Kramer vs. Kramer
Adapted from Avery Corman’s novel, a frustrated woman leaves her career-minded husband and little boy in order to find herself while he takes care of the child.
Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) tells her son Billy Kramer (Justin Henry) that she loves him as she says goodnight to him. He says he loves her too. He rolls over to sleep, and she kisses the back of his head.
Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) with his feet on the desk is talking with Jim O’Connor (George Coe) in his office. He is telling how he was buying a fine suit and was shaking as he wrote the check because he was so scared. Another employee comes in and says he is going home. Ted says he has to go too and finishes his story.
Outside the building Jim persuades Ted to walk with him and says he is putting him in charge of the Mid-Atlantic account.
Joanna is packing a suitcase.
Jim says if the campaign works out well, as he knows it will, they are going to offer him a partnership, and he is going to take Ted with him. Ted says that is terrific.
Joanna is sitting on the couch smoking and opens the door for Ted who says he has good news. He picks up the phone and asks her to wait a moment. While he is dialing, he tells her that a guy in accounting committed suicide. On the phone he says he needs the photos. She says she is leaving him, but he does not hear her. He hangs up and opens the refrigerator. She says she is leaving him and shows him her keys she is leaving. She also leaves her credit cards and check book and says she took $2,000 from their savings account because that is how much she had when they got married. He asks if this is a joke. She tells him to pick up the cleaning and laundry on Saturday and leaves the tickets. She emphasizes that he has to pick them up. He asks what is the matter. She says she paid the rent, the utility bill, and the phone bill. He says she really picks her times. He says he is sorry for being late, but he was making a living. She asks him to stop now. She says that is everything, opens the door, and is walking out when he rushes over and grabs her suitcase. He asks what she is doing and where she is going. She goes into the hall without the suitcase, and he follows her and asks her to tell him what he did wrong. She says it is not him but her; it’s her fault. She says he married the wrong person. He asks her to go inside. She says she can’t; she tried. He says he is sorry. She begs him not to make her go in there. He says he just wants to talk. She says if he does, maybe one day next week or next year she will go right out the window. She steps into the elevator as he asks about Billy. She says she is not taking him with her because she is no good for him. She says she has no patience and that he is better off without her. He says please. As the elevator door is closing, she says she does not love him anymore. He asks where she is going, and she says she does not know.
Ted goes back into the apartment and jams her suitcase into the full closet and closes the doors. In the kitchen he calls Margaret and asks if his wife is there. He says they had a little fight, and he asks her to have her call him if she shows up. He says she did not take her suitcase, and he does not think she will get very far.
Later Ted answers the door, and Margaret Phelps (Jane Alexander) comes in and asks if she packed her suitcase. He says it is not serious, and he appreciates her concern. She asks what she said to him. He asks her to tell him. She asks how she would know. He says she and his wife have obviously had numerous conversations about his shortcomings which he did not hear. He says he would like to talk to her, but someone has to bring home the bacon, and he has to make a major presentation in the morning and has work to do. He asks her to let him do it; but she interrupts and says they have a serious problem here. He says it is his problem, and all she has to do is go downstairs and go back to bed. She starts to explain, but he interrupts and says the fact is that he has been working for six months to get his agency one of the biggest accounts it ever had, and this afternoon they got the account. At eight the Vice President told him that he is going to be the next creative director of the department. He comes through the door to share with her the news that could be one of the five best days of his life, and she coldly tells him that she does not want to live with him anymore. He paces back and forth and asks her if she knows what Joanna has done to him. Margaret says she loused up one of the best days of his life. He says she is terrific and walks past her to the door and opens it for her. He says it is sisterhood and thanks her for coming up there to cheer him up. She says she did not come up there to do that. She came because she is concerned about Joanna. He asks her to do that in her own apartment. As she is walking to the door, he mentions that he and Joanna did not have any problems until she and Charlie split up. She stops by the door and says she does not believe it. He asks her to tell him the truth. He asks if she set his wife up for this, but she says no. He asks if she gave her a pep talk. She gave no pep talk, but she says they often talk and that Joanna is a very unhappy woman. She says he may not want to hear it; but it took courage for her to walk out of there. He asks how much courage it takes to walk out on your kid.
