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161 - Marriage Story Movie Review

161 - Marriage Story Movie Review Image

02/24/2020 5:00 pm

In a first, Leh and Todd review a divorce movie on the show. They discuss the drama and realism of the Netflix Original "Marriage Story,” staring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. Unfortunately, there were no Avenger style battles or light sabers fight scenes. Leh was hoping for a Star Wars / Avenger cross over.


Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. And you're listening to Divorce Team Radio sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. Here you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to read more about us you can always check us out online at Wait,

Todd Orston: I was so hopeful, we were almost there.

Leh Meriwether: I got ahead of myself. It's

Todd Orston: Alright, alright, you got excited.

Leh Meriwether: I did get excited because, do you know why?

Todd Orston: You get overly excited. Easily excited. No, there is a real reason why you got excited.

Leh Meriwether: Yes.

Todd Orston: We are doing something today-

Leh Meriwether: That we've never ever done before.

Todd Orston: Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether: Yes, and it's all about a movie review. Did you watch the movie?

Todd Orston: I watched the movie. Absolutely, absolutely. And I am telling you I am excited. Today we are reviewing the Avengers Endgame. Yes, because it ties... if you read between the lines it sort of ties into divorce.

Leh Meriwether: I thought we were doing Star Wars?

Todd Orston: That's what I said Star Wars. Well, I guess Han, were they separated? Han and Leia?

Leh Meriwether: I don't know. I don't know.

Todd Orston: All right.

Leh Meriwether: Hard to figure that out.

Todd Orston: Alright, see, this is where you're getting us off track. I blame you.

Leh Meriwether: How about a crossover?

Todd Orston: A crossover?

Leh Meriwether: Between Avengers, Marvel Avengers and Star Wars.

Todd Orston: The funny thing is what we're going to talk about actually-

Leh Meriwether: Is a crossover.

Todd Orston: ... is kind of a crossover between Avengers and Star Wars.

Leh Meriwether: Because it has?

Todd Orston: Some actors in both.

Leh Meriwether: Black Widow and Kylo Ren in it. And their fight scenes were just, I mean when the Lightsabers-

Todd Orston: I didn't even know that those two characters got married.

Leh Meriwether: They did.

Todd Orston: I didn't know they were dating. That's amazing.

Leh Meriwether: Somehow he got to this galaxy.

Todd Orston: Well, jokes aside, bad jokes aside, we are going to do something of a movie review. And because it ties pretty nicely into what we are all about and we often times talk about. Spoiler alert, spoiler, spoiler, spoiler, we are going to be talking about Marriage Story. And the two actors or main actors, there's a fantastic cast in this movie. It's a Netflix movie. But are Adam Driver, and of course you were talking about?

Leh Meriwether: Scarlett Johansson.

Todd Orston: Scarlett Johanson.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: Like I said, from top to bottom, generally speaking, it's a heavy movie, but they both do such an incredible job. And not just as a fan of movies, I will say also speaking as a divorce attorney, they really... Everybody involved, now I'm going to talk about the actors who played attorneys. They got it, they really captured a little bit over the top at times but not too much, but they really captured not the marriage story but what the divorce story really looks like from the inside.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, from two levels, I was disappointed. First off,-

Todd Orston: There was no shooting.

Leh Meriwether: ... there was no shooting, there was no-

Todd Orston: No spaceships.

Leh Meriwether: ... spaceships or Lightsabers.

Todd Orston: That would have been cool.

Leh Meriwether: That would have been cool. And there was some fighting, just not that kind of fighting.

Todd Orston: No Lightsabers.

Leh Meriwether: No Lightsabers, no. I'm just kidding about that. I actually don't like these movies. This was very sad. It was a drama. It was a very serious drama. It was well done. Even though this is not the genre movie I would normally watch, I have to say that it was... I was very uncomfortable watching it. I got pulled into the movie, they did a great job. So we're going to talk about the movie, we're going to talk about what we saw just from where things could have gone right just based on the information we had from the movie, like things they may have been able to do earlier on that could have saved their marriage.

Todd Orston: Strategic decisions that were made or not made. I'm not going to say things the story got wrong, but I'm going to say things as attorneys, we would have done differently and things that we saw that, okay, there's some things that are pretty realistic and on-point. And then there's some things where it's like, okay, they've clearly dramatized it a little bit more just for cinematic purposes and the storytelling and that's great it made for a good story. But of course, while I think they really captured it, there were some moments where I'm like, okay, that's not 100% accurate. So we're going to sort of critique it from that end. We're going to talk about some strategies that were employed, some things that they did, all the way from beginning in their efforts at the very beginning to try and, I don't know if it was really work on the marriage, all the way to their efforts at the end to try and really nail down an agreement and walk away with something that both parties could accept in terms of the terms of a settlement agreement.

