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7 Common Myths about Family Law and Divorce

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 20, 2022

There are a number of myths circulating about what happens when you get divorced. Whatever your situation, it’s important to know the truth when you’re beginning the process.

We realize your situation is unique. It will take the experience and knowledge of a seasoned family law attorney to address any specific questions you have about your own divorce proceedings. But many of the myths circulating around just aren’t true, regardless of your situation. Here we hope to dispel these common misconceptions.

1. You Don’t Need an Attorney for Your Divorce. Legal representation during your divorce isn’t a requirement—but it is highly recommended. With custody, alimony, and division of property on the line, there’s a lot to lose when you represent yourself. In the long run, attempting to represent yourself could cost you much more than the price of hiring an attorney.

Family law is a complex legal area in Florida, and your divorce attorney will have years of education and experience in the field. During one of the most stressful periods in your life, the help of an attorney can provide tremendous relief while helping you to ensure the best possible outcome for yourself and your children.

2. The Mother Always Gets Full Custody. This common myth usually goes something like, “Mothers always get full custody of the kids, and fathers only get limited visitation rights.”

First off, in general Florida law has moved away from the term “custody.” Instead, we use the term “time-sharing” to describe dividing a child’s schedule between the two parents. Florida refers to the legal right to make decisions about a child’s wellbeing and development as “parental responsibility.”

Florida family law specifically prohibits making decisions based on gender when ruling on parental responsibility and time-sharing. Furthermore, our courts heavily favor equal distribution of time and responsibility between parents.

Usually, Florida courts only award sole parental responsibility if one parent is deemed unfit to raise a child. For example, if one parent has history of domestic violence or substance abuse, this might encourage the courts to award the other parent full legal responsibility of a child.

3. Time-sharing Will Be Divided 50/50. Alternatively, many parents going through a divorce assume the child’s time will be divided perfectly in half between his or her parents. This isn’t completely true either.

The law acknowledges that equal time with both parents is in the best interests of the child. But often a 50/50 split isn’t practical for divorced parents or their children—such a division would likely have a negative impact on the child’s educational, extracurricular, and home life.

4. Divorcees Keep Everything in Their Name—Debts and Assets. “If the credit card is in his name, he keeps the debt. Since the bank account is in my name, I get to keep the funds. Right?”

Not necessarily. While this is certainly a possible outcome, Florida courts prefer to distribute assets and debt among both parties equally. The name on the title usually doesn’t matter. The law considers the net worth of the marital estate—which includes both assets and debts.

5. Children 13 or Older May Decide Where They Want to Live. You may have heard a different version of this rumor—sometimes the cutoff age is 14. Or 12.

While the child’s preference will have some influence on the ruling, ultimately it is the courts that will decide how to split the child’s schedule between parents. Many factors beyond the preference of the child are considered. Ultimately, it comes down to what the court believes is in the child’s best interest. Children must wait until they are 18 before they have complete control over where they live.

6. Divorces are Settled by a Long and Expensive Trial. Sure, some are. But the majority of divorces are settled through mediation and negotiation—not in the courtroom. If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement during mediation, you may have to enter settle the matter in the Family courts. In most cases, however, this isn’t necessary.

7. Permanent Alimony is Guaranteed. Not true. With longer marriages, permanent alimony is considered. When ruling on alimony, however, the court will measure each spouse’s need against their ability to pay.

There are a few other forms of alimony which are not permanent. For example, during the legislation, temporary support may be required. Other types of alimony that will be considered are bridge-the-gap, durational, and rehabilitative alimony. You can speak with your lawyer about the type of alimony that works best for your situation.

There’s a great deal of misinformation regarding divorce from word-of-mouth and the media. An experienced family law attorney should be able to provide factual information on your prospective divorce outcome – yet another reason why working with a legal professional during your divorce is so important.