It seems like everyone knows someone who has been divorced and can give “expert advice.” Unfortunately, many of these “pro tips” are not based on current law or any facts at all. Here are the top 5 divorce myths we encounter.
1. The law favors moms getting “full custody.”
There isn’t even such a thing as “full” or “joint” custody. Divorces now deal with “co-parenting time.” Neither side is favored over the other. Courts are charged with maximizing the participation of each parent in the child’s life consistent with the child’s best interests”. Basically this is a fancy way to say that if both parents are fit, loving parents who have participated in their child’s life, and their work schedule permits, courts will try to come close to equal time.
2. My spouse cheated on me, that means I don’t have to pay alimony.
Not necessarily. Alimony is based on several factors, such as: length of marriage, earning capacity of the parties, need of the parties, the property settlement in the case, and others. Fault, like infidelity, is only one factor that a court can consider and it is the only factor that a court can disregard.
3. If I bought something before I was married, I get to keep it.
Maybe. If you brought a piece of art, an heirloom, or other personal property into the marriage, it is your separate property. But sometimes separate property can be “poisoned” by marital money. So, if you came into the marriage with a house that has a mortgage, and paid off a significant portion of the mortgage, then the marital money you’ve put into the house has likely transformed that house into a marital asset.
4. We can agree to not have any child support.
Almost everything in a divorce is negotiable. Child support is not. An agreement that doesn’t have child support in it or has a $0 child support award is void.
5. I/my spouse can’t have new romantic partners around the kids.
You and your spouse have a First Amendment right of free association. Unless it can be shown that a new romantic partner is a risk of harm to the children, Courts lack the power to bar contact between the children and a paramour. Whether it’s a good idea to bring a new love interest around the kids is a different blog for a different day.
BONUS MYTH: I don’t need a lawyer.
You wouldn’t try to perform heart surgery on yourself without a doctor. You wouldn’t try to fill a cavity without a dentist. You wouldn’t try to rewire your home without an electrician. If you did attempt to do these things on your own, the process would be messy and the outcome could be devastating. The most complicated divorces are usually complicated because someone has tried to go without a lawyer and something has gone wrong. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A lawyer can make the process go faster, smoother, and get better results. Your divorce is not the place to take shortcuts.
If you need a family law attorney, call (865) 685-4780 to schedule a case assessment with a Held Law Firm attorney.