Leh Meriwether: So if you have not watched the movie, we are going to be going through the different scenes in the movie, the end of the movie, so push this on pause, go watch the movie, it was a very well done movie. I mean, like I said, just great actors, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, I wasn't expecting some of these actors. And they came in, did a fantastic-

Todd Orston: Laura Dern, did a-

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: I mean, again, they captured those characters so well, and the characters that you didn't want to like you pretty much didn't like and the characters that you really wanted to connect with they made it so easy because they did a fantastic job.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Alright, so we're going to give you a minute, hit pause if you haven't listened to it.

Todd Orston: Trust me, our listeners already know how to press pause.

Leh Meriwether: Okay. Alright, well, if you made it this far, let's get into it. Alright. So the movie actually starts off with the two of them. Apparently they've made the decision to get a divorce and they're meeting with, it seemed like he was a counselor, but they had to try to help him work on an agreement.

Todd Orston: Yeah, it was a counselor/mediator. It was unclear from our point of view, from my point of view. It wasn't clear what the role was, but it seemed like they were supposed to talk about feelings and what led them to that point and that would lead into a discussion about some settlement terms.

Leh Meriwether: And he starts off by having each of them write what they loved about each other. And I will say when you are listening to it because that's how the movie starts are each describing what the other is so good at, you would think they had a great marriage. I mean, going back to our guests last week, had they gone to a counselor probably six years prior, they never would have been in this guy's office trying to mediate a settlement agreement.

Todd Orston: You know what it sounds like? And again, I wish we had the expert that was on our show, but that type of therapy, what's it called?

Leh Meriwether: Discernment therapy.

Todd Orston: Discernment therapy. And I could sort of see that as being sort of a type of discernment therapy where the goal is not to keep everyone together. It's almost like there's a recognition that the relationship is ending, but-

Leh Meriwether: Or it's broken. [crosstalk 00:08:01].

Todd Orston: Or that it's broken.

Leh Meriwether: And there's three choice directions you can take.

Todd Orston: Correct. Correct. And let's get some of these feelings out in the open and let's see where that takes us. So maybe that's what it was supposed to be, but is that uncommon? No, it's not. And having these types of conversations, I think the whole point was they'd had conversations about potentially the end of the relationship, and they wanted to do things amicably, but there was so much emotion. Clearly, that wasn't possible.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And there was a huge... We'll get into it with the court scene too. They had diametrically opposed positions on one issue. So this was going to come to a head at some point, because I think even if she had stayed in the room or read her letter that she wrote about him, they still would have had a problem because she wanted to move the family to L.A. and he wanted to say in New York.

Todd Orston: Which is where they've been living for several years.

Leh Meriwether: New York for 10 years I thought it was.

Todd Orston: New York, right.

Leh Meriwether: But it sounds as if she really wanted to move back to L.A. and he wasn't listening to her. And this where it goes into... It reminds me of our guests from last week. Sometimes people will say things because that's what they really want, but the other person doesn't hear it, they just hear it as, "Well, I'd like to do this someday." They hear that they're not a bad person. Maybe they have got a little bit of blinders on, a little bit of self interest, "Hey, I'm building up my directing company and my playwright company," whatever it was. She's not saying it loud enough. No, this isn't a wish someday. I want to make this happen now, because I've helped you with your career, and I feel something missing. I'd love to be able to pursue my career and the only place to do that is L.A.

Todd Orston: And they're clearly, you can see at right from the beginning, a lot of anger, a lot of emotion, and basically their desire to do things amicably and work on things together. That's fantastic. But if issues are clouded by emotion, and we've seen that too many times, it's impossible. And so it takes a movie to get to a point where they can finally communicate. Anyway, we'll talk more about that later.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Alright. So, in the coming segments ahead, we're going to dive into the procedural issues about how this case started, some troubles I saw with sort of the plot line. And obviously, most of the folks watching aren't lawyer so it's not important to them, but we're going to break it down from a legal perspective when we come back. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess.

Leh Meriwether: That's right.

Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leah and Todd on Divorce Team Radio sponsored Meriwether & Tharpe. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at Well, today we are talking about the Marriage Story, the marriage of the Marvel and Star Wars universes. I'm just kidding. No, we are talking about the movie Marriage Story if you're just tuning in. The spoiler alert, we're going to break down the Netflix original movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver dealing with it's really a divorce story. I'm not sure.

Todd Orston: I don't think people would just gravitate towards a story where it's the divorce story.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: That's sort of like The War of the Roses movie. Yeah, right. I mean, this was really more a focus on the relationship and the breakdown of the relationship and then how they got from the beginning of that breakdown of the relationship to the end.

Leh Meriwether: So they start off with, they're talking, trying to work things out with what looks like a mediator. At some point she travels, according to him, she temporarily moved out to California, kind of looks like that because she moved in with her mom, she didn't actually get a place. They enrolled their son out there for some school while she was... I guess she had done a pilot that took off so it was a TV series she was going to do. So she is kind of talked into... She's having difficulty communicating with him. And a friend of hers who's on set or someone else who's on set recommends she hires a particular lawyer. So we'll talk quickly about the different lawyer, the presentations, the different lawyers, that the parties considered hiring, and then talk about What you should be looking at possibly. So the first one and the funny thing-

Todd Orston: [inaudible 00:13:04].

Leh Meriwether: Yes, I've actually seen lawyers like her before. She comes across as very nice,-

Todd Orston: And sincere and...

Leh Meriwether: ... but at the same time it doesn't feel real. And partly you feel that way because she tries to rewrite the narrative of her client who was Black Widow. No, Nicole I believer is her name in the movie. So she starts to tell her story and she starts to rewrite this part of the narrative and it's almost like to stir the pot a little bit.

Todd Orston: Yeah, my take was Scarlett walks into or Nicole walks into the office. And from the moment she walks in, it's all theater.

Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Todd Orston: The attorney walks over and, "Oh, forgive the way I'm dressed." And she sees she has an upset potential client, she sits on the couch and she takes her shoes off. It's all about I care, I care. And the minute that Nicole starts to explain, well, he's not a terrible guy. He's not a bad dad. All of a sudden, to your point, the attorney starts to try and rewrite that narrative and basically be like, "No, you're the victim. So this is why you need me, this is why we need to come on very strong and jump in and litigate because you're the victim here, and you need to be protected." As opposed to, just a more honest... Oh, and then there's the hug. There's a hug, where there was about as much feeling in that hug. Anyway, I can't think of an analogy, but as you said, there wasn't a lot of feelings.

Leh Meriwether: It's a theatrical.

Todd Orston: It was more of, almost obligatory of, this is the moment where I hug you to show I care. And I think Laura Dern, that's why I think she did such a great job because she walks that line so well, where it's like, you know what, is she being sincere? Like, I can't-

Leh Meriwether: Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Todd Orston: I can't tell, but based on what she's saying and what she's doing, there's... I'm not sure. But then we jump over to where Adam Driver, his character, basically doesn't hire an attorney for a little while. Mistake.

Leh Meriwether: Huge mistake.

Todd Orston: Okay. You know that an attorney has been hired on the other side, whether you want it or not like it or not.

Leh Meriwether: And I'll defend for a moment her lawyer. What was her lawyers name? Anyways, she calls him because he doesn't file an answer.

Todd Orston: That's right.

Leh Meriwether: He's delaying, delaying, delaying and she calls him and is really pushy, but that was not being overly aggressive.

Todd Orston: I don't think so.

Leh Meriwether: That was, "Hey, my client wants to get this process started. You've already in default, we haven't pushed it, but I need you to file an answer by Friday." I've had to make a call similar to that where the other person just was delaying, delaying, and-

Todd Orston: She could have just filed.

Leh Meriwether: She could have just filed for a default.

Todd Orston: She could just file for a default and we don't really have default in Georgia.

Leh Meriwether: But some states, like Florida actually has a default. You can usually get it reopened, but you don't want to go through that process.

Todd Orston: Yeah, Georgia has something different because it's not truly a default. But if you haven't filed an answer, the court doesn't have an obligation to notify you about anything-

Leh Meriwether: Of a hearing.

Todd Orston: ... of a hearing. So your case will be put onto a calendar, you may not know because you're not keeping yourself abreast of what's going on in the case. And next thing you know, you get an order in the mail and they're like, "Well, you didn't show up in court." "I didn't know," "Well, it's your obligation to make yourself aware of court dates and things like that." And if you don't file an answer, it's you basically saying to the court, I don't care. Do whatever you want to do, but at least you'll get that court date here.

