On January 9, 2014, My Advocate Center will be hosting the world premier of a documentary film titled “Divorce Corp.” The following day, the film will be released in theaters around the country. AMC’s synopsis of the film is as follows: “A shocking exposA of the inner workings of the $50 billion a year U.S. family law industry, Divorce Corp shines a bright light on the appalling waste and shameless, collusive practices seen daily in family courts. It is a stunning documentary film that anyone considering marriage or divorce must see.”
Since I have been such an outspoken critic of the way in which family law matters are handled in this country, one might expect that I would endorse this film. In fact, on February 19, 2013, I received the following email from Joe Sorge, the film’s executive producer and director: “We are near completion of a film on the family law system in the US. The film very much supports Mark Baer’s position that the current system creates stress for families, often with terrible consequences. We have interviewed Sorrel Trope, Dennis Wasser, Gloria Allred and others. Would Mark be interested in giving an interview? Thank you, Joe Sorge.”
In response, I told Mr. Sorge that “I would be honored to be interviewed for such an important film.” We initially scheduled my interview for March 7, 2013. On February 27, 2013, Mr. Sorge and I spoke over the phone regarding “topics that we might cover.” After our telephone conversation, Joe informed me that they were going to “wait on scheduling an interview for now.” I wished Mr. Sorge luck with his documentary and said, “I hope that your film accomplishes your desired results, regardless of my participation.
Mr. Sorge’s response was as follows: “We already have most of the footage we want covering mediation and collaborative divorce. I like your ideas about preserving the family relationships by mediating / collaborating before the parties begin to make accusations. As you say, it almost requires dementia to forget the hateful statements spouses fling at each other in court. That’s all very good, as is your discussion of judicial bias. I suppose we are looking for an insider who is advocating an almost complete dismantling of the family courts; someone who wants the U.S to change to the Scandinavian model. We have yet to find a U.S lawyer that radical. While I do believe that the change you are advocating would be for the best, I think the Scandinavian model is even better. Perhaps U.S. Society is not ready for it yet, but gender roles are changing quickly. Women represent more than half of the U.S. Workforce, and wages are approaching parity. The U.S. System is based on a patriarchal model that was relevant 30 years ago, but within the next 10 years will be completely out of date. Let’s stay in touch. We hope to do some TV specials on the topic of divorce and perhaps one of those would work out.”
I responded as follows: “Democracy does not work in all countries — the type of government suitable depends upon many factors. The US is not and never has been Scandinavia. Unfortunately, we are and have been a male dominated society. We cannot do what was done in Scandinavia because we are not Scandinavia. The consequences would not be the same. Australia was also a British colony. We have many similarities. What works there has a good chance of working here. I want your film to make as big an impact as possible and influence much needed change. However, if you advocate for something that cannot work here because of our history and its influence on our present and future, you significantly weaken your case. I say that for the benefit of your cause. Significant change is change — even if not the change you would like to see. Australia has a family systems based approach — it is wonderful and could work here. In any event, let’s keep in touch.”
Our discussion ended with the following email I received from Mr. Sorge: “Good points. Perhaps we need to make progress in steps.”
Now, let’s discuss how the Scandinavian system works: (1) Equal Parenting; (2) No child support because the income differential between the parents is irrelevant and they have Equal Parenting; (3) No spousal support; (4) No attorneys fees; and (5) Marital property be divided equally. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_law_in_Sweden) Forced Equal Parenting completely ignores the children — it is all about parental rights. Furthermore, all things being equal, would children prefer to be with the parent who earns $250,000 per year or the one who earns $18,000 per year and there were no child or spousal support? Also, how will things play out with regard to property division, when one spouse can’t afford to pursue their share? Moreover, as Nancy Zalusky Berg pointed out in a Discussion on LinkedIn, “Let’s not also forget that in Sweden there is many government supports for families and children that do not exist in the US. Health care, parental leave and minimum income standards. The US is the only member of the UN that has not endorsed the children’s bill of rights. Children do not have rights in the US — only parents.”
I didn’t hear from anyone involved with the film again until October 22, 2013, when I received the following message through Twitter: “My name is Meagan & I work for the director of Divorce Corp. We seem to share similar views on family law. Could we talk/email? Thanks!”
Meagan and I spoke that same day. She asked me if I would be willing to endorse the film and the companion book and I told her that I would obviously need to see the film before I could agree to endorse it.
On October 24, 2013, Meagan sent me the following email: “Thanks for taking some time out to talk to me about Divorce Corp earlier this week. As promised, here is the link to a pre-screener of the Divorce Corp movie. Please treat this as confidential and do not share the pre-screener of Divorce Corp with anyone or make copies of it. By watching the movie, you are agreeing to keep the specific contents and storylines in the movie confidential. We welcome you sharing news about the movie and telling everyone you wish about the upcoming theatrical release, we just don’t want the specific details of the movie coming out before the release. I am eager to hear your thoughts and feedback after you watch the movie! If you are still interested in reading the companion book too, I will see if I can send you a review copy soon. We would love it if you would be willing to write an endorsement for the book jacket.”
I watched the film on my computer and was able to replay all or parts of it as often as I liked, which allowed me to take very detailed notes. After watching the film, I sent Meagan an email with 58 reasons why I would not endorse the movie. I cannot share that specific information until after the release of the film because that was a condition for my being shown the pre-screener of “Divorce Corp.” Without breaching my agreement, I can share the following portions of the email I sent to Meagan: “Thank you for sending me the link to watch Divorce Corp. While I am one of the most outspoken advocates against resolving family law matters in court, I find this video incredibly misleading. Let me give you my reasoning:…” I ended the email as follows: “I agree that we need major reform. However, I believe that you are spreading false and misleading information and will not endorse this film — quite the contrary.”
The next day, Meagan responded as follows: “Thank you for taking the time to watch Divorce Corp. I appreciate your candor about the movie. While it sounds like there are some points of agreement, I understand this doesn’t overcome your differences. It was a pleasure meeting you over the phone and I do appreciate you sharing your reasoning for your differences with the points expressed in the movie.”
Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Mr. Sorge that stated in pertinent part as follows: “Meagan forwarded your email to me. Thank you very much for taking so much time to watch and respond to the film. While we do not agree on all points, we agree on many, and that’s a good start. I would like to respond to your points… See, we agree on so much. We just want to take the reforms farther and accomplish them faster. I fully respect your positions, and know that they come from a good place. I’d be happy to discuss the points on which we disagree further if you like.”
Mr. Sorge and I then spoke over the phone and agreed on many of the points I had raised. He admitted to me that many of the views expressed in the film were the perceptions and opinions of those interviewed in the film and they did not necessarily reflect his views or those of the other film makers involved. I therefore ended our discussion by encouraging him to include the following disclaimer in the film: “The views and statements expressed in the film do not necessarily reflect the views of Divorce Film, LLC.”
I firmly believe that those responsible for “Divorce Corp.” were extremely irresponsible because the false and misleading information contained in that film may have extremely dangerous consequences. When you understand the intent, you understand why they made the film unnecessarily false and misleading. Nevertheless, I do hope that the release of the film will provoke dialogue that leads to much needed change. Upon the release of the film, I am ready, willing and able to participate in any such discussions and share my 58 comments, among other things.