Divorce is a significant personal journey, and one that has a multitude of repercussions on a person’s life and future. While there are certainly emotional and personal elements attached to divorce, it is important to remember that the process is also one subject to specific laws, legal proceedings, and unique rules and procedures. For this reason, many people initiating the divorce process can find the process ahead complex and unfamiliar, if not entirely overwhelming.
Whether you’re considering divorce or are ready to initiate the process, one of the most valuable things you can do to prepare is to educate yourself about how divorce works, what issues and laws may be involved in your particular case, and what you can reasonably expect. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an easy endeavor, especially when there is so many myths and anecdotes about divorce that can give you the wrong impression, or steer you in the wrong direction.
At Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC, we are committed to helping our clients understand divorce, their unique issues, and what they can expect by educating them about their rights, the laws, and the overall divorce process in Florida. To ensure you have the information you need to get started on the right foot, we have compiled a short list of some of the most common divorce myths and explained why they’re wrong.
- Divorce always involves a fight – This is perhaps the most common myth about divorce, and it stems largely from how divorce is commonly depicted in film and television, or how stories and troubling tales are circulated among friends. Divorce is an important proceeding that does involve the unraveling of many different issues (from asset and property division to alimony and child custody), which does mean there is the potential for dispute and disagreement. However, not every divorce case involves bitter fights or heated courtroom drama. In fact, most divorce cases do not go to trial, and are instead resolved out of court through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation. Reaching settlement agreements in a divorce case doesn’t mean you can’t work to protect your rights and interests. It means you and a former spouse are able to effectively communicate about your options, compromise, and reach workable resolutions that fit your needs.
- All property is split down the middle – This is a misleading overstatement about divorce, and it is generally incorrect. While the statement may be one that is made to oversimplify or more easily understand divorce, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of how property division works in divorce cases, especially in Florida. Under Florida law, property (including both assets and debts) is equitably distributed between spouses in divorce. This doesn’t mean that property is split evenly down the middle, or that each spouse gets 50 percent of all property. It more accurately means that property is divided in a way that is considered just, fair, and equitable. What’s more, not all property is divided; only community property, or that which is acquired during the course of a marriage is subject to division. Additionally, spouses can reach their own negotiated agreements that may result in disproportionate property division settlements, such as when they award their share of the family home in lieu of paying alimony, or when they award certain property in exchange for other assets.
- The wife always gets alimony – This myth may stem from years gone by when most American families consisted of working husbands and stay-at-home wives. Today however, that dynamic has changed and divorce cases do not take gender into account when determining who gets alimony and how much spousal support payments should be. In fact, determinations over alimony are based on economic factors, including the employability, education, work experience, and more. There are many cases where husbands who earn much less than their wives, or where husbands are the primary stay-at-home caretaker for children, are awarded spousal support, as well as many cases where spouses reach agreements on their own as to alimony of offsetting of support payments through awarding other assets.
- Kids can choose where they live – This myth pertains to child custody, which can be one of the most important aspect of a divorce involving minor children. However, it is generally incorrect. Although Florida family courts can and sometimes do consider the opinions or stated preferences of children in terms of the parent they wish to primarily live with (usually when children are over the age of 12), preference is not the only factor courts consider. There’s a good reason for that, as kids may not always be aware of ongoing circumstances or how certain issues may affect their best interests. As such, courts consider factors such as each parent’s ability to provide financially for their child, where they live and their living conditions, any new romantic partners, whether there has been domestic violence or criminal activity, working schedules, and more. Child custody determinations are based on a comprehensive view of the situation and numerous factors, as well as the parenting plans divorcing parents can mutually agree upon in terms of time-sharing.
- If something doesn’t go my way, I can just change it later – This misconception stems from a lack of understanding of how modifications work. In Florida, parties who have been divorced may have the right to petition the court for modifications of certain terms or issues reached in their divorce cases. However, they can’t modify everything (i.e. things like property division settlements cannot generally be changed after a divorce unless there is an exception like the recent discovery of hidden assets. Anyone seeking a modification will also have the burden of proving that a substantial change in circumstances would warrant it, such as when sudden job loss or illness impacts a person’s ability to pay spousal support, or when a parent’s substance abuse impacts the best interests of a child for whom they are the primary custodial parent. The key takeaway from this myth is that you should never bank on being able to simply change the terms of a divorce decree after the fact, and that you should make the most of your case by working with an experienced lawyer early on in the process.
- If you cheat, you lose it all – This is another fairly common myth, and it is also rooted in outdated conceptions of divorce. Long ago and in many countries, divorcing spouses often had to prove a reason for their divorce. A fault based divorce, as they are known, could very well include adultery. However, all states now have some form of no fault divorce laws, and no fault divorces are generally the norm. For example, couples often cite “irreconcilable” differences when deciding to end a marriage. While you can still cite fault grounds, there isn’t any reason to believe that by doing so, you or the other spouse will lose everything. In some cases, including adultery, it may not even be a factor at all. The exception to this may be when a spouse who did commit adultery misused marital property or funds to support another relationship, which could entitle the other spouse to a reimbursement of that property.
- I can handle my divorce case on my own – This may not necessarily be a myth, as some people do decide to opt for a do-it-yourself divorce. However, it can be very misleading and potentially very dangerous to a person’s case and its ultimate outcome. While there are services for DIY divorces, you must remember that divorce is a significant legal undertaking that has tremendous implications on your personal, emotional, and financial future. It is also a process that is very unique to each couple, subject to numerous and varying laws, and open to dispute and the need for insightful and experienced negotiation. When it comes to handling a divorce on your own, you need to know that you will be limited by not knowing what you don’t know. As such, improving your ability to effectively address the issues in your case, handle any disputes or complications as they arise, and pursue the most positive outcome possible can benefit from working with skilled and experienced attorneys.
Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC has earned a reputation for working closely with clients and taking the necessary time to help them understand their rights, options, and what to expect throughout the entirety of the divorce process. If you have questions about your own potential case, specific divorce-related issues, and how our Boca Raton divorce lawyers can help you, please contact us for a confidential consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout South Florida.