Leh Meriwether: So Charles goes in and interviews a couple lawyers, and the first ones Ray Liotta, and he is incredibly aggressive. He wants to set a narrative that Charlie does not want to set.

Todd Orston: What was really amazing is that, and I really like the cinematography here, where Charlie is sitting in a chair and Ray Liotta his character is walking around him to the point where Charlie is having to turn around and look and it just showed how off balance he was, because this is not what he was looking for. He was not looking to go to war. And Ray Liotta's character was just right off the bat, this is war, whether you like it or not, it is war. And therefore you need to be aggressive. You need to basically jump right in and be proactive, not just with your storytelling but with other... He was talking about hiring experts and talking about all these things.

Leh Meriwether: Filing in Ney York.

Todd Orston: Right. And so while I can't say some of those strategic discussions-

Leh Meriwether: Some of his strategic discussions were accurate.

Todd Orston: Correct, but the way he approached it clearly was a turn off to Charlie and that led him into the hands of Alan Alda's character. And Alan Alda's character was clearly the antithesis. I mean he was the extreme opposite of Ray Liotta's attorney character, where you have the Bulldog and then you have a much more passive_

Leh Meriwether: And I'm not sure he was per se, he was definitely much more settlement mind.

Todd Orston: Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether: Because he still never backed down till so later on. So he winds up hiring Alan Alda's character, and they're in a settlement discussion. They should have had a mediator but that's another story. So Nora's lawyer tries to set the narrative, but Alan Alda never backs down.

Todd Orston: Yep.

Leh Meriwether: He never backs down. He's very nice. He's very respectful, personable, professional, but he never backs down on, "No, I understand what you're saying." But they've been living in New York for 10 years.

Todd Orston: But it was a less aggressive presentation, which, listen, we've seen it before, where, I mean, I'm one of those people I believe in that walk tall carry a big stick kind of philosophy, meaning you don't go into every conversation swinging that stick, you go in settlement minded, resolution focused. If you need to, then you pull the stick out, not literally. I had a client one time I was sitting in a settlement conference, an opposing counsel brought her litigation attorney in, and suddenly we were... I believe we had a much stronger position. It was a custody issue. And I had to flip that switch and suddenly become a different attorney and take a harder tone to the point where they left and my client looked at me and said, "I didn't even know you had that in you." And I'm like, "Well, because I don't need to go talking like that and acting like that all the time." We want to be here and settle and that kind of talk is going to end this conversation very quickly and push you into court.

Leh Meriwether: We should probably just wrap it up about the lawyer component because when you're searching for a lawyer make sure that they are sort of, what's the word, listen to them. If you don't agree with sort of their philosophy, then find a lawyer and that's what he did.

Todd Orston: It's your case.

Leh Meriwether: It's your case. Unfortunately, he winds up because he feels like Alan isn't going to be aggressive enough in the courtroom he never gave him the chance. He goes and hires Ray, who was, what was he, 15,000, $20,000 retainer?

Todd Orston: There was a $25,000 retainer $950 an hour.

Leh Meriwether: And his associate was $450 an hour. And they both showed up to court.

Todd Orston: Oh, and it was 450 and the way it was presented was, if you have stupid questions, call him.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: And while I understand that philosophy of, if you call me at my rate for something that's sort of not an important question, you're wasting a lot of money. So I understood, But to your point, he felt like he needed somebody more aggressive to compete with his wife's attorney. And unfortunately at that point, you're off to the races.

Leh Meriwether: But you look at the end, the end result was pretty much where they were going to wind up and Alan was going to probably get him through settlement discussions, but instead, he probably went through 40, $50,000 in legal fees, because he switched to the more aggressive approach. And they could have settled it saved a lot of money and heartache. He could have spent all that money on the travel back and forth from New York, and California. If Alan's character went wrong, it was probably not setting some expectations up saying hey look, you will set president by you staying out here in California, but you really don't have a choice, unfortunately. And unfortunately, we have to take pause but we will be right back to continue break down Marriage Story.

Todd Orston: Hey, everyone you're listening to our podcast but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00AM on Monday morning on WSB.

Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us on iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show. Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio and we are doing something we have never done before. We're doing a movie review of the Marriage Story. I keep calling it the divorce story because that's what it really was, a story about divorce. It was very well done. It was actually rated R even though there's-

Todd Orston: I didn't even see that. Really?

