Whether you get some advice from a family member or have made some assumptions of your own, there are a lot of misconceptions swirling around the subject of divorce. Family law attorneys hear it all and often find clients making statements that simply aren’t true, or are based on outdated laws.
Here are some common myths:
MYTH: In order to “win” your divorce, you must prove it was “their fault.”
TRUTH: There is no need to prove misconduct by the other spouse in order to get a divorce. Evidence supporting your reasons for a divorce such as an affair for instance, are inadmissible in court. Instead, the grounds commonly relied upon are irreconcilable differences. This term makes any additional reasons irrelevant.
MYTH: If I show my spouse is of bad character it will help me get a better settlement.
TRUTH: The character, personality or “bad acts” of your spouse will do nothing to help you get a better settlement, however, if the “bad acts” are financial acts that deplete the community property estate, then that spouse can be held accountable for the loss to the community.
MYTH: Joint physical custody of children means a 50/50 split.
TRUTH: In many states, the term joint physical custody doesn’t mean time will be divided in half or 50/50. What it means is that each parent has significant physical custody, and that the child has frequent physical contact with each parent.
MYTH: 50/50 timeshare means that neither parent has to pay child support.
TRUTH: If one parent earns more than the other parent, then it is likely that even though you share equal parenting time the higher earner may indeed pay child support.
MYTH: Spousal support is usually awarded for 1/2 the length of the marriage.
TRUTH: This is a common myth that is simply not true. In most states, there is no specific statute to support this. Though judges will use this as a guideline, they will also consider the parties’ previous lifestyle, how much each party can reasonably earn per month, and their current expenses. If there isn’t enough money to go around and continue their current lifestyle, the judge will try to even the playing field so each party shares in the financial hardship.
MYTH: Moms are ALWAYS given primary custody of the kids.
TRUTH: Family court starts with the assumption that custody is going to be shared 50/50 and it’s up to the lawyers to convince the court otherwise. There are extenuating circumstances of course. A judge is not likely to automatically grant 50/50 custody to an infant who is exclusively being breastfed for example. But the judges here like to ensure that if the dad wants to be involved, he gets a fair shot.
Assuming that both parents are stable (e.g. one parent is not an alcoholic or has severe psychological problems), research has shown that kids fare much better when they continue to have steady contact with both parents. In fact, studies have shown that children of divorced parents who have steady, on-going contact with both parents have fewer behavioral and emotional problems, higher self-esteem, better family relationships, and do better in school than children in single custody situations. And believe it or not joint custody may benefit you as well; divorced parents with joint custody tend to experience fewer conflicts.
And being a single parent is incredibly hard work. If your ex-spouse is a good parent, has a solid relationship with his/her children, and wants to be involved in their lives, letting him/her have joint custody can actually take a tremendous burden off of you by giving you some space and time.
MYTH: If I get a divorce I will lose everything.
TRUTH: Divorces do not have to end in bankruptcy. However, it does mean that you will have to divide and share the assets that were purchased and earned during the marriage. So the lifestyle you shared as a married couple will likely now be viable after a divorce.
MYTH: Property is always split 50/50.
TRUTH: In California, the courts are mandated to divide property 50-50. It is very difficult to do so down to the penny, however they will endeavour to do so.
What To Do Next:
Experiencing a family law issue can be overwhelming and stressful. Knowledgeable family attorneys do much more than represent clients, they understand how choices made in the legal process can drastically affect life afterwards.
Sandra F. Banks offers clients a No Hassle Family Law Strategy Session to make sure every client gets guidance on how to achieve a stable, secure and happy future.
What’s more, if I’m not the right attorney for the case, you have my commitment that I’ll point you in the right direction. Just call my office at 510-336-2369 to schedule.