Don’t believe everything you see on TV, hear from friends and be particularly skeptical when it comes to reading things on the Internet. This general rule should be common-place by now; however, that doesn’t prevent people from accepting things that are partially or totally wrong as truth — particularly when it comes to divorce. Attorneys frequently become the bearers of bad (and sometimes good) news when they first meet with clients, who often have incorrect perceptions of how certain divorce aspects work.
The process of ending a marriage is very complex. Laws will vary based on state and local jurisdiction, and are continually changing. Additionally, every couple getting a divorce has a unique set of circumstances that will factor into a unique outcome. This means a one-size-fits-all solution rarely (if ever) exists.
Here are some of the most common mistaken beliefs attorneys receive when it comes to divorce, and why they are wrong:
The wife will always get the children
Not necessarily true. The judge will look at the child’s best interests. Women tend to get custody more often because they traditionally take on more of the child-rearing roles. Part of what goes into the judge’s decision of best interest is which parent historically put the child to bed, made meals, took the child to the doctor, took the child shopping for clothes, helped with homework, etc.
I worked, so the retirement is mine
Wrong. If you worked during your marriage, then you worked as a couple in the eyes of the divorce judge, and one-half of that retirement is your wife’s. There is no way to argue around this, short of serious financial fault for the breakdown of the marriage, so don’t waste your time and money trying.
I’ll get custody of my son and my wife should get custody of my daughters
Nope. Courts don’t often separate siblings.
If I give something to a brother, parent, co-worker, friend, neighbor or hide it, I do not have to share it with my wife
Also wrong. There are a countless number of guys who believe if they gift something of value to a third party, it is automatically not part of the marital estate divided during divorce. After all, they no longer “own” it, right?
As it turns out, the divorce court does not care about title to property, meaning who “owns” it as a matter of property law. When it comes to divorce law, title is largely irrelevant, and the judge can force you to get that property back or pay your wife her share of it if you cannot. What is worse, if the “gifting” was done in bad faith, the judge will make you pay 100 percent of the value — not 50 percent — and may issue a heavy financial sanction against you on top it. You might think you can hide an asset, but attorneys are trained to track them down, and they will.
If I move out of state, they can’t get me for child support
Think again. All states that operate child support programs have access to a database called the National Parent Locator System. Wherever you move, if you file taxes, get employed, rent or buy a home, lease or buy a car, have another child, etc., your information will go into this database, and the state that ordered you to pay child support will find you.
We are common-law married because we have been living together for seven years
Incorrect. To be common-law married you must be:
- Of age,
- Hold yourself out as married, and
- Both people intend to be married.
In other words, if you do not refer to this person to other as “my wife,” then you are not really married. Length of time does not matter for common-law marriage. The best proof of a common-law marriage is to file taxes together as a married couple.
I heard that I can sign a paper giving up my rights to my child
You heard wrong. You can only have your parental rights taken away by the court in a termination proceeding. You can give up your rights as a father only if there is another person capable and willing to step into that role. Typically, this requires step-parent adoption.
If I get along with my wife then I don’t need a lawyer
Not a good idea. Just because you are getting along now does not mean you will continue to get along throughout the divorce process. Additionally, lawyers do this kind of work on a daily basis, so they can help you navigate the complicated family law system and ensure your rights are protected.
Women always get alimony
Not necessarily true. Women tend to get spousal support more often because historically, women make less than men do, sometimes even when employed in the same job. However, most states now allow men to ask for spousal support.
This is just a small sample of the common misconceptions many people have about divorce, though it is clear why many of them exist. It also clearly shows the necessity of seeking out experienced legal counsel to help guide you through the divorce process. Don’t believe everything you hear or read until it is verified — or debunked — by a family law attorney.