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, because I looked up to see who all the actors were. And I saw it was rated R because it was such a serious drama about some pretty heart wrenching-

Todd Orston: Yeah, but I didn't know serious drama was a category that would result in an R rating. There was no nudity. There was a little bit of cursing.

Leh Meriwether: There was sexual innuendo.

Todd Orston: I didn't realize marital strife was one of the factors looked at for an R rating.

Leh Meriwether: That's what I saw when I looked it up.

Todd Orston: Wow. All right.

Leh Meriwether: Okay. So let's keep going. So we broke down choosing a lawyer. That's the next wound up doing.

Todd Orston: And look, the only comment that I will say about the attorneys is I also liked how at the beginning you had Laura Dern hug her soon to be client. And to me, and maybe this is not what they intended, to me it came across as a very superficial fake gesture. But then when you fast forward to the scene where Charlie meets with Alan Alda's character, at the end, Alan Alda's character gives him a hug. And it's clearly sincere. Because just based on the whole conversation and things he was saying about how to approach the process and be resolution focused and he makes some nice comments to Charlie about you remind me of me.

Leh Meriwether: On my second divorce.

Todd Orston: Yeah. And he gives him this hug and it's like, okay, that's a real hug. And I don't know if it was supposed to be this but to me looking back, it was almost like a statement of the fake is what wins over the real meaning Laura Dern's character, clearly insincere, but she knew how to play the game. Alan Alda didn't really have the strength of fortitude in the eyes of his client even though he was real, and he was sincere, and all those good things and cheaper a heck of a lot cheaper. Unfortunately, different rules, different game and Charlie ended up making that choice to change lawyers.

Leh Meriwether: And I will say this is sort of, I don't know if this was a flaw in the storytelling and all. But towards the end, I felt like I understood each side's position. I mean it was a tragic, they just were diametrically opposed on some things.

Todd Orston: Yeah.

Leh Meriwether: But the beginning though, it felt like, because I felt like certain things have been left out that Nicole was, I wouldn't say being selfish, but all of a sudden wasn't happy and she was pursuing things. And it seemed like he still wanted the marriage but she was running away from him and they wouldn't have a conversation but then later, it comes out that he'd actually cheated on her. So I'm like, okay, all right. And then later he admits that he wanted the divorce too, but that that was an earlier on, and I was kind leaning towards his side. And I kind of wish that information would have come out earlier because it would have made the stress of the dynamics of what was going on even that much more painful. I don't know, how do I describe it.

Todd Orston: Well, right or wrong and without pointing fingers in this fake relationship, who was the bad guy and who was the good guy?

Leh Meriwether: Well, I don't think there was one.

Todd Orston: Yeah, correct. I'm saying but without even pointing a finger it was very interesting watching this emotional roller coaster. And we've always said and it's funny because they use the quote in the movie where they say, "In criminal law, you see bad people acting at their best and in family law it's good people acting at their worst." And so it was interesting watching this roller coaster where they seem like two good people, for whatever reason, she shut down emotionally. And in terms of communication, she just didn't want to have that conversation, which then drove them farther apart and farther away from that settlement table. He then withdraws. So now they're in their separate corners, and they're ready to do battle. But then you watch and things happen towards the end, that draw them back together to the point where it becomes clear at the end of the movie not only did they make it through the divorce, but they are actually good co-parents.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And they act like they still love each other.

Todd Orston: And that's not always the case. It's what we always hope for.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: But in this situation, like I said, so you have this roller coaster watching them drift apart, more so than they already were, and then come back together when they realize what's truly important and they get through the divorce and they move on with their lives.

Leh Meriwether: I think one of the scenes that was very telling and that they couldn't have these hard conversations, they never learned how was the scene, so after court, they've gone to court and we haven't even broken down court yet.

Todd Orston: Yep.

Leh Meriwether: They get together in the room, and they're having a conversation. And she's like, "Do you think..." Because he said, "Well, your lawyer said some really mean things about me." And she's like, "And your lawyer said..." Well, first off, she agrees. "I agree," those were her words, not mine. "But your lawyer said some bad things about me," and he's like, "I know. That wasn't what I wanted to come out." So they admit in the courtroom, a lot of things were said that neither of them wanted to be said.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Well, that was that cathartic moment where both of them sort of broke down a little bit, finally spoke from their hearts.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: And finally, I believe, understood the other.

