The Netflix movie “Marriage Story” was recently a hit at the Oscars. If you have seen the movie, you know that it is as much about divorce, and divorce lawyers, as it is about marriage itself. Although the movie is somewhat glamorizes the process of divorce, there are still important real-world lessons that can be learned from the movie. Fair warning that this post may contain some spoilers.

Default Judgments

One of the first problems that the wife (played by Scarlett Johanssen) encounters is her husband’s failure to retain an attorney. This is quite common. In family law, lawyers are often faced with unrepresented individuals.

The husband in the movie at first files no response to the divorce petition. The wife’s lawyer threatens him with what will happen if he does not respond.

If a litigant fails to respond to a divorce complaint, a default judgment can be entered against him or her. When it comes to money or property, the court will generally enter an order giving the spouse that filed the divorce most everything that he or she asked for.

When it comes to children, the court usually will provide a temporary order giving the filing party whatever he or she asked for, but that decision can be modified if the other spouse does eventually respond to the divorce, because courts will put the best interests of the child before legal formalities.

Negotiations Between Attorneys

There are scenes in which the husband and wife discuss terms of the divorce settlement between themselves, only to find that the offers and negotiations between their lawyers is drastically different than what they discussed. In reality, your lawyer is obliged to do what you want him or her to do (so long as it is legal and within the code of ethics).

Often, lawyers will convey messages or offers to the other side that their client did not want or authorize. As in the movie, this can lead to more bitterness and hostility, and can create a barrier to resolving the divorce quickly and amicably.

Settlement Terms

Toward the end of the film, the mother wants 50-50 time-sharing custody with the husband and conveys her wishes to her lawyer. She is surprised to learn that her lawyer actually got more than 50% timesharing—a win, in the lawyer’s eyes.

Once again, your lawyer is bound to do what you ask him or her to do. Even getting what may seem like a “better” deal, is not permitted if it is more than what the client wants. When the attorney in the movie pushes, and gets, more time than the wife wanted, the lawyer risked the client’s “working” relationship with the husband.

Once again, this kind of thing can lead to ongoing bitterness between (ex) spouses, where there otherwise would be none, if it is against the client’s wishes.

Let us help you in every step of your divorce case. Contact The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC for help and guidance in your family law case.

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