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Don’t Fall for These Three Divorce Myths

With the availability of information on the internet and people sharing things online about their divorce, it might seem that opportunities for misinformation about outcomes in divorce cases are limited.

False!

Myths about what happens (or doesn’t) in divorce are alive and well. If you believe them, it may distort your understanding about what represents a fair outcome in your case, and as result, influence your approach to settlement or the positions you take in court, perhaps to your detriment. We debunk three of the top myths in Maryland and DC divorces here:

Myth #1: When we get divorced, my spouse will have to pay me alimony (spousal support) equal to 50% of his or her income.

Wrong! There is no guarantee alimony will be awarded in a divorce case. There is no mandatory formula or calculation used to make these determinations. Instead, if someone is seeking alimony at the time of their divorce merits trial, the court has to consider that request on a case-by-case basis applying the law to the specific facts and circumstances of each case.

The court will determine whether or not to award alimony to the spouse seeking it and, if it is awarded, the court will determine the amount and duration of the alimony award. In order to make all these determinations, the court considers the evidence in each case against a list of factors set out in the alimony law. Some, but not all, of the other factors are:

  • Parties’ financial needs and resources
  • Age of the parties
  • Length of the marriage
  • Ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties

Alimony awarded by the court is always subject to modification and termination. Your facts matter! Whether you are the paying spouse or the receiving spouse, if alimony is an issue in your case, it is best to seek advice early on about your particular circumstances to educate yourself about the probability of potential outcomes on alimony in the court and jurisdiction where your case will take place.

Myth #2: Fathers never receive custody of the children.

Not true! Custody is determined based on the minor child’s best interest. The law does not include a preference for mothers or a presumption against fathers having custody. Courts see a wide-range of family arrangements and parenting.

There may be two working parents who divide and conquer child-rearing with the help of some form of child care via friends, family, daycare, etc. Sometimes there is a stay-at-home parent and that is not limited to mothers; fathers stay home too. A primary caregiver may be a mother or a father.

When the court is faced with trying to determine the legal (decision-making) and physical (time-sharing) arrangements that are best for the child, the court considers a number of factors, some of which are:

  • Age and health of the child
  • The child’s relationship with the parties and others of importance
  • Capacity of the parents to communicate with one another
  • Each parent’s role related to the child
  • Child’s preference

There is nothing to preclude the court from awarding primary or shared custody to a father in a case where the analysis of all the facts and evidence against the relevant factors weighs in favor of that result. In DC (not in Maryland) there is a rebuttable presumption that joint custody is in the children’s best interest.

Myth #3: We can get divorced now and worry about dividing all of our property later.

Nope. The court requires you to have all issues arising out of your marriage resolved, by agreement or by trial and court order, before it will grant you an absolute divorce. There is no shortcut to get divorced and then address any alimony or property issues after the fact. If you get divorced before alimony or property is determined, then you will likely have waived your rights to alimony and division of property that is not jointly titled.

Heather Collier and Erin Kopelman are divorce attorneys who handle cases involving domestic relations and family law, including custody and visitation. For more information, contact Heather at hscollier@lerchearly.com and Erin at elkopelman@lerchearly.com.

This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.

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