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Top 12 Family Law Films

divorce movies


Maguire Family Law’s Top 12 Family Law Films!

As more and more people find themselves at home, whether they are self-isolating or whether they are being asked to work from home, one thing we have noticed is that everyone is on the look out for film recommendations. So, we thought how about we suggest our top 12 ‘Family Law Films’. Don’t worry – there are no spoilers below!

Let us know whether you agree with our list, or if there are others you would have suggested instead!


No.12: Blended (2014)

Recently divorced mum Lauren (Drew Barrymore) and widowed dad Jim (Adam Sandler) let their friends push them into a blind date, which goes disastrously wrong. Unsurprisingly, neither wants to see the other ever again. However, fate intervenes when both Jim and Lauren, unbeknown to each other, purchase one-half of the same vacation package at a South African resort; they and their children are forced to share the same suite and participate in a slew of family activities together.

This blended ‘familymoon’ works and in the very unusual way that friendships and realtionships are made firstly with the children before the adults finally realise there might be romance!!

Best quote: “Look children, the bush pig has lost his parents so it is been cared for by mama and papa lion. Even in nature, there are blended families.”


No.11: The Parent Trap (1998)

When Nick Parker and Elizabeth James Divorce they decide to take a twin each and move on wth their respective lives in California and London.
Fast forward 11 years and the twins meet at a summer camp and when it dawns on them that they are actaully twins they hatch a plan to swap places.
The aim of course to get their parents back together. Could it be a true Hollywood ending?

Best quote; when Nick announces to his daughter that he wishes for his much younger girlfriend to be part of their family:

“You’re going to adopt Meredith, thats so sweet Dad.”


No. 10: Big Daddy (1999)

Perhaps a controversial choice, especially given this is an Adam Sandler film. Sandler stars as Sonny Koufax, a 32 year old slacker with a law degree who lives off a his personal injury compensation he received from a minor accident. When he wakes to find a five year old Julian dropped off at his apartment with a note that he is Sonny’s roommate’s biological child, Sonny offers to care for Julian while his roommate is in China.

What follows is typical of most Sandler films – a comedic tale of what happens when a man-child is given a real child to care for. When social services step in to take Julian back, Sonny is forced to go to Court to try and gain custody and keep Julian in his care.

The film wasn’t necessarily received very well, but it did go on to make over £230,000,000 so it can’t have been all that bad. Even though Sandler won the Golden Raspberry for ‘Worst Actor’ we still think the film is worth a mention.

Best Quote: “Having a kid is great… as long as his eyes are closed and he’s not moving or speaking.”


No. 9: The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Set in the 1980’s, the film follows a pair of brothers living in Brooklyn who are caught in the middle of their parents divorce. While one brother sides with his dad, the other quietly takes his mother’s side. The film is semi-autobiographical and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

We thought it was a touching film which was both funny and cutting at the same time. It shows a real glimpse into the reality that divorce can have on children especially when parents become at war with one another. Plus it has a fantastic soundtrack which doesn’t hurt.

Best Quote: “What is it about high school, that you read all the worst books by good writers?”


No. 8: Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

George Clooney as a divorce lawyer in a Joel and Ethan Coen film – what’s not to like! Clooney plays Miles Massey, a lawyer who specialises in saving cheating husbands from having to pay expensive settlements. He soon meets serial gold-digger Marilyn (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones), the wife of one of his husband clients. Miles destroys her chance of getting the settlement Marilyn wanted from her husband and she vows to get revenge against him.

A quirky but oddly funny film which shows a lighter side to divorce.

Best Quote: “You seem to be taking it pretty good. I’ve seen ’em come in here, weep and wail like Baptists at a funeral. Like they hired me to prove their husbands weren’t fooling around.”


No. 7: What Maisie Knew (2012)

Another child-focussed film, this one follows the story of Masie, a six year old girl at the centre of her parent’s divorce. Despite Maisie’s parents fighting bitterly over her custody, it is clear that neither is particularly interested in playing the role for her – it is all about winning for them.

The film deals with many areas of family law which are all too common for us, such as when Maisie’s mother changes the locks of their family home to keep out Maisie’s father, as well as the issues which follow when Maisie’s mother remarries.

The film is often hard to watch, but there are lots of sweet moments in it especially when Maisie’s relationship with her nanny and mother’s new husband develops.

Best Quote: “I’d give you a couple of pointers, but I doubt that the Jacobean Tragedy that was our relationship would apply to the farce that you two guys are playing out.”


