“The biggest single reason for divorce in this country is marriage,” divorce attorney Gerald Nissenbaum says at the outset of the new documentary, “Divorce Corp.” But the film’s narrator, Dr. Drew Pinsky, tells Metro that attitude is “cynicism I’m trying to undo.”
“We need sustained, committed, healthy, regulated, happy relationships over long periods of time to raise stable adults,” argues Dr. Drew, who described “Divorce Corp.” as an in-depth profile of the “unbelievably dysfunctional” divorce industry.
Though known to many for his work as an addiction specialist, Dr. Drew says tackling divorce wasn’t too far-fledged a career move for him because it furthers his commitment to “championing stable and healthy relationships.” And once exposed to the material — like the fact that more money passes through family law court than all other U.S. courts combined — he was taken aback.
“There is this self-serving industry that really has very little interest in the individuals who are getting divorced,” he says, adding that the business of splitting up “incurs lying and fighting” and encourages unethical practices, like dragging out cases so that lawyers and judges can profit off cases much longer than necessary. According to the film, attorneys — who can charge upward of $500 per hour — are many times in cahoots with presiding judges, which means fairness often takes a backseat to cronyism.
“The judges themselves are deeply — in inappropriate ways — involved,” Dr. Drew says. “I mean, if this was a medical system, there’d be people in prison — we’re not allowed to do anything like that.”
So how can these people get away with their practices? Divorce courts are courts of equity, not courts of law, so constitutional rights aren’t always held up. That means if you can’t afford an attorney, you won’t get one. Dr. Drew says that the industry wasn’t established with malicious intent, but it’s “played out this way and it needs reform.” He’s hopeful that at the least the film will inspire conversation about what that reform could look like. And it seems some people are catching on —victims of family court and high-profile attorneys like Gloria Allred speak up in the film about shady practices.
Dr. Drew’s tips for a healthy marriage…
Recognize your bias
“If you come from divorce you’re much more likely to have divorce, particularly if you marry somebody that comes from divorce,” he says. “We end up recreating the traumas of our past. We’re always mystified when we’re attracted to the same kind of people [and we] have the same kind of outcome. That’s how it works and there are ways to undo it with psychological services.”
Use your resources
“I think mental health services work,” the doc says. “You should be getting pre-marital counseling, you should be committing to mental health services when you get into trouble rather than heading toward the door. In my family we’ve all had therapists … if we hadn’t used those mental health services I don’t know how things would have worked out. It paid dividends every time.”
Change your attitude
“As opposed toward thinking, ‘I’m miserable, how do I undo this?’ [switch to] ‘I’m miserable, how do I make things better?’”
…and a healthy divorce
Choose a lawyer who doesn’t do drama
“If somebody makes their living in the courts, you wonder. I’d like to have somebody who has a more general legal point of view.”
Don’t start a war
“Commit to yourself that you’re gonna drop legal documents and leave it at that. You’re not gonna allow the attorneys to push you into battle.”