In the morning Billy wakes up to the sound of a garbage truck outside. He goes to the bathroom and does not flush but walk to the other bedroom and asks his father where Mommy is. He says she is supposed to take her to school. He says he will take him. He says sometimes he and his friends have a fight, and he says he and Mommy had a little fight.
They go into the kitchen, and Billy asks for French toast for breakfast. Ted says okay and turns on the stove to boil water. He gets out eggs, milk, and butter. He pulls up a chair so that Billy can watch him cook; he says all the best chefs are men. He cracks open the eggs, and Billy says he dropped some shell in it. He takes it out and tells Billy to beat the eggs. Billy says he has to be in school by 8:30. Ted says he has to shower and shave. He says daddy has to bring home the bacon and cook it too. He says they are having a good time. He gets the frying pan out of the oven and shows Billy how to beat the eggs and folds the bread to get it in his mug. Billy says he forgot the milk. Ted adds milk and dips the folded bread before throwing them in the frying pan. Billy says he does not like it in pieces. Ted pours the rest of the eggs in the pan and says pieces is better. The water is boiling, and he dumps a lot of coffee in. Billy says it is too much. Ted says he likes it strong. Billy asks for orange juice. Ted drinks out of the bottle of orange juice, and Billy tells him it is burning. Ted tries to pick up the frying pan, which is so hot that he drops it on the floor and swears at her. He tells Billy that nothing is the matter.
Ted in a suit is walking Billy to school. He asks if Mommy is going to pick him up after school. He says she will, or he will. He turns her over to a teacher and says he has to go.
Ted arrives at work and is congratulated on the new account. He asks if his wife called. He tries calling home, but there is no answer.
Ted is telling Jim that she never went that far before. He says in the last few weeks while they were working on this account, he has been remiss. He says last night was her way of saying that she is as important as his work. Jim asks if there is another guy, and Ted says he does not think so. He says she is not the type. He says she talks to her friend Margaret about women’s lib, and he thinks they may have cooked this up. He says it worked because he is going crazy, and they both laugh. Jim tells him not to worry because she will be back. Ted says he did not know it would happen to him and laughs. Jim tells him not to let it get him down. Ted says he is terrific. Jim says he has a problem and asks what he is going to do about Billy. Ted says when Joanna comes back, it will be all right. Jim says it is none of his business; but Ted says he would like to hear his thoughts, and he appreciates him taking the time to talk to him. Jim says it may sound a little rough, but he thinks he should send Billy away to stay with relatives for a while. Ted asks if he means until Joanna comes back. Jim asks what happens if she does not come back. Ted says he does not know. Jim says he just told the guys upstairs that he is handling the Mid-Atlantic Airlines account as his main man. He says this opportunity only comes along about every five years. He says other guys are envious because he gave it to him. He asks him not to blow it because he has to depend on him seven days a week. He can’t be worrying about taking care of a kid. Ted says he can count on him eight days a week. He says he is not a loser, and he has never let things from home come into the office. He says he asked him to unload on him in this office; but when he goes outside, he will be on top of it. He is a survivor. Jim has given him a shot, and he will not let anything upset it. Ted asks if they can have a drink later. He says he has a meeting at eleven and tells him that he loves him and goes out.
At home Ted is sitting on the couch working while Billy is playing with toys. Billy spills juice on the drawings. Ted gets very upset and tells Billy to sit on the couch while he tries to clean it up. He says he has to keep his juice in the dining-room. Billy says he is sorry. Ted asks who took him to the park and bought him an ice cream. He asks who promised that he would let Daddy work. He says they are ruined, and he cannot fix them. He says it is past his bed time and tells Billy to go to sleep. Billy walks to the bathroom as Ted tells him to brush his teeth and flush the toilet.
In the supermarket Billy tells Ted what kind of detergent Mommy always buys. Billy says they need cereal.