Leh Meriwether: But they first sit down, well, let's try to work this out. And they sit there staring each other. And he says, "I don't know where to begin." But that was the example of they didn't know how to have these hard conversations. And like, Ellen, our guest last week, I mean, she talks about how that's what led to their divorce, and they figured out how to have those hard conversations and then they got back together. If you haven't listened to the show you definitely want to go back and listen to that show. It's a great show. But you could see it in this one how he wasn't listening to her, and on her end, she probably wasn't saying it well enough.

Todd Orston: Well yeah, I think-

Leh Meriwether: As far as what her desires were, and he wasn't recognizing her desire.

Todd Orston: Right, he wasn't recognizing her desires and he was being selfish because it was all about his career. Clearly, his wife was incredibly talented, and could have had earlier on a career of her own and she ended up having not just a great acting career but a directing career. And so, you very clearly start to see, okay, they both shut down. They both shut down in the relationship, which led to a divorce. And then even in that divorce process, they shut down. And it wasn't until that catharsis occurred, that moment where they both obtained the clarity necessary to finally be able to communicate.

Leh Meriwether: We'll go through some of the legal nuances in the next segment but I just want to hit these things real quickly. You notice that they go to this... It looks like it was a temporary hearing. By the way, at least here in Georgia and Florida wherever I've been the way that hearing went down is not how a hearing would normally go down. Basically the lawyers were talking back and forth and nobody even got up on the stand.

Todd Orston: I forgot there was a judge there at one point. I'm like, "Hey judge, can you do something here?"

Leh Meriwether: It's just the [inaudible 00:30:25] talking... There's the judge.

Todd Orston: And judges don't put up with counsel talking to one another in the context of a hearing.

Leh Meriwether: Or even her lawyer leaning over to Charlie, and go, "Well, Charlie, you remember that time?"

Todd Orston: And that was clearly a dramatic moment, where they took license there and because you're right, that would never happen. And a Ray Liotta kind of attorney would never let that happen.

Leh Meriwether: Oh, no.

Todd Orston: Because if that were you or I, we'd be sitting there going, "Excuse me. Don't talk to my client."

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, unless they're on the stand-

Todd Orston: If they're on the stand you can question them, right.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. But I will say sort of the verdict of what came out of that is very stereotypical. Regardless of how the procedure, the procedure of how that went down, I've never been in a California Court soo I don't know how it goes down there. But in the courts in Georgia and Florida and the other... I've been in other courtrooms of other states just... Anyways, I've never been to one in California. But I've never seen a hearing go down like that, per se. Well, there's some judges that will do some interesting stuff, but we're not going there. Typically, that's not how it goes down. But the result was the same where the judge says, "I'm going to leave at status quo, and I'm going to appoint a guardian ad litem." He didn't even react to any of the negative things that both parties were saying about each other, or I should say, the lawyers were saying about the other person.

Todd Orston: Yeah. And again, to your point, I've never been in a California Court. So, that could be the norm. Here in Georgia. It's more like a mini trial. I mean, just think of it in those terms and the plaintiff will make an opening statement, and the defendant will make an opening statement. Sometimes every once in a while there's no testimony or evidence. And it's literally just an argument. And the attorneys can even say, "I don't need to put clients up." Okay, go ahead and make your argument, go ahead and make your counter argument and the court will rule or it's more like a trial, and you end up putting up your client or a witness. And there are even more rules in Georgia because at a temporary hearing, other than the party, you're limited to one additional witness.

Todd Orston: So there are rules and at the end of the presentation of evidence, you can make closing arguments, and then the court will rule. So it's more like a real trial. That I'll be honest with you, I was watching that going. I don't even understand what's happening, but whatever. I'm not judging. I'm just saying it's different here.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And I'm not sure that's how it is out there. But anyhow, we've seen that same result, well I'm going to leave things status quo, which comes back to why it was important for him to hire a lawyer sooner because one of the little nuances is called residency you have to live in California, I think is just like Georgia. You have to live there for six months before you can file for divorce.

Todd Orston: And three months in the county.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So it's not clear whether she had lived in California for six months before she filed. And so he could have filed in New York and it would have been proper, but when we come back, we're going to go through some of those legal nuances that we saw wrong and right in The Marriage Story. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess.

Leh Meriwether: That's right.

Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leah and Todd on Divorce Team Radio sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. Hey, if you missed any part of this or want to go back and listen to it or read the transcript of it. You can always find us at Okay, we are diving into the divorce... oh, I'm sorry, the title is The Marriage Story, but it's really the divorce story, a movie that Todd and I just watched and doing our very first movie review of a divorce movie.

