Part of making smarter decisions when it comes to your divorce is knowing what’s fact and what’s not. And unfortunately, these days it sometimes feels like we are living in the age of (mis)information.
We hear divorce myths all the time in mediation sessions and client phone calls and what really frustrates us is that we often see them falsely reported in the media. Some are wacky rumors and other “facts” are widely-held assumptions. And what makes matters worse is that the outdated lawyered-up approach is built around an overwhelming lack of transparency. So, how do we know what to believe?
The goal of divorce should not be winning; it should be understanding the process and being in charge of your divorce, your way. In this article, we’re debunking the top myths about divorce. We explain the truth, and how you can bend the long-misunderstood rules to work for your divorce goals. We hope that by understanding the truth, you can be more empowered and hopeful about getting the resolution you need.
Myth: Getting divorced is very expensive
If you go the old-fashioned, lawyered-up way of battling against your ex in court, it is. In fact, a recent survey by USA Today found that the average divorce with lawyers costs $15,500. At Hello Divorce, the average cost is $1,000. Our plans start at $99 and our most expensive plan is $4,500 per couple for a cooperative divorce with full support from our team plus five hours of mediation.
We also offer affordable flat-rate and hourly services like mediation, financial advice, or legal advice if and when you need them. Bottom line is that if you and your spouse can at least agree to work out the terms of your divorce together, you can likely avoid court and lawyers.
Myth: You need a lawyer
Unless you or your ex have significant conflicts or are headed to court to battle it out, you may not need a lawyer at all. Or, you might only need a lawyer here and there for specific questions. You have the option to pay for as little as 30 minutes with a lawyer as you need as an on-demand addition to your Hello Divorce plan.
What a lot of people don’t know is that divorce is a process—not an event. Unless there’s an emergency, you will likely have plenty of time to think through big decisions and have a lawyer, mediator or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst review your final agreement before you sign it.
Myth: Serving your ex is a stressful, dramatic thing
Each state has its rules about legally filing for divorce, which almost always includes serving your spouse. But you can do so with little to no stress or drama by planning out how you’ll tell your spouse you want a divorce and then communicating this before they are served with paperwork.
See our tips and a sample letter for telling your spouse you want a divorce in the most amicable way possible here. And understand that in most states, you can skip the third party stranger (process server), and can “waive” formal service by signing a form that says you have received your spouse’s divorce petition (sometimes called a “complaint”).
Myth: Annulments are an easy alternative to divorce
We’ve all seen movies and TV shows where a couple impulsively marry or realize they don’t know their new spouse at all, only to want to undo the decision with an annulment. And, presto, it’s like it never happened! This is far from realistic.
In the first place, for a marriage to be legal, one must obtain a marriage certificate from their courthouse, usually a day in advance. There’s a fee involved just for this paperwork, and it must be signed by a judge or notary. Simple vows aren’t legally binding. Then, when the marriage is legal, it is very difficult to get annulled.
The truth is that most states have very specific rules regarding when an annulment will be granted and it’s often a very high standard to meet. Even if your spouse agrees (which is rare) to the annulment, you often have to prove to the judge that you qualify.
Myth: You need to split everything evenly with your ex
We’ve worked with many clients who assume you have to have a 50/50 property agreement (and that you can’t be creative and come up with a different arrangement). Not at all true. You and your ex can decide who gets everything, from your marital home to that beloved cookware set. But remember to detail it all in your settlement agreement to avoid confusion or battles down the road.
Myth: Your kids will suffer
Almost all parents worry or even delay divorce because of the potential negative impacts it can have on your child(ren). In a nutshell, most kids of divorce are just fine as long as you (and ideally also your ex) can do three things. First, regularly tell and show your kids that they are loved. Second, make sure they do not feel to blame or that they did something wrong. Third, clearly communicate when and how they will see the other parent again and how they can contact them.
Even if your ex doesn’t cooperate, research shows that children only need one solid parent they can count on to provide a healthy parent-child relationship.
Myth: After you file, you’re automatically divorced once your waiting period expires
Filing simply gets the ball rolling. You and your ex have several to-dos (aka paperwork) before a judge will officially grant your divorce. You aren’t divorced until you receive a final divorce decree (or judgment).
Myth: There are common-law marriages in every state
Many people believe they are in a common-law marriage if they have lived together for a certain amount of time – usually seven years. But what constitutes a common-law marriage differs state by state and many states don’t even have common law marriage laws (e.g. California!). Find out which states recognize common law marriage and learn more about the requirements around it here.
Myth: If you don’t pay child support you can’t visit with your kids
If you or your ex fails to keep up with child support payments, you might think that waives the right to see your children. In truth, most states have laws in place so that you cannot deny parenting rights—even if they are late on child support payments. If you are having issues with child support, you’ll need to seek legal counsel before changing parental rights.
Myth: Some decisions are out of your control
A lot of people think the court gets to decide how property is divided and who pays what support. Truth is, most couples can make their own agreement if they do the proper paperwork. It’s almost always best for a divorcing couple to work out all the terms of their divorce themselves. The court doesn’t know your full story, so leaving decisions up to them almost never turns out for the best. If you and your ex can’t agree on your own, a mediator can help.
Do you have more questions about divorce and if your beliefs are fact or fiction? Schedule a free 15-minute informational call to get answers.