At home Ted comes in with the mail and goes in the room where Billy is in bed watching TV. He opens the mail to see if Mommy is coming home. He notices that the letter is addressed to Billy. He reads how she explained why she went away. She has to do this now but writes that she will always be his Mommy and will always love him. She will not be his Mommy in the house but always in the heart. Billy turns the TV volume back on for the cartoons he is watching. Ted says they will read it another time, and Billy says he does not care. Ted picks up the mail and goes out.
Ted is straightening up the apartment by removing all of Joanna’s things and putting them in boxes.
Ted has gathered some things from his office and is leaving when Jim invites him to come into the party they are having. Ted says he has to go pick up Billy because he is late. Jim tries to tell him something funny that happened to him, but Ted leaves.
He runs and gets a taxi. He runs into a building and rings a doorbell. He apologizes for being late and finds Billy is the only one left at the party and is upset. In the hall Ted asks Billy if had a good time, and he says he is late. Ted says it was only twenty minutes, but Billy says all the other mothers were there before him.
Ted is cutting up meat on Billy’s TV dinner and tells him that when someone says they are sorry, he should not make them feel bad for a long time afterwards. He tells Billy not to eat with his fingers and hands him his fork. He asks about school, and Billy says it is the same as usual. Ted says the Knicks won a game; but Billy says he likes Boston because Mommy is from Boston. Billy asks to be excused so that he can go to bed. Ted asks if he had too much birthday cake, and Billy says he guesses so.
Later Ted picks up toys and clothes and puts them in Billy’s room. Billy is asleep in his clothes on the bed. In a drawer he finds a picture of Joanna and puts it on the dresser. He pulls the covers over Billy and closes the door.
Billy wakes up and goes to the bathroom to pee and then goes into Ted’s room. Ted goes to the bathroom and gets the newspaper outside the door. Billy sets the table and gives them each a donut. Ted pours milk and orange juice. They both sit down and read.
Ted comes into the office carrying a bag of groceries, and his secretary Louise takes the bag from him. She says he is fifteen minutes late, and O’Connor is very upset. He asks for his messages, and she says who called. He goes into the meeting as she is saying there is a PTA meeting next week at four.
Jim looks at his watch, and other men have been waiting too. Ted tells her to put the chicken in the refrigerator and closes the door.
Billy is playing in a park while Ted and Margaret sit on a bench and talk. She is holding a child and tells him that Charlie is seeing a divorced woman with two children the same ages as her children. He asks how long since she and Charlie broke up, and she says a year and a half. He says that he and Joanna were very sad when they split. She points out a cute little boy. He asks if she thinks she will ever get married again, and she says no. She says it may be different for those with no children; but she feels that Charlie is still her husband and the father of her children even if they are sleeping with other people. She believes that “till death do us part” is true. He asks what she would do if Charlie came back to her and asked her forgiveness. She says if he really loved her, he would not have let her divorce him. He puts his hand on her cheek and says she still thinks of him. She says, “Only all the time.” She asks if he thinks about Joanna, and he says “Never.” They laugh as she calls him a liar and puts her head on his chest. He kisses her forehead and says they are a pair.
Ted is sitting down while Jim is pacing back and forth and lecturing him. He says he could not believe he missed the closing. Ted says he is sorry. Jim says he is getting very nervous, and he has to be honest with him. In the last eight months since his wife left him he is not getting better but worse. He has to be honest and says he can’t let his family problems interfere with his responsibilities. Ted says he regrets it and promises that it will never happen again. Jim answers the phone and tells Ted to pick it up. He tells Billy the rule about watching television. He says they made a deal, and he can’t talk about it now; they will talk when he gets home.
