“I just got back from Miami,” Los Angeles attorney Laura Wasser said the other day as she drove me to the offices of her law firm, Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles, in Century City. Her long brown hair, loose like a girl in the back, sparkled with several wisps of garlands, an adornment which, she explained, had been given to her by her goddaughter during her trip. “All kids do it,” Wasser said. “My friend was like, ‘Don’t you have a photo shoot when you get back? Wow, you really don’t give a fuck!’ ”
Wasser, 54, is one of the nation’s most prominent divorce attorneys. She has represented some of the biggest celebrities of the past generation: Britney Spears during her breakup with Kevin Federline, Angelina Jolie during her divorce from Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp during her divorce from Amber Heard, and Kim Kardashian during her divorce with Kanye West among them. Gossip website TMZ dubbed her “the queen of disso” for her ease at dissolving unions of the rich and famous, and she’s often featured on this site and others like it, in conjunction with relationship difficulties. of its customers. (She starts every morning, she tells me, reading the Daily mail, “where I get all my news”). As the managing partner of her firm – which was created by her father, Dennis Wasser, also a divorce lawyer – she currently oversees around 100 cases. The offices of Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles were featured in Noah Baumbach’s 2019 divorce drama “Marriage Story,” and Wasser is said to have been an inspiration for Laura Dern’s character in the film, a kitten lawyer with a killer instinct.
In 2018, Wasser founded It’s Over Easy, an online divorce service. Earlier this year, the company was purchased by Divorce.com, which also named Wasser its “chief divorce development officer.” Whether it’s in her relationships with her celebrity clients or her role as a facilitator of digital divorces for the common man, she worries, she told me, about “the evolution of dissolving,” or how to make divorce, if not completely painless, at least a little less painful for all parties involved. “I want to normalize it a bit,” she said. “It’s happening, and we have to improve it.” Wasser herself was married only once, briefly, in her twenties. She now has two sons, aged seventeen and twelve, whom she shares with two ex-partners, to whom she was never married, although she has a warm relationship with both of them. “We are a family,” she told me. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How many years have you been practicing family law now?
Twenty-seven, twenty-eight. I graduated from law school in 1994. Holy shit. [Laughs.]
How have you seen the American family change during this time?
They say the law is always the last thing to change. We certainly see fewer people getting married, or older people getting married. More and more families are having children without necessarily getting married, and then of course—and I think that’s great—we see [blended] families. I have two children, with two different men. I was married to neither. I got married once, it was great. I was twenty-five. I looked great. I’ll never look better than when I was twenty-five at the Hotel Bel-Air. But I think the way people think about marriage and family has changed, and as far as I’m concerned, what I would like to see happen is to be able to apply that in terms of family law .
So you think people are less likely to get married? They could have some kind of agreement, oral or an agreement, have children maybe, but not necessarily go to the courthouse?
I think people are less inclined to let the state get involved in their relationship. We still have people who dream of a princess-bride wedding, but I also think people are much more willing to accept, OK, it’s over, you don’t die at forty-five anymore, you die at one hundred years and something, and so it’s much harder to say, until death do us part. I think people are much more accepting of the idea of divorce and a next chapter, and especially the idea of merging a family. And I think that’s really important because, frankly, the more people who love your kids, the better.
You say you want this to be recognized in the legal system. What would that mean?
I would like to see something where, if people are not married, they may still be able to get tax relief if they have children together. I’d like to see things with health care and hospitals, where you don’t have to get married to get some type of insurance or to be next of kin when the loved one and the father of your three children is on his deathbed. So it takes time, but also, it takes time for the divorce to change. If you’re asking, what’s the biggest change in my world is doing things remotely and doing things online, like with Divorce.com.
You are the Chief of Divorce Development for Divorce.com. What does that mean?
There are two reasons why it is so difficult to divorce. First, we divorce attorneys make a ton of money rattling off all these sections of code and ta-da-da-da-da. But the other reason is that the founding fathers didn’t want people to divorce. It was sacrilegious, and if you were a divorced woman in 1800s society, you were stoned or whatever. But that’s not the case anymore, and if you look at the statistics, how can it still be so taboo? How can it still be so hard to do? How do we still need to hire thousand-dollar-an-hour lawyers?
Is this your rate?
Uh-huh. I say. [Laughs.] But I try to be really good.
I’m sure you’re worth every penny. [Laughs.]
But I tell clients all the time, the more you argue, the more conflict, the more I get paid. I drive a Porsche. I wear Alaïa. I’m doing well. Let’s settle this and explain this. And, look, there are colleagues of mine who don’t feel that way. I say it all the time: he makes money paying these fees and arguing on Wednesday nights or which school, or vaccinations – it’s been a big deal for the last two years.
Or TikTok. [Laughs.] Sorry.
Right! [Laughs.] But if you educate people and they understand what awaits them in any state they may live in. . . I think people are more accepting of that with custody. I have fewer custody battles now because I think people start seeing some kind of therapist or family counselor when they break up, because they know I am won’t know what’s best for his kid, and a guy in a black dress who’s never met his kid and is probably forty years older than them sure won’t know, so let’s try to figure it out between us. So this needle moved a bit, but the other needles didn’t move, and I want to figure out how to do that. If that’s the only thing I can do on this planet besides raising my kids, that’ll be good.