Every divorce is different, but they all seem to have one thing in common--people faced with a divorce receive misinformation about divorce law and the divorce process from well-meaning friends and family. These myths about divorce create great anxiety for divorce clients, and can even hamper the success of their case if acted on. Knowledge, as the saying goes, is power, so we'd like to clear up some of the most common divorce myths our clients have been confronted with:
Myth: When my kids reach a certain age, they'll get to choose which parent they want to live with after divorce.
The reality: there is no age at which children get to choose what parent they will live with. Child custody is determined in Minnesota, as in most states, by the best interests of the child. Minnesota law identifies thirteen factors to be considered by the court in determining custody. These include the wishes of the child if the court deems the child to be of a reasonable age to express a preference. However, this factor alone is not determinative; the court must look at all factors together.
Myth: The mother always gets custody of the kids.
This may have been the truth decades ago, but custody is now determined by an analysis of the best interests factors. The court must consider all of the factors together, and is actually forbidden from basing its custody determination on only one factor, including who the primary caretaker of the children is.
Myth: I can't move out of the family home before divorce because that's considered "abandonment," and I'd lose my property rights to the house.
Many people stay in an unhappy, or even unsafe, situation because they have been told that if they move out of the house, it will affect their property rights in the divorce. The truth is that there is no such thing as abandonment in this context in Minnesota. Which party moves out of the house first has absolutely no bearing on who receives the house, or proceeds from its sale, in the divorce.
Myth: I have to have been married a certain length of time to be eligible for (or be required to pay) alimony.
This is not true, although it is true that longer-term marriages are more likely to involve an award of alimony upon divorce. There are three types of alimony (also called "spousal maintenance") in Minnesota. Temporary alimony is based on both spouses' income and is paid while the divorce is pending. Short-term alimony, awarded upon divorce, is awarded to help support one spouse while he or she gains the ability to become self-supporting. Long-term, or even permanent, alimony may be awarded if the marriage was longer in term or if one spouse for some reason, cannot become self-supporting. There is no formula for determining alimony; the judge considers all the circumstances of the couple.
Myth: All of our property will be divided fifty-fifty when we divorce--my spouse will get half of everything.
In Minnesota, marital property is divided equitably upon divorce. "Equitable" means fair under all the circumstances, not necessarily equally, although in practice it may work out to be nearly equal. However, some property may not be subject to division, such as property one party owned before marriage, or property one party received as a gift. This area of the law is complicated, so if you have concerns about whether property is marital or separate, you need to speak to an attorney.
Myth: I need the most aggressive attorney possible to win my divorce case.
This may be the most dangerous myth of all. First of all, you need to consider "winning" at divorce means to you--not to your best friend, your sister, or your co-worker. Well-adjusted kids? Enough money to live on? Peace of mind? A good attorney will spend time helping you identify and clarify your goals for divorce, and will have a varied skill set to help you choose the approach to divorce that's most likely to achieve them.
At Bloch & Whitehouse, P.A., we spend time getting to understand our clients' needs, and we offer a variety of approaches, from mediation to Collaborative Divorce to litigation. Our goal is to help you have the divorce that meets your needs and those of your family. We invite you to contact us today at (952) 224-9977 to learn more.