At the dinner table Billy is playing with an airplane toy and says he does not like his food. Ted says he said it was his favorite when he was a kid. Billy says it is yucky, and Ted tells him to eat it. Billy asks if he remembered to bring the chocolate chip ice cream home. Ted says he does not get any unless he eats his dinner. Billy gets up and brings it to the table and starts eating it with a spoon. Ted warns him several times and tells him not to put it in his mouth. When Billy does, Ted picks him up and carries him to his room as he squirms and kicks. Ted throws him on his bed and says he is spoiled rotten. Billy says he hates him, and Ted says he hates him back. Billy cries he wants his Mommy, but Ted says he is all he’s got and closes the door. Billy cries and pounds the pillow and kicks, saying he wants his Mommy. Ted pours himself a drink of whiskey.
Later Ted has cleaned up and looks in Billy’s room and sees him sleeping. Billy says he is sorry, and Ted says he is sorry too and tells him to go to sleep. Billy asks if he is going away, and he says no. He says he is staying with him, and he will not get rid of him. Billy asks if Mommy left because he was bad. Ted asks if that is what he thinks, and he tells him that is not it. She loves him very much. The reason she left has nothing to do with him. He tries to explain and says she left because he was trying to make her be a certain kind of wife that he thought she should be. He says she was not like that. He says she tried to make him happy, and when she couldn’t, she tried to talk to him about it; but he was not listening because he was too busy. He thought that if he was happy, that meant she was happy too; but she was very sad. He says Mommy stayed there longer than she wanted to because she loves Billy so much. The reason why she could not stay any more was because she could not stand her husband, not him. Ted says she left because of himself, not because of Billy. He kisses Billy and tells him to go to sleep. They say goodnight, and Billy tells his Daddy that he loves him.
At a Halloween show Ted watches Billy come on stage to welcome people to their Halloween pageant as Ted tries to coach him.
Ted comes into the office of Phyllis Bernard (JoBeth Williams) and asks her to check his copy on the Mid-Atlantic. She reads it, and says yes; she will have dinner with him. They smile at each other, and he thanks her.
Ted is sleeping on top of Phyllis, and she wakes up and looks at her watch and puts on her glasses. He wakes up, and she says she has to go. She gets up without any clothes on and opens the door, and he tells her that is the closet. She goes out in the hall and meets Billy walking toward her. He says hi and asks her name. She covers herself with her hands and tells him her name. He asks if she likes fried chicken, and she says it was nice meeting him and backs into the bedroom. She tells Kramer that she met his son.
Ted is helping Billy ride a bicycle and tells him to concentrate. He keeps him from falling over until he is able to go on his own. He says he looks great and takes a picture.
While they are walking to his school Billy is telling his father about an incident that happened with another boy, potato salad, and dogs. Ted gives him his homework and asks for a kiss. He says goodbye and walks down the street and gets in a taxi. Joanna is looking through a window as he leaves.
Billy is playing in the park, and on the bench Margaret tells Ted that her French professor finally asked her out. He is happy she had a date. She says she thought he was a neat guy. They went to dinner, and she learned that he is married and is deep in analysis, and he starts telling her his life story. She is thinking that she is paying a babysitter $3.25 an hour to listen to his problems. Billy calls to his Daddy as he is playing with an airplane on a jungle gym. Ted tells him to take that out of his hand. Margaret goes to help him, and Billy falls to the ground, causing his cheek to bleed badly. Ted picks him up and runs with him across the street and down the sidewalks to the emergency room.
A doctor is treating Billy as he asks Ted how it happened. The doctor takes Ted out of the room and says he has to take ten stitches; but he tells him not to worry about it. He says it won’t leave too much of a scar and will take about fifteen minutes. He asks Ted to wait outside, but he insists on being with his son during the operation. Ted is holding Billy’s head during the operation and comforts him. Billy cries in pain and says to stop it. Ted says they are almost done.
At home Billy is in bed with a bandage on his face. Ted sees that he is asleep and leaves the room. He finds Margaret drying the dishes, and she asks how he is. She says she feels responsible. He asks her for a big favor. He says if anything happened to him, would she consider taking care of Billy. He says he thought about this, and he does not know of anyone else he would trust with him. He says he knows that she would do well because she is a good mother. She cries, and he says she is a lousy dishwasher. He helps her wash the dishes and says she is all right.
Ted is working in his office and answers the phone; it is Joanna.
