an equally aggressive attorney portrayed by Ray Liotta.

Matters switch unsightly, quickly. In court, the drama reaches a fever pitch when Dern’s character delivers up Charlie’s extramarital affairs (“affair,” singular ― Charlie corrects her). Liotta’s attorney relishes the prospect to get soiled and hits back again by mentioning Nicole’s marital and parenting sins: snooping via Charlie’s e-mail, for one particular, and an overindulgence on mommy juice in the evenings.

The scene ― and the guide-up ― is interesting in its ugliness. You observe it all unfold by means of gritted enamel. “Wow,” you inevitably think, “Jennifer Jason Leigh’s divorce legal professional must’ve done a hell of a selection on Noah Baumbach.”

Given our response, we couldn’t support but wonder what divorce lawyers thought. So after they experienced a opportunity to check out, we questioned 4 significant-profile family members law attorneys to weigh in on a couple of thoughts: Did people courtroom scenes ring true? What did the film get mistaken about divorce? And Jesus, are you actually as terrible as the motion picture indicates?

Here’s what they experienced to say.

Charlie and Nicole at first want to break up up amicably. But as shortly as Nicole provides in Laura Dern’s powerhouse LA lawyer ― reportedly encouraged by celeb “disso queen” Laura Wasser ― factors flip terrible, fast.

How frequently does that tonal change materialize?

Lisa Helfend Meyer, a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles: Nicely, the very first factor I want to say is, I’m not stunned Nicole’s character opts out of mediation. Females in no way earn in classic mediation. Most of the time, we cannot compartmentalize our feelings from the organization aspect of divorce. Adult males eat it up and use it as an possibility to place their husband or wife down or verbally assault her. And in Charlie and Nicole’s circumstance, the mediator was way far too sensitive feely. They equally needed a more powerful mediator.

As for why matters transform terrible, I assume it’s frequently for the reason that the person is no lengthier in handle. The dynamic is generally that the spouse controlled the wife, primarily economically for the duration of relationship, and now he feels threatened by the actuality that she’s no longer listening. When I appear in ― I’m like Laura Dern in the motion picture ― the spouse will say a thing like, ‘She’s heading to get all of our revenue,’ or, ‘She’s not a great man or woman.’”

Randall Kessler, a divorce attorney in Atlanta and creator of “Divorce: Safeguard On your own, Your Little ones and Your Future”: It does materialize and from time to time an intense lawyer can bring about the friction, but normally, it is the consumer who wants to be extra aggressive (perhaps that’s why they chose an aggressive attorney) but prefers to have the lawyer do so. This allows the shopper manage plausible deniability and say, “That’s what the attorney proposed or preferred.”

James J. Sexton, a divorce attorney in New York Metropolis: I’ll say this: No one has ever occur to my office environment and mentioned, “I want this to be complicated, agonizing, expensive and protracted.” They all say the identical matter: “I want to be truthful.” Their definition of the expression “fair,” even so, is frequently extremely different from their partner or co-parent. So it is really frequent that individuals who intend and wish to be “amicable” in a divorce obtain by themselves in a much more protracted or “nasty” divorce than they hoped for, as when they get to contested places where they have variations of point of view.

A whole lot of the time, it would seem like Charlie and Nicole are haplessly heading alongside with what their attorneys want. Does it at any time get that unpleasant at the urging of the respective legal teams? Was that a good portrayal of divorce attorneys?

Kessler: It does takes place and clients must constantly recall that it’s their situation and their lifetime. As for the movie, I’m somewhat offended by how divorce lawyers are portrayed, actually. The two very first attorneys, significant priced and as a result they need to be the finest, seem to be to promptly endorse their have agenda. The Ray Liotta character does not listen to his customer and instead tells him what to do. A fantastic law firm will listen to and consider to obtain out what the client really desires. Laura Dern’s character should also not contact the other occasion. Legal professionals have an unfair advantage and should do all they can to get the other facet to uncover a attorney. They should not talk to the other aspect a single-on-a single if at all possible.

