Does the movie ‘Marriage Story’ get family law right?

Family law is a department filled with heartache and many families that walk in through the lawyer’s door seldom depart with a happy ending or a fair settlement. While law firms work hard to fight for their client’s best interests. However, in the midst of negotiating the winning terms for both parties, it often generates a clash of interest and creates both drama and tension, as illustrated in the film “Marriage Story” starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.

Healthy divorces can be done without the help of a lawyer

The film lays the groundwork for a couple whose marriage is crumbling due to neglect, but there is still much love between the two protagonists. As they come to terms with filing a divorce, they decide not to use any lawyers as they didn’t want to make it messier than it already is. However, as a child is involved, they both struggle over custody and end up hiring divorce attorneys to help them get the best deal out of the situation which is not what the divorcing couple intended. At the very end of the film, we see Scarlett’s character question the actions of her lawyer, asking why she had imposed more stringent rules on the father when it comes to child visitation, and the lawyer simply stated that they had “won”, but Scarlett makes it clear that winning was not in her agenda and she did not feel the need to restrict her ex-husband from visiting their son. She expresses her regret at proceeding with lawyers when they had wanted to split amicably.

Therapy should be the first choice

When the film begins, we see both husband and wife at the therapist’s office, trying to work things out between them and Scarlett’s characters blatantly refusing to read the letter her husband had written as per the therapist’s instructions. At the end of the film, we find out what a heartfelt love letter the husband had written but it was too late, the battle for their son had been waged and their marriage was in tatters. If there is an overarching message that the film wanted to send to audiences, it was this: work hard for your relationship, put in the effort, even when you no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t shut your significant other out, even when you feel like you hate them, because how you feel about them is transient, and you will be able to work through it if the both of you are willing to.

At the end of the day, we need to recognize that when parents split up, the family becomes collateral damage. But also, there are no right or wrong parties, regardless of what has happened between them unless domestic abuse is involved. However, most divorces happen because a relationship has naturally run its course and the pair that should be tending to it has averted their attention elsewhere: on their children, career, etcetera.