Joanna is sitting at a table in a restaurant with a glass of wine, and Ted comes in and sits down. She asks how his job is going, and he says he is vice president of nothing. He orders what she has. She asks how Billy is, and he tells her he had an accident and cut himself. He was scared and ran to the hospital with him. He says he will have a teeny scar but will be fine. He has been worrying that it was his fault. She tells him not to worry because you can’t even see it from a distance. She admits that sometimes she sits in the coffee shop across the school and watches him. She says he has gotten so big. She has been in New York for two months. She wants to talk to him because the last time he saw her, she was in bad shape. He says she was shaky, and she admits she was and laughs. He smiles and says she looks lovely now. She smiles and says she had a speech prepared. He tells her to go ahead. She says that all her life she has felt like somebody’s wife or mother or daughter, and she never knew who she was. That is why she had to go away, and in California she thinks she found herself. She got a job and a good therapist. Now she feels better about herself than she has ever felt before. She says she has learned much about herself. He asks what and says he really wants to know what she learned. She says she learned that she loves her little boy and that she is capable of taking care of him. He asks what she means. She says she wants her son, and he says she can’t have him. She tells him not to get defensive, and he denies that he is. She tells him not to try to bully him. He asks her who walked out of the house fifteen months ago, and she says she is still his mother. He says she sent a few postcards from 3,000 miles away. She says she never stopped wanting him, and he asks if she is sure he wants her. She asks if he knows that he does not want her. He says they can bat this back and forth like they did for eight years. She says he can’t deny her access, and he tells her not to tell him what he can or cannot do and not to talk to him that way. She says she anticipated this. He says he does not want to get into this. She has to do what she will do, and he will do what he has to do. She says she is very sorry about this. He stands up and says okay; she can do what she has to do. He knocks his wineglass against the wall and walks away.
Ted is in the office of John Shaunessy (Howard Duff) and says he does not know the legal jargon; but he thinks it is desertion and that he has an open and shut case. Shaunessy says when custody is involved, there are no easy cases. He says she probably has a lawyer who has advised her to move back to New York to establish residency. He says the burden is on Ted and him to prove that his ex-wife is an unfit mother. He says he will have to play rough, and they will too. He asks Ted if he can take that. He says yes. Shaunessy says it will cost him $15,000 if they win. If they appeal, it will cost more. Ted says he understands. Shaunessy asks how old the child is, and Ted says he is seven. Shaunessy says that is tough because at that age the court tends to side with the mother. Ted says she signed over custody. Shaunessy says they have a shot, but it won’t be easy. He asks Ted to do him a favor. He finds it useful to write down all the pros and cons of an issue and then look at them. He asks Ted to do that. After that if he is really certain that he wants to retain custody of his child, then he will win it for him.
Ted is writing the pros and cons as he sits at the kitchen table. First he writes the cons as money, no privacy, work affected, no social life, and no let up. He does not write any pros yet but gets up. Ted sits in bed and holds sleeping Billy in his arms. He says he loves him with all his heart.
In his office Ted is doing research in a law book, and Jim comes in and asks if he wants to go to lunch. Ted says he was working on an idea. Ted says he will pick him up at one, and Ted agrees.
At the lunch Ted is telling Jim about when Billy noticed he lost weight and said that it all went to his nose. They chuckle. Jim says he got a call from a friend at another agency who told him that the Mid-Atlantic people invited them to pitch the account. Ted asks why, and Jim says they must not be happy with what we are doing. Ted suggests he have them over so that he can give them a tap dance. Jim says he has Norman working on it, and Ted asks if he is taking him off the account. Ted asks if he does not like him any more, and Jim says it is not that simple. He says they are going to have to make some changes. Ted laughs and asks if he is firing him, and Jim says yes; he is letting him go. Jim explains that this is painful for him, but he has been getting pressure from the guys upstairs. He says there is nothing else he can do. He thought about it and says if he took this away and gave him a schlock account, he would hate it and hate Jim for doing it to him. He says a clean break will be better. Ted says that he knows his wife is fighting him for custody and that they are going to court. He asks if he knows what his chances are if he is out of a job. Jim says he understands that he is upset. Ted asks him as a friend. Jim says he is bright and talented, and he will land on his feet. Jim offers to loan him money; but Ted says he is ashamed of him and gets up and walks out of the restaurant.