Sexton: In typical, I believe the movie was a relatively unfair illustration of divorce lawyers. Of course there are some “bad apples” that see conflict as an chance to generate expenses, but most of us (myself integrated) are also chaotic working on difficulties shoppers truly simply cannot concur upon to produce new concerns for them to battle about, just to produce expenses or feed our egos.

B. Robert Farzad, a divorce legal professional in Los Angeles and Orange County: Of course, it occurs like it is portrayed in the motion picture. Lawyers are supposed to be trouble solvers and some are particularly that ― thoughtful, objective and wise. Regrettably, other folks are barking dogs in a match or they extravagant on their own motivational speakers with regards to the deserves of divorce litigation no matter of the details and law.

Laura Dern performs Nora, a divorce lawyer reported to be encouraged by Laura Wasser, a divorce attorney who’s represented everyone from Kim Kardashian to Ryan Reynolds.

Charlie is funds-strapped. There’s 1 scene where by he’s chatting with Alan Alda’s character and Alda begins telling a lengthy-winded joke. Charlie indulges him for a bit but then seems to be at the clock: “Sorry, but am I remaining charged for this joke?” Are your clientele (or you, individually) that cognizant of the clock? Do you try to hold dialogue on-matter provided your hourly premiums?

Kessler: This definitely happens. We’re with people today normally for lengthy periods of time and we bond with our consumers. I assume it’s fantastic for a lawyer to get off subject matter now and all over again, primarily if it relaxes the consumer, but they ought to concurrently assure the shopper that they are not remaining billed for that time. At the very least Charlie spoke up. I’m certain quite a few shoppers experience like that but are afraid to say something.

Sexton: I have a tendency to converse really promptly and often convey to people in their 1st meetings with me that I converse speedily due to the fact they are paying out for my time. I really encourage them to record their conversations with me so they can pay attention to it again later in additional element.

Farzad: I do not cost for jokes, not even the very good types. Speaking individually, I am in all probability more cognizant of the clock than most of my consumers. Venting to me about the other spouse or lawyer at $450 per hour is not a good use of income. I do have to remind men and women of that from time to time.

How typical is switching legal professionals halfway via, in particular when one wife or husband realizes their attorney just can’t go toe-to-toe with their ex’s lawyer like Charlie did in this article?

Meyer: Switches transpire a whole lot in high-conflict divorces. Most occasions, you can predict it will occur.

Kessler: This happens often, indeed. There are unique stages of lawyers, and if a shopper feels they are getting outmaneuvered by their ex’s crew, they may perhaps switch. Sometimes purchasers change mainly because their own attorney is currently being as well intense. Other periods it is mainly because the law firm is not responsive more than enough. And yes, often clients return to their authentic lawyer.

It is commonly superior to try another law firm before the case ends, rather of permitting the case conclude and wishing you had gone somewhere else. At a bare minimum, why not get a 2nd belief? Most very good legal professionals will be trustworthy and give superior, valuable opinions about how the initially lawyer seems to be doing and may perhaps recommend other thoughts that are practical.

Farzad: Someplace amongst “very common” and “far too prevalent.” Spouses who hire their initial law firm for emotional explanations and without the need of conducting their because of diligence often switch attorneys.

Alda’s character implies that Charlie, a New Yorker, get an apartment in LA to establish his dedication to his son Henry, whilst also protecting his residency in New York, considering the fact that that is the place he wishes to stay with Henry. Is that widespread advice?

Meyer: I actually consider the entire LA/New York conflict was the most unrealistic portion of the case. The situation would have been in New York. Interval, conclude of story.

That claimed, shift-absent situations ― when a dad or mum that has joint or sole custody of the youngster decides to move to a spot that is far enough away to disrupt the custodial arrangement ― are common.