No. 6: The Children Act (2018)

Based on a book by Ian McEwan (a fantastic author, if you didn’t already know), Emma Thompson plays a judge, Fiona, in the Family Division of the High Court. A case is brought before her involving 17-year-old Adam who is suffering leukaemia. Adam’s doctors want to perform a blood transfusion, but Adam and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses which is against their beliefs. Fiona is required to assess what is in Adam’s best interests, and whether the transfusion should go ahead or not.

Coupled with this, Fiona’s own marriage is in trouble. Faced with her constant workload, her husband admits to her that he wants to have an affair with a colleague and that he is tired of her always working but that he will not stop loving her.

As to be expected from Emma Thompson, it’s a powerful performance and our only film on the list which is based in England. A strong story about difficult choices.

Best quote: “Life is more important than dignity.”


No. 5: Evelyn (2002)

Loosely based on the true story of Desmond Doyle, an Irish father who was forced to fight the courts in 1955 to be reunited with his children after they were put into the care of the church following their mother walking out on the family. The case centred on the law at the time that children were prohibited from being left in broken homes.

The film has some or Ireland’s best actors, including Peirce Brosnan who plays Desmond, Stephen Rea and Aidan Quinn. A great legal drama which sheds light on a particular area of Irish family law that was in desperate need of amending at the time.

Best Quote: “I wasn’t talking to you, Yank. All you’re good for’s wearing sharp suits, doing fancy deals… and trying to get hands on our women. And our fish!”


No. 4: Any Day Now (2012)

A little-known film, but still a very good one. Alan Cumming plays Rudy, a struggling musician and drag performer in a gay nightclub in 1979. One night, Rudy returns to his apartment to find Marco, a 14 year old boy with Down syndrome whose mother has left him after being arrested. Rudy takes in the boy, but social services intervene and take him into foster care.

What follows is Rudy’s fight to gain guardianship of Marco and the legal battle which ensues. Rudy’s sexuality is brought into question as assessments of his suitability to parent Marco are made. We won’t tell you how the film ends, only to say if you are looking for a happy ending you should probably watch something else. A tragic but poignant film. If you cry in films, it may be that you need to keep the tissues close by.

Best Quote: “Just because we are different does not make us bad parents.”


No. 3: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

The classic child custody film that sprang to mind when it came to putting this list together. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep give stellar performances as a couple going through a bitter divorce and child custody dispute. Streep’s character walks out on Hoffman and their son, only to return 15 months later demanding custody.

If you haven’t seen the film, you should. It is an emotional rollercoaster, and whilst a little dated it still remains a classic to this day. With one of the strongest end-scenes of any film we have seen before, it will leave you with the hope that no matter what follows from a divorce, parents can always find a way to put their children first.

Best Quote: “So the other morning, I’m at the refrigerator… you know, getting Billy ready for school. So I’m just in my underwear and he notices I’ve lost weight. And he comes in and pats me. He comes up to here, and he says “Daddy, you’ve really lost a lot of weight”, he looks up at me and he says “And it’s all gone to your nose.” He was so cute. You know?”


No. 2: Marriage Story (2019)

The second in our list to be directed by Noah Baumbach (who also directed The Squid and the Whale). The film has been lauded by critics and family lawyers across the world for its realistic and touching portrayal of a modern married couple going through divorce which includes a dispute about whether their son should live with the father in New York, or mother in California.

With an all-star cast including Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Laura Dern (who won an Academy Award for her performance), the film is funny, smart and powerful. The lawyers are fascinating characters and the issues feel real. Put simply, this is one of the best films we have seen in a long time.

Best Quote: “Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best. Divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.”


No. 1: Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

One of the most wonderful, funny and in many ways, perfect film. Mrs Doubtfire is, for us, simply the best film which portrays family law. Led by the incredible Robin Williams, a recently divorced husband and father finds himself dressing up as an old Scottish housekeeper to continue to see his children. The film deals with divorce, separation and the love and bond of parents for their children.

If you have separated from your partner and you have children, we cannot recommend this film enough. Just read below for yourself the beautiful explanation given by Williams in the film’s final scene, when he is asked by a little girl whose parents have separated how she can get her family back:

You know, some parents, when they’re angry, they get along much better when they don’t live together. They don’t fight all the time, and they can become better people, and much better mummies and daddies for you. And sometimes they get back together. And sometimes they don’t, dear. And if they don’t, don’t blame yourself. Just because they don’t love each other anymore, doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. And some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. And some live in separate homes, in separate neighbourhoods, in different areas of the country – and they may not see each other for days, or weeks, months… even years at a time. But if there’s love, dear… those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you poppet, you’re going to be alright…




For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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