In answering questions for many clients considering divorce, I found there are a number of myths that need to be dispelled about the divorce process and the justifications for seeking a divorce. This article is an attempt to address some key divorce myths I regularly encounter:
1. It matters if they cheated.
In California, infidelity has no relevance to pursuing a divorce action. In 1971, California law was modified to allow either party to seek a divorce based upon irreconcilable differences. Irreconcilable differences can mean anything to anybody including just drifting apart. In some instances, people believe that infidelity would directly impact whether or not the person would have limitations on their parenting time. Unless that parents behavior is so out of control (such as partying all the time and having multiple sex partners), it is highly unlikely that the court would consider any claim that a parents time with the children should be restricted.
2. You just need to fill out a few forms and submit them to the court and the court does the rest.
While it is true that California prides itself on simplifying the Judicial Council forms that are submitted for processing divorce actions, properly completing those forms is not just an ” add water and stir” event. Following through with the completion of the divorce action must be pursued by the party seeking the divorce.
If you represent yourself, you must understand and apply the law as accurately as an attorney. You must also understand why you use certain pleadings and what the reason would be on submitting the documents to the court. An accurate understanding of the law and how it applies those to those forms is crucial to properly proceeding on your family law matter. In some instances where the marriages of short duration, (there are no children, and there’s no property) it’s possible to successfully complete the divorce process without any complications. If you own any property, have any children, or have other complexities associated with your divorce, it would be unwise to proceed without the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.
3. Everything must be split equally.
While it is true that the court expects a roughly equal division of property, the division doesn’t have to be an exact penny for penny division. The parties can even agree to an unequal division for lots of reasons. Sometimes an unequal division is adopted by the parties and approved of by the court for the purposes of making compromises on support amounts, satisfaction of community debt and for other equitable justifications.
4. It’s best to start hiding things.
Any attempt to hide assets from the other spouse will only turn into bad news for the bad actor. Both parties have a fiduciary management and control responsibility to the other spouse on fair dealing and open transparent exchange of information concerning the assets and liabilities affecting this family law case. This standard pertains to the parties while they remain married as well as after they’ve been separated and even in cases where they still are dividing property and the divorce has ended their marriage. If the court determines that there’s been a concealment of an asset, the person committing this offense could lose their share of the property to the other spouse as well as pay attorneys fees and sanctions for their misconduct.
5.The kids always go to the mother.
Cultural norms in parenting have changed dramatically in the last 25 years. Consequently, the family law courts have caught up with the concept of joint parenting and blended families. The result of this more modernized appreciation of both parents playing a significant daily role in a child’s life produces many different custody arrangements where both parents can maintain an active role in the child’s life.