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FAMILY LAW: Divorce ‘documentary’ shows little to no reality

Gregg Herman is a shareholder with Loeb & Herman SC, Milwaukee, which practices exclusively family law. Herman can be reached at gherman@loebherman.com.

Now that we’re in the thick of winter and as Oscar season approaches, thoughts turn to spending some time at the warm local cinema for diversion.

But a film I won’t be seeing anytime soon is a new documentary called “Divorce Corp.,” billed as an “expose” on the divorce “industry.”

According to its marketing campaign, “Divorce Corp.” exposes divorce as: “[A] $50 billion a year industry, with more funds flooding in to family courts in the United States than all other court systems combined.” It goes on to say that filmmaker Joseph Sorge was inspired by his own divorce and custody battles a few years ago and calls the system “an unregulated mess in which children are ripped from their homes, insulting judges play God with parents’ lives, and unlicensed custody evaluators are more like extortionists.”

Clearly, I and probably every other family-court attorney and judge take issue with that characterization. My initial questions/concerns:

  • Where do they get those statistics?
  • A system that applies largely statutory law and where elected judges and attorneys are overseen for ethics violations is an “unregulated mess?”
  • Custody evaluators are unlicensed – since when?

But don’t just take it from me that this documentary has problems. Reviewers have said “Divorce Corp.” exhibits poor logic and an inaccurate reality. The review at rogerebert.com, for example, says the film “takes a few outrageous examples and extrapolates to those being the rule rather than the exception. In fact, much of the film is apparently about one case.”

In the movie trailer, one woman purports to have been involved in a divorce that spanned eight years. Really? I know of no divorce in Wisconsin, or anywhere else, where the divorce process itself lasted anywhere near that time.

It’s all about as scientific as Bernard Madoff “exposing” the investment advising business as ripping off customers.

To add to the scientific nature of the film, “Divorce Corp.” is narrated by Dr. Drew Pinsky. If you’ve not heard of him, he’s the star of TV’s “Celebrity Rehab” and “Sex Rehab,” among other programs.

High-minded stuff.

Back to Bernie. Are there dishonest investment advisors? I’m sure there are. And I’m equally sure that they comprise the minority, not the majority. The same can be said, for that matter, about any profession. None is immune from some who do not play by the rules.

In reality, the vast majority of lawyers with whom I deal are highly professional. Most and by most, I mean much more than 80 percent do what professionals are supposed to do, which is to work for the best interests of their clients.

Of course I’ve had experience with lawyers who are running the meter to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients; but they are — by far — the minority.

It is not uncommon in this field for people to engage in anger transference. Instead of being angry at themselves (or better yet, accepting the situation and not being angry at anyone), some transfer the anger to others. As a result, family lawyers are a leading target for ethical grievances and malpractice suits. But this is a result of the high degree of emotion involved in family breakups. In reality, family-law attorneys are no worse than lawyers in any other area of law. And, given the high degree of emotions involved in this field, that’s saying a lot.

The same applies to most judges and experts. For judges, the vast majority I have appeared before cares deeply about the people in their cases and try very hard to do the right thing as they see it. To take one (or even a few) cases and extrapolate that the system is corrupt is more than unfair; it’s libelous.

The Divorcecorp.com website also is telling. Under a tab labeled “Reform,” there are no suggestions for reform, which likely holds true in the film, as well. Rather, we are urged to attend an upcoming conference on the topic, which no doubt will be a gathering of very bitter people, lining the pockets of the producers of this movie and coming up with absolutely nothing to actually reform the system.

The system always can be improved, to be sure. But, having practiced in the area for three decades now, I can say the system now works about as well as any other aspect of the justice system – and actually does a lot of good for many people.

“Divorce Corp.” is not in wide release, but appears to available now only by special screening. Save your money if you get an opportunity to go.

Instead go see “The Nut Job,” “I, Frankenstein” or something along those lines, which very likely present more reality and will provoke more thought than this film.

