There can be few subjects that are surrounded by so many myths as divorce. Why this should be is not entirely clear, but perhaps it is because it is far more widely discussed with friends and relatives than most other legal topics. Many of the myths are fairly harmless, but some could, if believed, lead people into making wrong decisions when they go through divorce. It can therefore be important that they know what is a myth, and what isn’t.
So here, in no particular order, are ten of the most common myths surrounding divorce:
1. If my ex has committed adultery or behaved badly, I will get more? Not true. Adultery or bad behaviour will normally have no bearing whatsoever on how finances are divided on divorce. One party’s conduct will only have a bearing if that conduct is exceptionally bad, but such cases are extremely rare.
2. There is such a thing as a ‘quickie divorce’, used by rich people and celebrities? No, there isn’t. The law is the same for all. Either the divorce is undefended, in which case it should usually be dealt with in a few months, or, unusually, it will be defended, in which case it can take much longer.
3. If my ex does not pay child maintenance, I can stop them seeing the children? Wrong. Child maintenance is quite separate from a parent’s contact with the children. Just because a parent is not paying child maintenance does not mean that they cannot see them. By the same token, just because they are paying child maintenance does not give them a right to have contact.
4. If we both agree to the divorce, we won’t need to prove fault? This one is only partly true. Sadly, it is still necessary for one party to prove that the marriage broke down due to the other party’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour, unless the parties have been separated for at least two years. Only after two years separation can they agree to divorce without proving fault.
5. Divorce is always expensive? There are many horror stories out there, suggesting that a divorce will always cost many thousands of pounds to sort out. Whilst this can happen, it is quite possible for the divorce to be dealt with quite cheaply, especially if the parties are able to resolve matters by agreement, rather than having to ask the court to resolve those matters for them.
6. Mothers always get the children? Not necessarily. What arrangements are made for children depends upon what is best for their welfare. Often, of course, this will mean that the children spend most of their time living with their mothers, but there is certainly no rule that they always will.
7. Finances are always divided equally? Again, not necessarily. It is often appropriate that finances are divided equally, especially where there are no dependent children, but there is not a rule that says finances must always be divided equally. How the finances should be divided will depend upon the facts of each case.
8. You don’t need a court order if you agree finances? Wrong. You do need to have any financial/property settlement incorporated into a court order, to ensure that it is both final and enforceable. Without a court order there is nothing to stop either party making a further financial claim at a later date. The court will only make the order if it considers that the terms of the settlement are fair and reasonable.
9. It’s not adultery if we were separated at the time? Again, this is wrong. It doesn’t matter if the parties were living separately when it occurred, it is still adultery, and can be used to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, for the purpose of divorce proceedings.
10. The court favours wives in financial settlements? No it doesn’t. The law does not favour either husbands or wives. The court will order a settlement that it considers to be fair, having regard to all of the circumstances, in particular the needs of the parties. This may mean, for instance, that a wife will be awarded more because her needs are greater, but that is not the same as saying that the court favours wives.
And finally, one more myth that is perhaps the most common of all, even if it strictly relates to marriage, rather than divorce: the myth of the ‘common law marriage’. It is still widely believed that if you simply live with a partner for long enough, your relationship will be recognised as a ‘common law marriage’, and that therefore you will have the same rights as a married person when the relationship breaks down. This is simply not true. There is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’, no matter how long you and your partner have been together. You will not, therefore, have the same rights as a married person, and you may not have any financial or property rights at all if the relationship breaks down.
The moral from all of this is clear: if you want the facts, then take advice from a qualified family lawyer, not your best friend!
For legal advice from a specialist family lawyer, call Merrick on 0161 838 5410 and we’ll be happy to help you.
Follow us: @MerrickLegal on Twitter