Todd Orston: And likely the last seeing how this show has gone. I'm just hoping we don't get sued by the production company.

Leh Meriwether: We actually have given it a rave review.

Todd Orston: I know. Yeah, that's true.

Leh Meriwether: They're probably going to promote this. They're going to hit it in social media airwaves.

Todd Orston: It'll be huge. Huge. All right.

Leh Meriwether: It's going to go viral this show. The funny thing is we actually haven't talked about the law that much.

Todd Orston: No. So, since we have one more segment-

Leh Meriwether: Let's talk about the law.

Todd Orston: ... maybe we should.

Leh Meriwether: Alright, so one of the funny things in the movie was, they tried to make it funny where they were going to have Nicole's sister was going to serve Charlie, the husband with the divorce papers. Now, I'm pretty sure California doesn't allow that every state I've ever seen, because I have had to serve people in California. You've got to have a disinterested party do the service. So I think they did that for the comedic relief of it, even though it was still pretty tense.

Todd Orston: Yeah, I think you're right. Because the whole point in perfecting service is you are giving a court assurances that the other party has in fact received a copy of the complaint and the summons in essence, they know that the case is pending because what you don't want is if you can have anyone serve, you can just have your brother, your sister, your friend, your whomever say yeah, sure I served and what happens is you didn't and then you go to court, you get a default judgment, like we were talking about earlier. And basically you've told the court I serve them, they never got anything they didn't know anything was pending. And you basically lost the firm because you didn't even have an opportunity to go into court. You never knew something was pending.

Leh Meriwether: So services very important. So that part of it, that wasn't accurate. At least I know it would be not accurate here in Georgia and Florida.

Todd Orston: Not here. Here in Georgia, actually, it has to be either a sheriff deputy or a person specifically appointed by the court to act as a special process server, because again, the court wants the assurance.

Leh Meriwether: Now, the other thing we touched on earlier was filing the answer. So he did not file the answer timely, they could have moved for a default. I would imagine California is probably a lot like other states where like in Florida, you can move for default and get what's called a default judgment and the other side, never gets a chance to tell their side of the story and then you pretty much get whatever you ask for. In Florida, those are pretty easy to overturn. I would imagine California is very similar. I'm not a California lawyer, so I don't know. But the importance of it is you can't delay. You really have to take this court process very seriously. You have to get an attorney. You can't procrastinate. The frustrating thing when there's a deadline, you can't procrastinate, but there's a lot of hurry up and wait in the court process. And I think this case may have taken about a year based on what I was noticing because it started around the first Halloween they'd already been served and then the movie ends at the following Halloween.

Todd Orston: Yeah, you have to be and I say this to clients and people who call the firm all the time. Be proactive. Don't be reactive, don't sit back and hope everything will be fine and it'll all work out you have to be proactive. If that means getting yourself an attorney, great. If you're doing it on your own, then do it. Sticking your head in the sand is the worst thing.

Leh Meriwether: Is the worst thing you could do.

Todd Orston: We have seen people who came to us afterwards. They stuck their head in the sand. They didn't do anything they were supposed to, a default judgment gets entered and they come and they're like, "Well, what can I do about this? It's not fair. I wasn't in court." Well, you were given notice. You didn't know about it. You didn't show up in court there's nothing I can do. There is no appellate process at this point. I mean, we can try and set it aside, but walking into court with an argument of I didn't do anything and you moved on with the case without me-

Leh Meriwether: Or she said she wasn't going to use a lawyer.

Todd Orston: Right.

Leh Meriwether: That's what he keeps saying.

Todd Orston: Yeah, exactly. That that argument doesn't fly with the court, which means whatever order was entered, you're more than likely stuck with.

Leh Meriwether: So the next phase they move to was he finally gets a lawyer as they go to a settlement discussion. Now, I typically, especially when you had such differing points of views, as far as he wanted their son to live in New York with him she wanted to be in California, there was very little room for compromise there. It's got to be in one state or another. It can't be well, he'll stay midway in the country and we'll both go visit him and Indiana, you can't do that. So I think a mediator, a strong mediator may have helped that case settle early on.

Todd Orston: I agree. And when we're looking for a mediator, and the mediator is a third party neutral, who is there doesn't have any ties to one side or the other. They have to be neutral because both parties need to feel comfortable opening up and doing so with the knowledge that that mediator isn't just going to run to the other side, divulge all this great information and then really, all the while be fighting for the other side to win on an issue. You need to know that they are truly neutral. We like, I can speak for myself. I think you fall into the same category. We like mediators who are stronger.

