A film titled “Divorce Corp,” along with a companion book, debuted across the nation earlier this month. In my 37 years of practicing law, I have yet to come across such a biased and misleading portrayal of the many attorneys, judges and other professionals involved in matrimonial and family law. The so-called “documentary” paints a distorted picture, focusing on anomalous divorce cases that — as sometimes happens in any legal case — have gone badly for everyone. However, in my experience, those anomalies represent only a small fraction of most divorce cases, which are rarely easy but most often end equitably in a way that allows families and individuals to move ahead with their lives. To suggest that the scenarios depicted in the movie represent “typical” divorce cases is false and misleading, and unfairly maligns the hard work divorce lawyers do to resolve cases efficiently and fairly.
From reviews and other articles about the film, we learn that its maker, Dr. Joseph Sorge, is a California multimillionaire who used his own money to make the film. In interviews, he disparages those involved in family law as “extortionists.” Yet even superficial investigation reveals that Dr. Sorge himself was divorced in 2002, and when he sold one of his companies for $100 million, he refused to provide additional financial support for his children.
The acrimonious lawsuit that followed thus seems to have stemmed from Dr. Sorge’s own failure to report changes in his income and assets, which was required by his divorce decree. Presumably, feeling dissatisfied with the outcome in a court of law, Dr. Sorge now is attempting to use the court of public opinion, in an equally deceptive effort to assuage his own misdirected anger at the court system. One only need look at Dr. Sorge’s own divorce pleadings (which are public documents) to discover his ulterior motives in making this film.
It is clear to me and to my colleagues at Berger Schatz, as well as my many friends and fellow members of the matrimonial bar, that Dr. Sorge’s film — filled with fallacious accusations and statements — is the product of a personal vendetta. Using manipulative writing and editing of on-air “experts,” including the film’s narrator, Dr. Drew Pinksy, Dr. Sorge seeks to indict everyone involved in the practice of family law. But what the film depicts could not be any further from the truth.
Every year, tens of thousands of divorces are properly litigated by qualified and honest attorneys, custody evaluators and other experts in the courtrooms of unbiased and honest judges. Our professional associations impose rigorous standards to elevate the practice and advance the cause of matrimonial law, especially in matters relating to child custody and support of children, property division and alimony or spousal support. As a profession, matrimonial lawyers are dedicated to protecting families and ensuring that the process of divorce is fair to all concerned.
However, while matrimonial attorneys generally seek to facilitate equitable and speedy divorces for our clients, we are ethically bound to abide by their wishes when representing them in court. When clients such as Dr. Sorge wish only to do what is best for themselves, as opposed to the entire family, the process can be protracted and costly. Rhetorically, should Dr. Sorge’s ex-wife not have sought, on behalf of her children, a fair amount for their support?
A number of film critics have also taken “Divorce Corp” to task. In fact, a New York Times review dismissed it as a “muckraking documentary.” Excerpts of other reviews include:
“Divorce Corp” simply ignores the vast majority of individuals and families who have made it through divorce successfully with the help of qualified and dedicated attorneys. As experienced professionals who are proud of our profession, I and my colleagues categorically disavow the fallacious picture painted by Dr. Sorge’s film.
David H. Levy is a founding partner and former managing partner of Berger Schatz, and is a recognized authority in all areas of family and matrimonial law.