Kessler: That is a very little exclusive. At times there is a query of which point out is improved for difficulties like little one help, alimony or property division, and a very good lawyer’s position is to highlight the distinctions so the bash can decide to perhaps transfer. But then a consultation really should be had with a attorney in each individual point out, or one particular who is certified in both of those.

Sexton: It is a tactic that I’ve observed utilised from time to time. We use the weapons at our disposal. I’m not anyone’s ethical compass. I’m here to do a work. I’m not right here to defend your young children. You are right here to safeguard your little ones. I’m right here to get hold of an consequence that you determine for me.

Was there anything at all in the film that appeared quite correct to life? Or a thing so unrealistic, you imagined, “That would under no circumstances materialize.”

Kessler: The line when Charlie says a thing like, “But I want him to know I fought for him,” is incredibly serious. Moms and fathers frequently feel like that, even when they know it is much better for the kid to be mainly with the other facet.

Sexton: Much of the courtroom scene was entirely preposterous. The people have been plainly archetypes and had exaggerated features for dramatic effects.

Farzad: The palpable, overriding passion Nicole’s mother and sister had for Charlie was, at instances, silly. Generally, divorce leads to extended family to attract the struggle strains. All those lines do not constantly result in vitriol ― believe a lot more along the traces of annoyance sprinkled with rumour-fueled distrust.

“I have been explained to Laura Dern is me! And I know loads of bumbling Ray Liottas.”

– Lisa Helfend Meyer, a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles

At the conclude of the movie, Laura Dern’s character gets Nicole 55/45 custody since she did not want “Charlie bragging to his close friends that he got 50/50.”

Nicole obviously was not fascinated in the deal so it appeared virtually individually motivated. Is that kind of attorney-driven vindictiveness frequent when drawing up the phrases of the divorce?

Meyer: Not for me. Far more usually than not, you just want to test to empower the shopper.

Kessler: That was petty and juvenile but of course, there are attorneys that can be like that. But the finest are not and which is why they have their fantastic reputations. A excellent divorce attorney will under no circumstances chat about acquiring “won” a situation. No one wins, but ideally we add to the resolution and check out our greatest to lower the antagonism and stress, not boost it.

Sexton: Customers are way extra concerned with percentages of parenting time than legal professionals. We often joke about how normally persons say they want “50/50” as if an intact relatives would ever monitor the percentages of their time with the small children. It is not like, “Billy, let’s go perform catch outside for 23 minutes so I know I’ve spent 50% of your time with you!”

Farzad: Some lawyers (and their clients) are prepared to die on the hill for that extra 5%. Nora’s angle is she was being “aggressive” in her illustration of her client and Nora needed Nicole to know it. Lawyers consider that point of view will induce the shopper to come back again to them if the shopper demands illustration in the long term. In some cases, which is accurately proper, in particular for a customer who craves that overaggressive design. Sometimes, it reminds the shopper why it is better to be amicable.

Do you know legal professionals like Ray Liotta and Laura Dern’s people?

Meyer: I have been informed Laura Dern is me! And I know a lot of bumbling Ray Liottas.

Kessler: I know attorneys with related qualities, and quite a few with more strange personalities, but judges and other lawyers all get to know what a attorney is genuinely like. Keeping a very good popularity with judges and our colleagues is very important. It is our most essential asset.

Sexton: They ended up a little bit exaggerated for extraordinary aptitude but they depict identity qualities that many divorce legal professionals have ― and an method to the observe that numerous consumers are searching for. Mine is the only profession where by persons come to my office for a session and say, as an opening sentence to me: “I read you’re an aggressive ruthless pit bull and a son of a bitch” and they imply it as a compliment. One particular customer explained me as “the sociopath you want on your aspect.” I utilised it in my marketing.

Farzad: Are there attorneys like that? Do you want the complete record or just the prime 20?

Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.



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JAY ESTHER SMITH
info@penguindubai.com
Ex model and bartender, digital nomad since 2015.