Debunking Divorce Myths

2 faces with question markThere are numerous misconceptions when it comes to divorce.

Often, situations that could be resolved fairly amicably become highly contested because one of the parties is operating under the mistaken belief that the myth is actually the reality. Below are three of the most common misconceptions.

I hear this often from clients, especially fathers who are involved in the lives of their children and fear becoming the “weekend dad.” For some reason, parents seem to think their right to spend time with their children is “all or nothing.”

Regardless of whether there is a primary residence for children, the parties, except under extraordinary circumstances, enjoy shared parental responsibility of their children. This means that both share equally not only in decisions affecting their children, but in their children’s’ lives. For instance, if dad is the son’s baseball coach, dad can continue to do so and can attend all baseball games regardless of where the son spends his evenings. By the same token, mom can continue to participate in extra curricular activities, even if it is dad’s weekend with the children.

Rather than focus on the percentage of time spent with children, the parties should consider their children’s schedules and the amount of quality time to be spent with them. Once they realize that neither will be excluded from their children’s lives, it is often easier to create a schedule that works for everyone, especially the children.

This happens in many cases where a spouse feels severely wronged by the actions of the other and thinks that he/she will receive the house, children, bank accounts and anything else of value while the other spouse will be awarded nothing more than the shirt on his/her back and the debts. This is not the case as Florida is a no-fault divorce state. Unless there is a financial component to the wrongdoing of a party or another reason not to divide assets and liabilities equally, a judge will make an equal, or nearly equal division of assets and liabilities. While there are many reasons to deviate from this, the wrongdoing of one party, i.e., simply being a bad spouse, is not one of them.

While it is true that a court will try not to disrupt the lives of small children, it is not true that a judge will automatically award either party the marital home. If the home is the only significant asset, allowing one spouse to keep it would result in an unequal division of the parties’ assets and is an unlikely outcome. Also, in situations where it is not financially possible for either spouse to maintain the home, the judge will likely order the home to be sold. Sadly, this is the reality in many situations where the parties, while still together, are living beyond their means. If the parties cannot afford the home while together, it is impossible for either party to afford the home on his/her own. In many divorce cases, these misconceptions often cause divorcing couples to spend large sums of money in litigation, only to realize, days later and many dollars shorter, that reality differs greatly from urban divorce legend.

Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.

Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.

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