Divorce myths thrive because they always move down through the grapevine. You mention that you’re splitting up with your spouse, and your friend knows another friend who said that her sister’s brother’s uncle went through a divorce and this is how it played out.
You get the idea. These aren’t usually first-hand references. They’re things that people heard or think they heard, and they can really get distorted as they get passed around.
To keep you from falling prey to any of these myths, here are six of them to watch out for:
1. If you cheated, your spouse gets everything.
In reality, the court isn’t here to make moral judgements about whether or not you should have cheated. It is just trying to enforce divorce law. The judge doesn’t typically care who did what in the relationship, unless it was illegal or poses a threat to the kids.
2. You can cut off visitation if those child support payments don’t arrive.
You can’t. If your ex is ordered to pay child support and fails to do it, you do have legal options, like wage garnishment. But you still need to abide by the visitation order.
3. The court might deny your divorce.
Technically, you’re petitioning the court and asking for that divorce. However, modern courts don’t deny these petitions. They’re not going to make you stay married if that’s not what you want.
4. You don’t have to pay child support if you can’t afford it.
Wrong. You do have to pay once that court order gets handed down. If you honestly can’t afford it — you lost your job, for instance, or filed for bankruptcy — then you can go to court and request a modification. But you can’t stop paying until you get it. Even bankruptcy doesn’t discharge this debt.
5. Your kids can choose which parent to live with.
Worried that your kids aren’t going to choose you? Don’t be. For one thing, very young children have no say. Older kids, like teenagers, may get to express their opinions. Even that doesn’t mean the court will go along with it, though. They have to consider many factors, and a child’s wishes are just one of them.
6. A father never gets custody of the kids, as mothers always do.
Speaking in absolutes is always risky. It used to be that mothers had a strong advantage, but modern courts now focus more on joint custody and keeping both parents involved. Regardless, it’s certainly false to say that fathers never get custody.
Surprised by some of these myths, as you’d believed they were true for years? If so, you’re not alone, and this shows why it’s so important to understand your legal rights if you split up.