If you are currently going through a divorce, you may be receiving a lot of advice, usually from well-meaning friends and family members. Some of the things you are hearing may actually be true, while others may tip the scales on the “myth” side. A myth can sometimes take hold and become something akin to an urban legend, yet when all the layers are peeled away, it is just that—a myth. Divorce myths abound; the following are the most common divorce myths you are likely to hear:
- One out of every two marriages end in divorce. This statistic has been around for many, many, years, but in actuality the divorce rate has been steadily declining since the 1980’s. The number of marriages which end in divorce is roughly 40-50 percent, but these numbers include those who engage in serial marriages, marrying five, six, seven or more times. A statistic which is true, is that nearly two-thirds of the time, divorces are initiated by women.
- If you want to up your odds of a successful marriage, live together before you tie the knot. This myth actually seems to make sense—after all, it would seem you would be better prepared for the reality of marriage if you lived with the person first. In fact, couples who cohabitate prior to marriage have a 49 percent chance of their marriage breaking up within five years, compared to about 40 percent for the couples who did not live together before marriage. Researchers theorize that during the time couples are living together, they are more likely to keep their bills and property neatly divided into “yours” and “mine,” plus they know their situation may not be permanent. By the time this couple decides to marry, they may have failed to develop the necessary foundation for a successful marriage.
- Second marriages are more likely to last than first marriages. While, once again, this myth appears to have logic behind it, since it seems we would learn from our first marriages and avoid those mistakes in the second, in fact, roughly 67 to 80 percent of all second marriages end in divorce. Third marriages are even more likely to crash and burn. One of the primary reasons for the high rate of divorce among second and third marriages is children. When one or both partners bring children into a second or third marriage, it rarely plays out like the Brady Bunch. The children may resent their new stepparent, and children from each parent may not get along with one another. There are many, many adjustments which must be made when you combine families, and these adjustments are difficult at best.
- All wives will receive spousal support. Spousal support is money paid from one spouse to the other, either in a lump sum or over time, as per the divorce agreement. The theory behind spousal support is to afford the lower-earning spouse with approximately the same level of support enjoyed during the marriage. While Florida is well-known for awarding permanent spousal support, it is not nearly as likely today as it once was. If the wife has the skills and ability to secure employment, then she may only qualify for temporary spousal support—just long enough to allow her to get back on her feet financially after the divorce. Longer marriages are more likely to have an award of spousal support; the courts tend to believe that in shorter marriages there is less time for one spouse to become dependent financially on the other spouse.
- Mothers are always awarded primary custody. While this once was relatively true, it really is not a given in today’s world. Under Florida law, men and women are to be treated exactly the same regarding parenting and custody decisions. Although men are not awarded majority time sharing (primary custody) as often as women are, this is largely due to another issue than gender. That issue is the fact that women still tend to prioritize parenting over work, while men are the opposite. The playing field may finally be leveled out when men place a higher value on parenting than on work, but change comes slowly. Decisions regarding child custody and visitation are based solely on the best interests of the children, therefore if a judge believes the best interests of the children are best served by awarding the mother primary custody then that is what will likely happen. On the other hand, if the judge does not believe the mother is a fit parent, then the father may be awarded primary custody. Shared custody is considered the best solution, so long as both parents are willing to parent and are fit parents.
- Divorce will screw up the children. This myth is true only if you allow it to be true. Children are much more resilient than you might think, however when the parents do not put the children’s best interests first, and act like bickering teenagers rather than adults, then, yes, the children are likely to be hurt. If, on the other hand, you and your ex agree with one another that your issues will not get in the way of parenting your children, it is much less likely your divorce will cause any long-term damage.
- If the children’s other parent fails to pay child support, he or she cannot exercise normal visitation rights. This may be one of the most misunderstood issues of divorce. Child support payment or lack of payment has absolutely nothing to do with visitation rights. Literally hundreds of thousands of parents have refused to allow their spouse to have visitation with the children until they have the monthly child support check in hand, however this is contrary to the laws of the state of Florida—and every other state. If your children’s other parent fails to pay child support, go through the proper channels to collect the money, but continue to allow the parent to see the children or you will be the one in trouble with the judge.
