Movie Review: “Divorce Corp”

“Divorce Corp” is a documentary that could have been required viewing for anybody getting divorced, or for that matter, getting married. Its cautionary message is that sobering.
But advocacy documentaries — be they about charter schools, Barack Obama’s parentage or the National Rifle Association — have conditioned us to wonder “Who’s paying for this?” and “What axe do these folks have to grind?”
Those questions hang over “Divorce Corp,” a ninety minute Dr. Drew Pinsky-narrated take down of the extra-Constitutional “family courts” and the unsavory connections between judges, attorneys and others. It is packed with anecdotal horror stories, cluelessly corrupt judges and unqualified “custody evaluators” who are so comfy within their insular universe they had no idea how they’d come off on film, talking about the conflicts of interest they — to a one — are willing to shrug off to the filmmakers.
Much of this stuff is accepted wisdom thanks to decades of reporting about the ways “domestic violence” has been turned into a generic courthouse threat, used against fathers, stories of high-handed judges throwing litigants in jail who question their verdicts in print or on blogs, divorces that drag out for years, bankrupting one or both parties seemingly at the whim of the lawyers and the judge who lets this happen.
We know we have an adversarial legal system, we know our courts and the lawyers who work in them aim to create a “winner” and a “loser” in every case, even ones involving ending a marriage and deciding where the children of that marriage live.
And maybe we’ve read or seen Dickens’ “Bleak House,” and recognize the motto distorted for use in “Divorce Corp,” “The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself.”
But that’s not enough for this film, which calls for reform of family law and for a system more like the less adversarial one in Scandinavia, to make its case. And it does this entirely with anecdotes and advocates, without hard numbers on virtually any issue it brings up.
Somewhere within the legions of lawyers, judges, legal advocates, reformers, a private investigator, TV judge (Lynn Toler) and notorious celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, filmmaker Joe Sorge should have found one expert who could explain how the system got this complicated and the reasons family court plays by rules that don’t seem Constitutional. Leaving that point of view out makes the film play as conspiracy-minded.
That undercuts what appears to be a perfectly credible timeline, the rising real estate market driving law firms to suddenly take a greater interest in family law, the invention of a self-contained world where judges can “retire” to these very law firms whose money the judge, while judge, makes certain that they get to collect. This “collusion” or potential for corruption stinks.
A Rolls Royce-driving private detective, John Nazarian, shakes his head at a system that’s made him rich. A Massachusetts lawyer can joke about kids in a divorce as “little bags of money.” And one and all can fume at the complexity that’s rendered this seemingly simple process too complicated for most people to navigate on their own in courtrooms where judges treat those who serve as their own counsel as “irritants.”
Many of the anecdotes beg for follow-up questions, as this case or that one is explained by one side of it in the most simplistic terms and even then the casual viewer can see holes in the story.
And without hearing exactly why things got this complicated — beyond the “given” that lawyers are “greedy” and have fixed the system — without viewing how parts of the world other than the legal “paradise” of Scandinavia have systems that contrast with our own,”Divorce Corp” is a lot pointed outrage that, damning as its seems, feels suspect.

MPAA Rating: unrated, with corporal punishment, adult situations, profanity
Cast: Gloria Allred, Lynn Toler, John Nazarian, narrated by Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Credits: Directed by Joe Sorge, written by James D. Scurlock, Philip Sternberg, Blake Harjes and Joe Sorge. A Candor Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Movie Review: “Divorce Corp”

  1. Trapkus says:

    Interesting review. It appears as though you have not lived the horror of the family court system. While all family courts may not be as bad as the documentary shows they are all out of control. Understanding how the courts got as bad as they are doesn’t really matter that much to the families that are tortured every day. The point of the film is to clearly show the current state of family courts and how far from the constitution they are today. Judges are gods in family court. They know it and behave accordingly. I would ask you to participate in a family court. Get in touch with a family that has to go to this place. Talk to them. Even better would be for you to personally experience the divorce and the punishment of losing your children because they are treated as “money bags” for income equality calculations. Once you have done that, please view the movie again. I suspect you will feel differently. The film may feel suspect because you can’t believe this type of horror exists in America. I assure you it does.

    • Yeah, everybody reviewing every movie should have lived through the things depicted on the screen. It’s a new rule. The old rule, that you should back up anecdotes with numbers and facts? Plainly that’s for those who haven’t made up their minds.

      • Trapkus says:

        Witty response, but seems impractical. My suggestion was for you to try to find out more about the topic covered in this documentary not every movie you have seen. Please continue to enjoy all the arm chair adventure and popcorn you can.

      • I have, but you are tossing opinions up against the movie’s opinions and not backing those opinions up with anything more solid than the what movie offers — facts and numbers-wise. Both full of wind and fury, without statistics.

    • elisa says:

      I agree totally. Why does this commentator need to know how this happened other than the motivation of greed. What needs further explanation here??

      A conspiracy theory label is only warranted when there are no facts to back the theory up. In this case, you have all the tattered lives which are factual enough. Whoever wrote this could not have experienced the system first hand and seems to be a very naive person whose mental age range I would guess is somewhere in the teens. Sorry it is too disturbing to hear for you, try to live it.

      To call parents’ views on their experience of the system “suspect” takes a lot of gall. I would suggest watching the 13 hour testimony given at the CT Task Force Hearing on Custody in Hartford this past January where over 70 parents told their stories. See if you can then draw your same stupid conclusions.

      • Oh, I’ve been divorced, Elisa. Let me see if I can put a dent in your stupid conclusions here.
        Documentaries like this are subjective — PICK AND CHOSE whose stories they tell. That’s anecdotal and biased, not data driven and impartial. Where is a judge, a legal scholar, an advocate who explains how the system’s checks and balances were set up and are supposed to work, explaining the thinking behind why the system was set up the way it is? Where are the statistics to back up the movie’s sense of outrage?
        It is the inclusion of contrary voices that makes something authoritative, not a flurry of folks all grinding the same ax and saying the same thing. A failing of Fox News, and “Divorce Corp.” And apparently, your thinking.

  2. Dilip Khatri says:

    This is an excellent documentary! I’ve been married and have escaped from this prison more than 14 years ago. Lincoln freed the slaves in 1865, but didn’t free the husbands. God bless being single! Thank God this slave is free! 🙂

  3. Patrick Kimia says:

    This documentary is excellent. It’s really tells the truth about this broken family court in US. I’m from Africa, and I’ve got many of my friends who decide to abandon everything in US and return back to Africa, in order to avoid continuing to face the lack of justice and transparency in that court. And for me, it’s absurd to ask those who made this movie to be fair and balance. This is an act of accusation on a family court that destroying family. If any one want to hear another side of the story, they can just go interview those judges that are getting exposed here. I bet they will have good things to say.

  4. John says:

    How much did they pay you to give a bad review?

    • STill bitter, I take it? It’s a movie sermon that preaches to the choir. Meaning you, I guess. And who is “They?” Divorce lawyers, judges? Really? Should I be looking for a check?

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