How many times have you heard a divorced friend say, “I wish I knew then what I know now,” or express regret about rushing into a settlement without having the proper information? Often, because of privacy concerns or even embarrassment, people do not take the time to ask the right questions, or fall prey to enduring – yet incorrect – myths about divorce and act against their best interests.
If you are preparing to divorce, it is crucial you first separate fact from fiction so you are able to enter proceedings feeling confident and knowledgeable. Today’s blog takes an in-depth look at common myths about divorce, child custody, spousal support, equitable distribution, and more.
Myth: Judges always rule for mothers in child custody disputes.
Fact: Custody decisions are made in the best interests of the child only.
It is true that in the (very distant) past, courts did tend to favor mothers over fathers in custody matters, but that is no longer the case. Ohio courts base child custody decisions on the best interests of the child. This means gender-neutral considerations, including the relationship between each parent and the child, whether there is any history of abuse, how suitable each parent is when it comes to caring for the child, and so forth.
Other factors the court may use when determining custody include each parent’s health, financial circumstances, and the child’s preference (if they are old enough to express an informed choice).
Myth: My spouse is going to get half of everything.
Fact: Ohio is an equitable division state, not a community property state.
Only nine states in the country recognize community property during divorce. Ohio, on the other hand, uses equitable distribution – which does not mean a 50/50 split, just a fair one. If you and your spouse are unable to agree on division of property together, the court determines distribution of assets using factors like:
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s age and physical health
- How each spouse contributed to the assets or debts
- Each spouse’s current financial picture
Homemakers and stay-at-home parents count as income-based contributions, and should be considered when distributing assets.
Myth: Only wives get spousal support.
Fact: Ohio courts award support based on need and income.
Spousal support, also called alimony, is awarded by the court based on financial need. Further, spousal support is not guaranteed to either spouse, regardless of gender. The court assigns alimony when the lack of financial support would deny one spouse an acceptable standard of living post-divorce. The courts also take a variety of factors into account when determining whether alimony is appropriate, including:
- Length of the marriage
- Earning capabilities of each spouse
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Unique needs or disabilities of either spouse
- Each spouse’s age, physical, and mental health
- Marital assets and property
- Each spouse’s ability to support themselves
It is also important to note that, in Ohio, adultery could affect whether a spouse receives alimony. Under the law, adultery and “any other factor the court finds to be fair and relevant” can be used in determining whether to award spousal support.
Myth: You have to go to trial to get divorced.
Fact: Most divorces can be resolved without going to court.
Not every divorce needs to end in a lengthy and costly trial. A variety of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes are available for couples who would rather negotiate and settle their matters in private. Your family law attorney can help you with collaborative law, divorce arbitration, and divorce mediation – all out-of-court options to work through any disputes and come up with a mutually agreeable settlement.
Myth: My credit score will drop when I get divorced.
Fact: A divorce does not affect your credit rating.
Your marital status does not have anything to do with your credit score, so the act of getting divorced will not affect your credit, according to Experian. The data reporting company warns, however, that your (or your spouse’s) actions during and after the divorce can have an effect on your credit, so it is important to be careful and alert.
Because many married couples have joint lines of credit and shared accounts, you must deal with these prior to the divorce. This means closing them or removing your spouse completely from the account. Otherwise, you will be responsible for any of their further financial activity. Closing a line of credit and opening a new one may show up on your credit report, but this is necessary and far outweighs the potential responsibility for your ex-spouse’s future debt.
Myth: I’m too old to get divorced at this point.
Fact: It is never too late to get a fresh start.
The rate of divorce after age 50 (also called “gray divorce”) has doubled since 1990 and predicted to triple by 2030, according to Psychology Today. With increased life expectancies, less stigma surrounding divorce, more focus on emotional fulfillment, and women joining the workforce, more couples in unhappy marriages are willing to leave.
Psychology Today also notes:
Couples who married decades ago and have drifted apart or been unhappy for years become willing to face their differences about finances, interests, and emotional fulfillment and acknowledge their unsatisfying relationships. When they experience the empty nest syndrome as adult children leave home, they wonder what they now have in common.
If you have any other questions about the divorce process, our Columbus family law attorneys are happy to answer your questions. Soroka & Associates understands the importance of family and that you want to work through your divorce with as little disruption to yours as possible. Let us help you meet your goals and reach the best possible outcome with your case. To schedule a meeting, call us or fill out our contact form.