Leh Meriwether: They do what's called reality checking and then be aggressive about it.

Todd Orston: That's right. I mean, if you take mediators, and I've gone through... I think both of us... You've mediation training?

Leh Meriwether: Yep. Yeah.

Todd Orston: So we're both trained mediators. There are mediators that we've used that really fall into that category of they're just old school by the book. I am a middleman, high or middle person, I'm going to take your offer and go over here and I'm going to get a counter and bring it back to you. And I'll keep going, but I will offer nothing to try and help or be involved.

Leh Meriwether: Or making suggestions or question strategies or anything like that.

Todd Orston: Exactly. And to be a good mediator, there's so much more than that. And so that's why we have mediators that we like and whether we have a weak position or strong position, I don't care. I still want that mediator to step in, do that reality checking and testing and be able to look at my client, if necessary, and say, hey, you're fighting the wrong fight.

Leh Meriwether: Of course, if the case had settled, we wouldn't have the rest of the movie. So the case doesn't settle, it goes to court. We've already kind of talked about that. Let's jump ahead to the appointment of I'm assuming it was a guardian ad litem. They didn't use that term. They just said, I'm going to appoint a valuator.

Todd Orston: Custodial evaluator?

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: Right.

Leh Meriwether: But it seemed like whoever, I'm going to call them a guardian, whoever the Guardian was, it was like their first evaluation.

Todd Orston: It was an interesting... I mean-

Leh Meriwether: That was uncomfortable like, oh, my.

Todd Orston: Yeah, yeah, the presentation was interesting. And granted, they're there to be an observer, but I'm also a trained guardian ad litem. I mean, you're walking in you're engaging, you're watching, observing, but this person came in like a wallflower and just sat there.

Leh Meriwether: And just staring at them.

Todd Orston: It was weird.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: I mean, at dinner, not eating which is fine. But just sitting there quietly and observing it's like okay, that's just spooky.

Leh Meriwether: And I've never seen him schedule something around a dinner time either.

Todd Orston: Yeah, right.

Leh Meriwether: But they do come to your house and they do that part they see how the children interact, child or children interact with the parents and they ask lots of questions. But they typically will do the questions of the parent away from the child. And so some of those questions that were going on there I'm not sure they would have been asked in that same room, they would have asked in an office and then they would have been the visit like you saw.

Todd Orston: And then look, if you fast forward then because we are running out of time. You fast forward, they ultimately reach an agreement.

Leh Meriwether: Yep.

Todd Orston: One thing that bothered me was at the very end, when Laura Dern's character, is basically talking to her client and basically says, "Congratulations, we reached an agreement. Oh, and by the way, I worked it out. So it's a 4555 split."

Leh Meriwether: If he moves back to LA, or he moves to LA.

Todd Orston: And Scarlett Johansson's character basically says, "That's not what I wanted. That's not what we talked about." She's like, "Hey, you won. Just be happy that you won." And that, once again, I think highlights some of the criticism that we were making before, it's your case, it's not your attorneys case and you need to control your attorney. You can't just sit back and go, "Well, my attorneys doing and saying and acting in a way. Hey, that has nothing to do with me. Let the attorneys fight about it." You need to control the narrative. If you want something, make sure that you let your attorney know and if they stray, then-

Leh Meriwether: Her lawyer went beyond her authority, she did not have the authority to enter an agreement that said that. Well, anyways, that was... And I'm surprised, like she should have caught that when the settlement proposal got sent over to her.

Todd Orston: Yeah, and again, I think it would have been a nine hour movie. It'd be a mini series.

Leh Meriwether: It'd be a mini series. Yeah. That's true. But yes, your lawyer only can operate within the terms that you give or the authority you give your lawyer to settle and she went outside that authority.

Todd Orston: Yeah. And if you are giving blanket authority to your attorney, saying I don't care go ahead reach an agreement whatever. Then of course, don't be surprised if they come back with terms that you either like or don't like, that don't reflect really what your intentions were.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And I think in the middle of all that they started off wanting to work something out that was good for them and their son and then at some point in the middle of the battle there was this I need to win part. I think they both kind of moved away from that a little bit.

Todd Orston: They did and they got back to a place where again, there wasn't so much damage that they couldn't co-parent afterwards.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Hey, everyone. Well, that about wraps up this show. I hope you enjoyed our very first review, and we'll talk to you next time.