- If my name is on the deed, I will be awarded the asset in the divorce. The state of Florida is an equitable distribution state—as opposed to a community property state. In an equitable distribution state, assets are not necessarily divided right down the middle as they are in a community property state, rather they are divided fairly. However, even if your name is the only one on the deed to the house, the car, the boat and the vacation home (providing you did not bring those assets into the marriage and they are yours alone), then those assets will be considered marital assets to be divided equitably between yourself and your spouse.
- You must file for your divorce in the state where you were married. This myth seems to be perpetrated time and time again, based on no actual facts. The reality of life is that people move. You will need to satisfy the residency requirements for a divorce wherever you are living. In the state of Florida, the Petitioner in the divorce must have lived in the state for six months prior to filing for divorce.
- There must have been “fault” in the marriage in order to get a divorce. Years ago, those filing for divorce were required to claim a “fault” such as adultery or abuse. Now, all states have some form of a “no-fault” divorce where you are only required to state there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. There are seventeen “true” no-fault divorce states, meaning the laws don’t allow you the option of casting blame on your spouse during a divorce. Florida is one of these, however the state of Florida does allow you to file for divorce if your spouse is insane or mentally incompetent with a caveat: you actually have to have facts to back up such an allegation.
- The children can decide which parent they want to live with. Under Florida law, there is no specific age at which a child can choose which parent to live with after a divorce, and in most cases, children will not be permitted to specify a preference during the divorce unless the judge decides that the age and maturity of the child allows an exception. The courts will look only at the best interests of the children when deciding custody.
- If one spouse commits adultery, he or she will leave the marriage with nothing. Bad conduct during the marriage—including infidelity—is not considered when dividing the marital assets unless that infidelity led to dissipation of marital assets. This means that if your husband took marital funds and spent them on expensive jewelry for his girlfriend, you may be entitled to a larger portion of the marital assets to offset the money he spent. Other than that, judges rarely consider adultery or any other form of misconduct when dividing assets.
- The United States has the highest rate of divorce. Not true, although we are high on the list, as the nation with the sixth-highest divorce rate. Russia is first, followed by Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the Cayman Islands. Italy, Brazil and Sri Lanka have the lowest rate of divorce, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the happiest married couples around. In some countries, financial stability and religion may be the primary motivators keeping spouses together.
- Your spouse—or the judge—can deny your petition for divorce. Neither your spouse nor the judge can stop you from getting divorced, although your spouse can complicate the process considerably, and if you fail to follow the proper legal procedure the judge can force you to start over. In some states, a judge can mandate counseling before signing off on your divorce, and Florida statutes do allow the court, under limited circumstances, to order one or both parties to “consult with a marriage counselor for a reasonable length of time not to exceed three months.” In practice, however, it is very rare for a judge to order counseling prior to signing off on a divorce.
- You don’t need an attorney for your divorce and/or all attorneys are the same. While some people do handle their divorce on their own, this is rarely ever a good idea. If your divorce truly is a totally friendly one, with no contentious issues, no children and no complex asset division, you might be able to file your own paperwork for the divorce. Unfortunately, some people think their divorce is going to be friendly, then when it comes down to dividing assets or determining parenting issues, that friendliness flies right out the window. Chances are, you do need an attorney for your divorce, and all attorneys are not the same. In fact, there are significant differences between divorce attorneys. Some divorce attorneys are compassionate and down-to-earth, while others may be aloof and pragmatic. Some divorce attorneys will return your call the same day, while others may wait for up to two weeks to call you back. You need to determine the qualities you want in a divorce attorney, then speak to several attorneys before you make your final decision. When you find a divorce attorney who has the qualities you desire, and who makes you feel as though he or she understands your position and will work hard on your behalf, you have found the right attorney.
Getting the Legal Help You Need
Divorce myths are part of our culture, however your divorce is different from every other divorce, meaning even the myths that are partially true don’t have to play out in your divorce. In most cases, you have the ability to make your divorce as peaceful or as contentious as you choose. It can, however, be extremely helpful to have an advocate in your corner in the form of your Ayo and Iken divorce attorney. Your attorney can help guide you through the divorce maze, with a goal of achieving the best outcome possible for your circumstances.