Ted is walking on the street.
Ted and Billy are sitting at the kitchen table making Christmas decorations. Ted answers the phone, and Shaunessy says they set the court date for January 9. Ted tells him that he got fired today. After a pause Shaunessy tells him they have no chance at all of winning custody if he is out of work. Ted asks him to get a delay in the court date, but Shaunessy says it is too late. Ted says he will find a new job in the next 24 hours.
Ted in a suit and tie is in a coffee shop circling want ads. He comes out of a building and has crossed out all the circled items.
Ted is in an employment office, and the man says the holidays are a bad time to try to get a new position; but he is sure they can help in February or March. He says it is December 22. Ted asks him to look in his card catalog, and he says he will take anything. The man says there is something in an art department of a firm, and he would have to go back on the board. Ted says that is all right. The man says it is a step down with a salary drop of $5,000. Ted asks him to call them and make an appointment for him at four today, but the man says it is the Friday before Christmas. Ted puts the phone in front of him and says to call him up because if he calls, the man gets no commission. He calls Ted a hot shot and dials the number.
Ted comes into the office and shows Mr. Ackerman (Jess Osuna) his portfolio of art work and says what copy he did also. Ackerman says it is impressive, and he will think about it and get back to him. Ted asks if he needs to talk to someone else before he can make his decision. He says their creative director, and Ted asks to see him right away. Ackerman says he is leaving on a two-week vacation; but he will show it to him when he gets back. Ted says he would like to show it to him before he leaves. He says he wants the position very much, and Ackerman tells him to wait there. Ackerman goes into the Christmas party and persuades Spencer (Jack Ramage) to come with him to his office.
Later Spencer explains to Ted that his salary will be $4,800 less than he was making before. He asks Ted why he wants a position for which he is very overqualified. Ted says he needs the job, and Spencer says he will think about it. Ted says no; this is only a one-day offer. He says they have seen his work, and he is willing to take a salary cut; but they are going to have to tell him he has the job today right now. Spencer asks him if they can talk privately for a moment, and Ted agrees and leaves the office. Ted sits seriously amid the party. Ackerman calls him in, and Spencer congratulates him on his new job. He shakes their hands and thanks them. In the party he kisses a blonde and wishes her a merry Christmas.
Ted is showing Billy the building on Saturday, and they go up the elevator. He takes him to his office, and they enjoy the view. Ted points out the UN building and Brooklyn where he grew up. Billy likes the swivel chair and asks his dad if he is ever going to get married again. He asks if he is going to marry Phyllis. Ted says no; they are just good friends. He asks if he and Mommy will ever get remarried; but Ted says they will never remarry. Billy says if she saw this, she would.
On the way to school Ted tells Billy that he is a con artist because he promised to take a bath every night and wash his filthy hair twice a week. Ted wants him to promise before he goes into the school. Ted kneels down, and Billy asks if he had to wash his hair when Mommy was there. Ted sees that Joanna is watching them from the window across the street. Ted says they will talk about it when he gets home and asks for a kiss. He says he is a terrific kid, and Billy goes into the school. Ted sees that Joanna is no longer there.
Ted is reading a story to Billy on his bed. Ted answers the phone, and Shaunessy tells him that his wife wants to see the kid. She is the mother and has the legal right. Ted says he is concerned about her mental health because she told him that she was seeing a psychiatrist. Shaunessy says he has no choice and to take Billy to the boat park on Saturday at ten. Ted goes back to finish the story with Billy.
In the park Joanna calls to Billy who sees her and runs from Ted to her. She picks him up and says she will have him back by six.
Joanna and her lawyer come into the justice building, and Ted goes into the courtroom. Shaunessy advises him to keep his answers short and succinct, and he will be all right. Joanna and her lawyer come in. Shaunessy tells him not to get emotional; he may hear many things that will upset him. He does not want him to react.