6 comments

  1. What could possibly be more hilarious that reading film reviews about Family Court, by a family law litigant…that an attorney promises never to see? Considering I discovered the Court of Appeal for District One in CA affirmed a local rule for San Diego that stated judges didn’t have to bother reading pleadings prior to ruling. (On what planet does that make sense?)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOe-pcYdGn0

    Also, consider how attorneys are getting arrested in court. That would be Dakota County, Minnesota. See the “Bailiffs” section of http://www.familylawcourts.com

    I agree with you. Family Court is not in need of reform. After 40 years believe litigants should face facts. Reform isn’t likely. So lets just end family court. Return due process to family court litigants by eliminating the court that suspends it.

    Ergo, http://www.EndFamilyCourt.com

    Need more examples? Perfect!

    http://www.familylawcourts.com/freespeech.html

    Clearly, judges neither can, nor want, to harness the power they’ve been given.

  2. I have not seen Divorce Corp. yet, however, I know from decades of practicing law that the family justice system is on life support. Between the lengthy delays to get before a judge, the time it takes for a judge to render a decision, the disinterest of many judges to the complexities and nuances of family law, and the obscene amount of money it takes to complete a contested divorce, family law consumers are fed up with a system that is past its due date.

    Fortunately, most lawyers, academics, and lawmakers also recognize these problems and are taking steps to move litigants out of court and into mediation, collaborative law and arbitration. I applaud those efforts.

  3. a jury trial would be nice….if I mirrored my ex wife’s behavior I’d be facing 75-150 years prison time, so wheres the consistency….yes she keeps violating or own protection order over and over again…and yes the court knows about and yes they’ve renewed every year for the past five years….a jury trial please

  4. I vote for a Jury Trial as well. Bring back “fault!” Marriage is the only legal contract that you can break and still walk away with half of everything. What is the incentive for honoring a contract that there is no fault for breaking? We need a penalty for perjury! Why should liars tell the truth on stand when there is no penalty for lying? And how about applying “the right to a speedy trial” to The Family Courts? I’ve spent 2+ years trying to divorce here in Wisconsin.

  5. I am anticipating seeing the documentary “Divorce Corp” after personally watching, hearing the cries in the courthouse halls AND experiencing first hand and recently the foul effects of the family butchery facilitation system. I personally have been lied to, extorted and threatened, even robbed and my children ruined by callous amoeba who call themselves “family law experts”.

    It’s a big game of keep away that uses human nature to feed the dastardly crooks who take advantage of the average citizen under the false pretense of “LAW”. My constitutional rights along with countless others were trampled by authority that enjoys a “wide discretion” excuse to keep the unwitting soul coming back for more abuse and insult with injury. Family dissolution has NO BUSINESS IN A COURT OF LAW that is ruled by a single rat labeled a “judge”. Law is an adversarial system anyway that is supposed to help people settle matters but it’s human nature that pollutes justice to take advantage of the weak and capitalize on the ignorance of the unsuspecting family whose children 9 times out of 10 have a future and a life ripped to unrecognizable shreds by wolves frothing at the mouth for violence.

    I went to apply at the University of Houston to pursue a law degree and was rejected with the sole excuse that I “was not moldable”. I declare, anyone with a heart has no future working in law with the scum that beats the poor out of their lives to their last penny.

    No respect for such a dark hateful evil band of frauds who are just “educated” degenerates!

    If you disagree you must be a lawyer.

  6. Hipocrasy in the legal system is perhaps the most repunant thing I can think of. After watching the entire net worth of our family wiped out; our children’s future destroyed; My now ex and I with a lifetime no-contact order I feel victimized by the legal industry. I have no faith, no trust, and no respect for the courts. They are there to serve themselves and could not care less who they destroy along the way. May you all please get brain cancer and die like your rock star Johnny C. Oh, and good luck trying to find a doctor to treat you when it happens.

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