HBO’s Divorce: Analyzing Episode 5 of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Series from the Perspective of a Family Law Attorney
In Episode 5 of HBO’s Divorce, we meet three different lawyers. First, we observe Robert sitting in the office of his attorney, Gerald Watkins Mayfield, Esquire. Well actually, the office looks more like Mr. Mayfield’s basement, where we see that the meeting is interrupted by Mr. Mayfield’s associate/wife, who reminds him to turn off the oven. While Mr. Mayfield practices primarily in the area of estates and trusts, he sells Robert on his ability to handle a family law case (“Basically, it’s all law”). We quickly observe an inexperienced family attorney try to take on a case that he is clearly not equipped to handle. During his brief tenure as Robert’s attorney, Mr. Mayfield engages in a series of fumbles including calling the DuFresnes’ house phone, only to be received by Frances, who quickly gathers that Robert retained an attorney.
The second lawyer we meet is Max Brodkin, Esquire. Upon learning of Mr. Mayfield’s involvement, Frances meets with Mr. Brodkin, who came highly recommended by Frances’ friend, Dakota. During what appears to be an initial consultation, Mr. Brodkin dodges the question of how much his services are going to cost, and instead promises that he will get Frances what she deserves – happiness. When Robert learns that Frances hired Mr. Brodkin, he quickly casts doubt on Mr. Mayfield’s ability to adequately represent him. In the end, after being fed up with Mr. Mayfield’s lack of experience and blundering moves, Robert fires his attorney and meets with sleek Tony Silvercreek, Esquire, who is well-known for exclusively (and aggressively) representing men in divorces.
Now that Frances and Robert have retained attorneys, does the divorce process have to veer toward contentious litigation? Are there only 2 styles of lawyers to handle your divorce, the local, inexperienced attorney versus the big city, cut-throat shark?
No and no. What resonated most with me about this episode are the vast extremes of attorneys presented as options for the DuFresnes. While I believe that everyone deserves happiness in life, I do not think that this is an outcome that can be guaranteed or even promised by a divorce attorney. Big, bold statements by attorneys Max Brodkin (ooohhh!!!) and Tony Silvercreek (“Sleep tight, sugar”) make for quite entertaining television, but the reality is that those exchanges are not what one should expect at initial consultations or on a call from an opposing attorney. None of the three attorneys engaged in realistic conversations with Robert and Frances about the issues on hand. Really, Robert and Frances’ initial consultations were void of the substantive discussions that typically take place, such as: (1) identifying the issues in the case; (2) understanding the client’s goals; and (3) explaining the different avenues to accomplish those goals, whether it be negotiations, mediation, the collaborative process, or litigation. Had there been meaningful conversations, perhaps Robert would reconsider his efforts to pursue the Fun Space and Frances would not have signed the lease for her art gallery.
My take-away of this episode is that a person that has a family law dispute should do his or her own, thorough due diligence to find an attorney that has experience in the area of family law; understands the issues at hand; and carefully lays out the various options to consider to resolve the dispute. In short, “lawyering up” does not necessarily mean that you are destined to frenetic, combative litigation where Mr. Silvercreek calls you at 11:30 pm (that would never happen, by the way). Instead, hiring a lawyer should mean that you will be have the benefit of legal counsel to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case, the likely outcome of litigation, and the associated costs, whether it be litigation or any other form of alternative dispute resolution.
Episode 05: Gustav
Original Air Date: November 06, 2016
– Mollie G. Caplis is an attorney at Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLP. Her practice focuses on family law issues, which include separation and divorce, custody (including third party custody disputes involving grandparents), child support, alimony, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, as well as domestic violence and adoptions. Ms. Caplis has also been collaboratively trained to handle family law disputes. She is a frequent speaker on domestic relations issues facing families in transition. Read more >>