The court session begins as Judge Atkins (Howland Chamberlain) comes in. The attorney for the petitioner is Gressen (Bill Moor), and he calls Joanna as his first witness. She is sworn in. She testifies that only the first two years of her marriage were happy, but after that it became more and more difficult. She says she had a job before she was married in the art department of a magazine for several years. She did not work after her marriage because her husband Ted did not want her to do so. She currently has a job in New York as a sportswear designer, and she makes $31,000 a year. She testifies that she loves her child very much; but she admits that she chose to leave him. She says in the last five years of their marriage she became increasingly unhappy and troubled. She needed help; but when she turned to Ted, he was not there for her. She says they became more isolated and separate. He was very involved in his career, and she believes that because of his attitude toward her and his inability to deal with her feelings she came to have very little self-esteem. She was scared and unhappy and could see no other choice but to leave. When she left, she thought there was something wrong with her and that her son would be better off without her. After she got to California where she got into therapy, she realized that she is not a terrible person. She felt she needed some other creative or emotional outlet other than her child, but that did not make her unfit to be a mother. Gressen offers her psychiatrist’s report as evidence, and Shaunessy objects that it is irrelevant. The judge over-rules the objection. Gressen asks her why she is asking the court for custody. She says he is her child, and she loves him. She knows that it was a terrible thing to leave him, and she has to live with that. She believed it was the only thing she could do and that it was best for him because she could not function in that home. She did not know what the alternative would be, and so she thought it was better not to take him with her. However she has been helped and has worked hard to become a whole person. She does not think she should be punished for that, nor should her little boy be punished. She says he is only seven and needs her. She is not denying that he needs his father too, but she believes he needs her more. She was his Mommy for five and a half years, and Ted took over that role for eighteen months. She does not see how anyone could think that she has a lesser stake in mothering him. She repeats that she is his mother.
Shaunessy asks her if her husband ever struck her or abused her in any way. She says no. He asks if he ever struck or abused his child, and she says no. She admits that her husband was not an alcoholic nor unfaithful nor did he fail to provide for her. She answers that she plans to live in New York permanently. He asks how many boyfriends she has had permanently. Her attorney objects, but the judge allows it. She says she does not recall and is told to answer. She admits to having between 3 and 33 boyfriends. Shaunessy asks if she currently has a lover, and the judge tells her to answer. She admits she is seeing someone now, and he asks if it is permanent. She says she does not know. He asks if she has ever done anything in her life that was permanent or stable. Gressen objects that he is harassing the witness, and Judge Atkins sustains it. Shaunessy asks her the longest relationship in her life outside of her parents and girlfriends. She says her child. He asks if her husband was not the longest, and she says yes. She says that lasted seven years, and he says she failed at the longest relationship in her life. Gressen objects and is over-ruled. She says it was not a failure, but he says it ended in divorce. She considers it less her failure than his. Shaunessy asks again if she failed at her longest relationship and raises his voice. She pauses, and Ted shakes his head; but she nods and cries, and the judge takes that as yes. When Shaunessy sits down, Ted asks if he had to be so rough on her. Shaunessy asks him if he wants the kid or not.
Billy is drawing and asks Ted what he did when he was little. He says similar things. He says they did not have television but listened to the radio. Billy asks what else he did not have. Ted tells him about several differences.
Margaret testifies that Ted is a very devoted and wonderful father. Under cross-examination she testifies that she saw Ted and Joanna about three times a week for several years. She says that Joanna was a very good mother. She admits that Ted was insensitive to his son’s needs. She says she never urged Joanna to leave her husband. Gressen asks her about what she said to Joanna a few days before she left that if she is in this much pain, she owes it to herself to leave. The attorney does not let her explain her answer. She is asked to step down, and Margaret says to Joanna that things are not the same now because Ted has changed. She says they are beautiful together. The judge pounds his gavel and says that is all.
