Divorce is a pretty ominous word that immediately paints a picture of fighting, separation, and horrible scenarios in our heads. While nobody gets married with the thought of ever getting divorced, there are a number of common myths that experienced divorce lawyers are asked on a daily basis.
The following are a few divorce myths that, while they may have some merit, are simply exaggerations that should be debunked:
Common Divorce Myth #1: The kids are alright.
If you and your spouse are not getting along, many believe that your children may be better off if you just “bite the bullet” and get a divorce.
Reality: While marital unhappiness may have a negative impact on your child’s well-being and daily life, going through a divorce may have similar or even worse consequences. Even though children caught in the middle of a “high-conflict” marriage may benefit from a divorce (parents will be separated and the hostility, arguments, etc. will inherently be lowered), those children caught in the middle of a “low-conflict” marriages, divorce may lead to long-term negative consequences for your child.
Common Divorce Myth #2: Men most commonly initiate Divorces.
Reality: According to a study done by the American Association of Retired People (AARP), approximately 66% of all midlife divorces (ages 40-79) are initiated by women and the most common reasons women gave for divorce was verbal abuse and emotional neglect from their husbands.
Common Divorce Myth #3: All ex-wives get alimony.
Reality: While every state has its own laws regarding alimony, spousal support, and/or alimony pendente lite (APL), in Pennsylvania for example, alimony may be awarded to either party if the court finds that it is necessary based on factors such as the relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties, the length of the marriage, or the extent to which a party’s earning power, expense or financial obligations will be affected by serving as the custodian of a minor child. The purpose of alimony is to provide either spouse with the lifestyle he or she had throughout the marriage.
Common Divorce Myth #4: The husband never gets custody of children.
Reality: This is a widely held belief that divorce lawyers must debunk. Many people think that mothers should always get custody, however legally, though, that’s not the case. Even though courts have historically granted primary physical custody of the child to the mother, many courts are now focusing more and more on the “best interests of the child” and less on bias and presumptions. Even if the mom is the child’s primary caregiver throughout the marriage, both parents are entitled to equal time with the kids in most states and if a judge doesn’t deem that the mother meets the standards for being a fit parent, she won’t be awarded primary custody.
Common Divorce Myth #5: If property is mine, it’s mine.
Reality: Many believe that if certain property stays in their name throughout their marriage, such property will be their property alone after the divorce is settled. As stated above, every state’s divorce laws are different, especially regarding the division of property, but for the most part, assets owned by one spouse before the marriage or held in one spouse’s name alone (typically including inheritance, gifts, or any specific property obtained before the marriage) are considered non-marital property. That being said, if non-marital property increases in value during the marriage, is mingled with marital property, or is used for the benefit of both spouses, such property may be deemed marital property subject to distribution following a divorce.
Most divorce lawyers will tell you that the biggest factor that determines how marital property is divided, is whether your state follows community property or equitable distribution rules. In a community property state, marital property is typically split 50/50. A court will add up the total value of your marital estate and will grant each spouse an equal percentage.
By contrast, divorce state laws like that of Pennsylvania’s allow equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is the equitable, or fair, division of all marital property between the parties by the court in such percentages and in such manner as the court deems just. This means that in Pennsylvania, a judge will look at all of the marital property and will decide on what the judge feels is a fair distribution, which may or may not be equal.
Image Credit: Ed Yourdon
Jason B. Martin, Esquire is a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer and the founder of The Martin Law Firm, P.C., located in Blue Bell, PA. Jason is also a member of the American Health Lawyers Association and serves as outside General Counsel to the Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association. To read more of Jason’s work, visit www.jbmartinlaw.com/blogs/family-law.