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Myths About Getting a Divorce

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Everyone has built-in beliefs about divorce they have cobbled together from stories from friends and family, references in popular culture, and general knowledge. Many of these beliefs are based on outdated conceptions of divorce law, mischaracterizations of divorce in television and movies, as well as simple misunderstandings of the process shared across the population. Below, we discuss and dismiss several of the more popular myths we’ve heard about divorce. Call a seasoned New Jersey divorce attorney for help with a New Jersey divorce or other matter of New Jersey family law.

Myth: Mom Always Gets the Kids

This is a myth that is based on historical truth; It used to be that mothers tended to get primary or even sole custody of shared children in the divorce. Mothers tended to be homemakers while fathers were the primary income-earners, and courts believed that children were better off with their primary caretakers. Times have changed since the 1950s, however. Most households now have dual income-earners. Courts prefer shared custody wherever possible, and the children’s place of primary residence depends on a variety of factors, none of which revolve around whether the person seeking custody is a mother vs. a father. For some older judges, long-standing biases might play a role, but for the most part, the custody decision will turn on a variety of factors unrelated to the gender of the parties.

Myth: Alimony is Based on Gender

Like the child custody myth, this belief is a relic from when women were less involved in the workforce. Spousal support awards are based on the relative incomes and financial circumstances of each party. If the couple includes a stay-at-home-dad and a working mom, the dad will likely be awarded spousal support. The same goes for same-sex spouses; the higher income-earner is more likely to pay, while the lower income-earner is likely to receive support.

Myth: I Can Deny Visitation if My Ex Doesn’t Pay Child Support

If your ex is not paying their alimony or child support, talk to your lawyer, and go to court. Do not take matters into your own hands by denying visitation or other parenting time. If you withhold visitation rights, then you are also in violation of the court’s order, putting you and your parental rights in jeopardy. Go through the proper channels.

Myth: One Party is at Fault in the Divorce

New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state. Divorces can be based on “irreconcilable differences,” meaning the parties believe the relationship cannot be salvaged. New Jersey does allow “fault” reasons for divorce as well, such as adultery or abandonment, but allegations of fault generally do not affect the outcome of a divorce. Whether one party cheated will not affect child support, alimony, or property distribution, unless the spouse’s behavior relates specifically to those issues–such as if one party spent significant marital assets on gifts or vacations for an extramarital paramour. Of course, if one party has a history of abuse that makes them a danger to the children, that type of fault in the divorce could certainly impact child custody.

Myth: Divorce Decisions Are Final and Forever

Divorce does not solve every problem. Sometimes, divorce does not result in a permanent resolution of even the issues that divorce is meant to decide. For example, child support awards are meant to end when the children reach the age of majority, spousal support awards should end by retirement, and both types of obligations may be modified independently of those events. Custody and support awards can be modified when there has been a “change in circumstance” for one or both parties, such as if a recipient spouse remarries, a paying spouse suffers a loss of income, or a custodial parent moves out of state. If something has changed in your life following your divorce and your existing divorce obligations have become burdensome, talk to a seasoned family law attorney for help.

Trusted Advice and Representation for Your New Jersey Divorce

If you need compassionate and effective legal help with divorce, premarital agreements, child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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