Shaunessy is questioning Ted who says he wishes he could change a lot of things that happened, but he can’t. He believes that his ex-wife loves Billy, but he does not think that is the issue. He says the most important thing is what is best for Billy. He says she used to ask him why a woman can’t have the same ambitions as a man. He thinks she is right; but he also questions the notion that a woman is a better parent only by virtue of her sex. He says being a good parent has to do with constancy and patience and listening and love. He says Billy has a home with him, and he made it the best he could. He admits he is not a perfect parent. Sometimes he does not have enough patience and forgets he is a little kid, but he is there for him. He says they talk to each other and have built a life together and love each other. He says if they destroy that, it may be irreparable. He tells Joanna not to do that twice to him.
Gressen cross-examines Ted and asks about his career. He has to admit that his salary now is only $28,200. He notes that Kramer is working his way down in life, and Shaunessy objects. Ted admits that he was let go in his previous job. Gressen tries to make it look like he can’t hold a job, and Ted tries to explain why he was let go. He is asked why he walked out of a meeting with a client because he had an appointment with a first-grade teacher. Ted says the kid next to Billy was biting and hitting him. Ted admits he missed a deadline because he had to go home when his child was sick. He says he had a temperature of 104, but the judge makes him answer yes or no. He is asked if his child nearly lost an eye while he was in his care.
Ted and Shaunessy are leaving, shake hands, and part. Joanna calls to Ted and tells him she did not want her lawyer to bring that up and says she never would have mentioned it if she knew he would. He gets into the elevator, and she says she is sorry.
Ted is walking in the snow on the street, and Margaret catches up to him. He says his lawyer said no news is good news, and he puts his arm around her as they walk. She says she and Charlie are talking about getting back together again. She called him because she has been thinking about things since the trial. She does not think it will work out but says he seems to want it. Ted asks how she feels, and she says she is scared.
Ted meets with Shaunessy in a restaurant and realizes he lost him. He asks what happened, and Shaunessy says the judge went for motherhood. The father has the right to see him every other weekend and one night each week to be mutually agreed upon and half the child’s vacation. Ted asks if he can fight it. Shaunessy says he can appeal, but he cannot guarantee anything. Ted says he will take the chance. Ted says he will pay for it. Shaunessy says that this time he will have to put Billy on the stand. Ted says no to that. Ted leaves.
Margaret comes to see Ted; but he refuses to answer the door and tells her to go away.
Ted is explaining to Billy what happened. He says they decided that he is to live with Mommy. He is lucky because he gets to have dinner with him once a week and see him two weekends each month. Billy asks where he is going to sleep, and Ted says Mommy has figured that out. He asks about his toys, and Ted says they will take all his toys over there. She may even buy him some new ones. Ted admits he will not be able to kiss him goodnight anymore, and Billy starts crying. Ted says it will be all right. Billy asks if he doesn’t like it, will he be able to come home. Ted asks what he means. He says he will have a great time with Mommy because she loves him so much. Billy asks him not to forget to call him up. Ted says they will be okay.
Ted and Billy are fixing French toast in a large bowl. They smile at each other, and Ted picks him up and holds him as Billy cries. They are sitting in the living-room, and Billy’s things are packed. They hear the telephone, and Ted asks if he is ready. Joanna tells Ted she is in the lobby and asks him to come down and meet with her alone.
Ted says hi to Joanna. He asks what is the matter. She says she woke up this morning and kept thinking about Billy. She thought of him waking up in his room with the clouds she painted on the walls. She thought she should have painted his room downtown. She is crying and says she came there to take her son home; but she realized he is already home. She says she loves him very much, and Ted hugs her. She says she is not going to take him with her. She asks if she can go up and talk to him, and he says yes. He tells her he will wait there while she goes up to see him. She asks how she looks, and he says terrific.
This family drama reflects the changes in marital and parental relationships because of the liberation that has resulted in more women working in careers. This story focuses on how this has caused fathers to become more important parents in some families. The workaholic husband manages to transform himself into a caring parent even though it causes his career to suffer. His wife and her best friend come to realize that he has become a very loving parent.