Everyone has his or her own idea of what divorce looks like. They have fored this picture from either a television show or movie they’ve watched or from a friend who has been the through the process. While it can be important to be prepared as you embark on your own journey, the best thing to do is not let the false portions of what you have heard embed themselves in your mind and become counter-productive. You should consult a knowledgeable family law attorney who can help give you the best (and true) information.
Here is a list of some common divorce myths that clients often ask me at an initial consultation:
1. I have to get divorced in the state we were married
Not true. Under Pennsylvania and New Jersey law, you can file for divorce where either the husband or the wife has resided for the last six months. This could mean you got married in California but moved to Philadelphia a year ago. You could then file in Philadelphia.
2. Because the house is in my name, it’s mine
Not so much. In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the way the law divides marital assets and debt is through a principle called equitable distribution. This means that what is at issue is classified as marital property and divided fairly. This does not necessarily mean 50/50 either. This rule is complicated and it is best to go over all assets and debts with your attorney to discuss what is and is not at issue.
3. Before filing for divorce, we have to go to counseling
While it would be lovely if all parties were willing to sit down and go to counseling, it just is not a court requirement. Participating in therapy is fully voluntary. And, if one party is not willing to attend, it can be very unproductive.
4. Mediation means that divorced couples still must hire lawyers to file a divorce
Sometimes. Mediation can be a great way to streamline all issues that a divorcing couple may face and come up with one global agreement. You still will need to ultimately file the necessary court documents. Some mediation firms will do this for you or help you do it on your own. But, it is always smart to ensure that this is done correctly (and your agreement is validated) that you consult an attorney to help. Our firm often involves mediators who will negotiate the terms of the marital settlement, but leave the court process to the attorneys.
5. The mother will most likely get custody of the children
Nope. This is an outdated and old-fashioned notion. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey award custody based on an examination of a variety of factors, ultimately coming down to what would be in the child’s best interest. Sometimes, the court can consider what is called the “tender years doctrine” which states that when a child is an infant, if the parties are of equal stature as parents, some deferreance can be given to the mother who may be breastfeeding, for example. Overall, the court likes to encourage equal involvement and access to both parents.
6. Getting divorced is expensive
It does not have to be. If you go into the process sure of yourself, aware of your goals and work with a smart, accomplished attorney, you can get divorced reasonably. Sometimes you may hit road blocks put up by the other party, but as long as you are on track, you can keep costs low.
7. Divorce will not impact our children
Unfortuantely, children absorb more than we think. They take in what is going on around them even down to the mood in a room. Often times parties are so worried about themselves, the other party or their money that children get lost in the shuffle of divorce. It is important that you sit down with your child or children to explain to them what is going on. Do not discuss dirty courtroom details, but express that you support and love them. If you need to, get a therapist or counselor involved. There are many great family therapists who work with families of divorce.
Hopefully the above helps clear up some misconceptions. If you still have questions and are about to proceed ahead with divorce, contact Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC, for an initial consultation today.