Don't Miss This Netflix Divorce Documentary

There’s no shortage of stuff to watch right now. We might as well have all our mail forwarded to Shondaland, right? With dozens of new shows plus the old ones starting again, keeping up is beginning to feel like a part-time job. I don’t want to add to your already full list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring your attention to an interesting documentary streaming on Netflix right now.

It’s called Divorce Corp and it explores the state of the American divorce process and family court system, questioning who’s really profiting and why. It’s by no means a perfect documentary, but it asks some thought-provoking questions. It ponders whether hiring a higher priced (thereby theoretically “better”) lawyer ups a client’s chances of getting what they want out of a divorce. It delves into why divorces can end up costing so much and take so long (hint: it might be so lawyers can make it rain and send their kids to fancy summer camp). It explores the financial incentive to fight over custody, as custody isn’t only about kids, it’s also about money. It looks at the prevalence of cases in which the legal fees end up being higher than the amount of money the couple is fighting over. In a nutshell, it’s out to prove all those divorce lawyer stereotypes might be true.

For contrast, the filmmakers go to Scandinavia where of course everything is better. In the land of ABBA divorces cost nothing — literally nothing, except for maybe the cost of one stamp. Assets are split evenly, but the future is separate, meaning there is no alimony/maintenance. Child support is a fixed monthly amount. There are no lengthy battles, no long drawn out fights over the future and no divorce lawyers, thus proving everything is better in Scandinavia. Except maybe the food. Have you heard of fudge cheese? It’s horrifying.

Whether you’re muddling through a divorce right now or interested in all the wacky ways the American court system is failing us, I say give it a stream. Here’s the trailer:

Let me know what you think! I think it asks some interesting questions, highlights how some lawyers and judges abuse the system and may help people hire more ethical lawyers. Do you agree?

James J. Sexton

Eight Things You May Not Know About Divorce Law In New York State

If you’ve begun to consider a divorce but are unsure of how to get started, or what the laws in New York regarding divorce are, I’ve put together a quick list of the basics that should help. You can also see my other post on child custody and visitation. Please feel free to contact me to discuss your situation.

You Can File for Divorce in New York If:
• You and your spouse were married in New York, and at least one of you has been a resident of New York for at least a year,
• You and your spouse resided in New York as husband and wife, and at least one of you has been a resident of New York at least a year,
• The grounds for divorce occurred in New York, and at least one of you has been a resident of New York for at least a year, or
• At least one of you has been a resident of New York for at least two years immediately before the start of the divorce.

“Fault” & “No-Fault” Divorce: 
New York recognizes both “fault” and “no-fault” grounds for divorce. In a “fault” divorce, one spouse will claim that the other spouse engaged in misconduct leading to the divorce.

“Fault” grounds in New York include:
• Cruel and inhuman treatment (mental or physical abuse),
• Abandonment,
• Imprisonment for three or more years, and
• Adultery.

Grounds for a “no-fault” divorce include:
• The “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage, and
• Living apart for a period of one or more years, before or after a legal separation agreement.

 “Contested” & “Uncontested” Divorce: 
• “Contested” divorce means that there are critical issues in your divorce that you and your spouse haven’t been able to resolve, either with or without the help of lawyers and mediators.
• “Uncontested” means that you agree to all the important terms of your divorce. You’ve decided where your children will live and what the visitation schedule will be, you’ve agreed to the terms of alimony and child support, and you know how you want to divide your property.

A Few More Helpful Facts: 
• You can represent yourself in divorce proceedings, although this isn’t always a good idea, particularly if you are unsure of the law, or if you have complex financial or custody issues to consider. Divorces with concerns of child custody, property division, and spousal support can be especially complex.
• Paperwork filed in divorce court in New York is not public. This includes pleadings, affidavits, findings of fact, conclusions of law, judgments of dissolution, and written agreements of separation.
• While New York plaintiffs are entitled to a jury trial, the only issue that a jury can decide on is the grounds for the divorce.

While this covers the basics of New York divorce law, it’s highly likely that you will benefit by seeking legal counsel before you begin divorce proceedings. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please feel free to contact me.

James J. Sexton