A newly added documentary on Netflix is titled “Divorce Corp.” and it is fantastically made and drives home some pretty substantial points regarding family law and the overall process of getting divorced in America. I was in the mood yesterday to learn something new, and with watching this film, boy, did I ever. The documentary is narrated by Dr. Drew Pinsky (“Celebrity Rehab” and “Teen Mom Reunion” psychiatrist) and paints the picture of the overarching process from determining if a couple wants a divorce to all the scenarios that could go wrong. Note: there are many!
The documentary focuses on the California family law Courts, but includes other states and individuals who have suffered in other areas of the US. Beyond the area, the documentary also interviewed a plethora of family court lawyers, parents or spouses, judges, and this one great/hilarious private investigator who was one of the only truthful characters throughout the whole documentary. Interviewing real individuals who have been put through the hardships of years within the family court systems really gave a tangible aspect to the issues that families face.
While the documentary painted some crazy scenarios of what litigants have faced in the court systems, there were a few that really impacted me greatly. First off, Family Courts do not need a jury; thus, the only person who rules in one plaintiff over another’s favor is a judge. That judge, and the lack of oversight that a judge has, is impacted by monetary contributions received from various law firms who work directly with Family Courts. In turn, this means that a judge, just because a plaintiff hired a lawyer from a certain law firm will most likely rule in their favor, not because of the evidence in the case, but because of the money flow that needs to be continued. Moreover, as I touched on before, the Family Courts do not have any oversight. Some statistic that was cited in the documentary was there were 1000 complaints lodged against different judges in California, and no judge was punished, jailed, or removed from office. Judges are not going to punish other judges. So there is absolutely no oversight in their rulings, nor can you appeal, for one needs to cite that the process was not followed, so appellate court is out of the question.
The other fact that was an underlying theme of the film, were the lawyers. Most marriages can end amicably, in which one part takes $XX and the other leaves the marriage with $YY. Lawyers know exactly what to say to their clients to make them want more than $XX or $YY. This racks up more lawyer bills, more court fees, with the potential to increase what one leaves the marriage with. Moreover, there is very little oversight for lawyers for they can say pretty much anything slanderous in court regarding their client’s ex and it can never be proven false so there’s no repercussions. Nor are there any built-in laws that protect the plaintiffs from such talk within a court room.
Divorce clearly impacts the litigants who are getting divorce, but this documentary then went on to include children and what happens when there are children involved in a divorce. This was the most emotional and scariest part of the documentary for me. Courts, because of the cronyism, separate families needless and do not allow parents to see their children for months and/or years. During the proceedings, judges can require a child advocate to reach out to the divorced couple and request a meeting with the children. This child advocate is usually a medical doctor (psychiatrist) who works with the courts and the judge usually only chooses his/her own advocate to go. There have been instances when these advocates (support by the court, mind you) attempt to extort the families for thousands to write a report in their favor. Moreover, these same individuals have been found online to be morally corrupt and do and support despicable things in their free time. Why would these people make for good judges on the welfare of children? For me, what kind of system prays on the innocent, causing irreversible psychological damage by separating a child from their parent or making the child go repeatedly to court to watch their parents fight? It’s not healthy, and the courts are causing some major psychological issues in children from divorced families (and considering the recent 50% statistic, 50% of children then are likely to have some damage from divorce proceedings).
The whole things is pretty disgusting, in my mind. The amount of money, time, and emotional well-being of all the characters involved is sickening, quite frankly. Who wants to be a part of this system that will never be just? I did enjoy the Family Court reformers that are trying to reform the system and advocate on behalf of individuals who cannot advocate for themselves, or don’t have the available funds to. This was encouraging, but that’s all. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The judicial system has ruined marriage is one of the major take-aways of this film. Why be married when you know that if it doesn’t work out you have a bottomless money-pit awaiting you? Moreover, the pain you will cause your children. So: don’t get married or stay in a miserable marriage. These are pretty grim options for Americans, and, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there will be any silver lining soon.