Marriage Story is a Netflix debuted film written, directed, and produced by Noah Baumbach. Despite the title of the movie, the story follows a couple going through the divorce process. The three different family law attorneys portray different negative stereotypes about the profession. This may leave audiences wondering, “Are all family law attorneys like that?”.
The Attorney Friend
Nora Fanshaw is played by Laura Dern. She is a high priced LA family law attorney. Her relationship with her client is portrayed as a close friend. She acts like a big sister who knows better than her client. At first, Scarlett Johansson’s character, Nicole, seemed to prevail due to the tactics and advice of her attorney friend. Ultimately, we see Nora completely ignores her client’s goal of 50/50 custody. Towards the end of the film, Nora tells Nicole she wrote the custody order with 60% custody to the mother and only 40% to the father. Learning this, Johannson’s character says, “but that’s not what I wanted.” In response, her attorney says, “Yes, I know. But I didn’t want him to think he won.”
The “Over the Hill” Peacemaker
Alan Alda’s character, Bert Spitz, is an older, practical family law attorney at the sunset of his career. Spitz gives his client, Charlie, portrayed by Adam Driver, some very sage advice to focus on the child and avoid court at all costs. However, faced with an opposing attorney determined to “win” regardless of her client’s goals, Spitz cannot prevent the train from entering the courtroom. Charlie soon learns that Spitz is no match for Nora and Charlie decides to “hire his own asshole.”
Ray Liotta’s character, Jay Marotta, is a stereotypical male attorney in Marriage Story. He’s a hard-charging, drill sergeant like family law attorney. Jay, as a formidable match for Nora’s style, portrayed “the sky is falling” approach to his practice. He’s always accompanied by his sidekick associate. Whenever Jay communicates it was in a barking manner that demanded attention. Charlie’s first attorney tried to explain the divorce process in easy to understand terms. Jay is not like that. He grabbed his client by the hand and dragged him through the process. He asked for little client input except when Charlie was writing check after check for seemingly endless attorney’s fees.
Finding the Right Attorney
When looking for the right attorney for your family law needs, find an attorney that listens to you. Clear communication is the key to any relationship, even attorney-client ones. As seen in the breakdown of Charlie and Nicole’s marriage story, lack of effective communication is a killer to any relationship. Clients should know their goals so they can communicate them clearly and consistently with their attorney.
A good family law attorney will diligently and vigorously move a client’s goals forward efficiently. An attorney should not overlay their agenda on a case. Let’s face it, most family law attorneys are aggressive, and that is not a bad thing. But this is your life, your family and your future. You should find an attorney that can be a professional friend that fights your battles, not their own. Find an attorney that is settlement-minded but prepared for any potential battle. One that is strong but slows down and clearly explains the litigation process. You want an attorney who helps you move forward towards your goals efficiently and effectively.
At Phillips & Peters, we practice exclusively in the area of family law. Our attorneys will be steadfast to your goals and will ensure that you understand each stage of the process. We are here to Help You Move Forward.