Chryssikos Law Firm

Top 10 Divorce Myths – Debunked

No other area of the law carries with it as much misinformation as divorce and family law.  Certainly the internet has contributed to these “Divorce Myths”, largely because divorce laws vary from state to state, resulting in people “googling” their divorce questions without focusing on the law in their home state.

Other reasons for these “Divorce Myths” stems from the fact that the law is ever-changing.  New laws are passed and new cases are decided.  So what was true in your neighbor’s divorce several years ago, may no longer be true today.

Then there are just the widely-held rumors, beliefs and tall tales that many people simply believe to be true because they’ve heard them over and over again.

So let’s take a look at some of the Top 10 Divorce Myths – Debunked:

Myth #1:  “I will be viewed unfavorably if I’m the one who files for divorce.”  Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means anyone can file for divorce for any or no reason at all and the party filing the case will not be viewed in a negative light by the court.  This may have some morsel of truth for people of some religious faiths or cultures, but not in the eyes of the court.  In fact, in most circumstances, it is to your great benefit to file first for a variety of reasons.

Myth #2:  “I need to be married a certain number of years to pay or receive alimony (spousal support).”    While it is true that the court would consider the length of marriage in whether to award alimony, it is but one consideration out of about a dozen.  Many people think there is some significance to being married for 10 years.  There is nothing magical about 10 years when it comes to alimony, though 10 years could be significant for social security benefit reasons or military pensions.  This serves as a dual “debunking” for the related myth that alimony is dead in Michigan.

Myth #3“I need to hire an attorney in my home county.”  Other than the length of commute to the attorney’s office (a commute that you shouldn’t have to make too often) your attorney’s location is not terribly relevant.  If your attorney is familiar with and has practiced in your county, his or her office location shouldn’t be an issue.  For more on this subject, see my previous blog post, “How do I Find the Right Divorce Attorney for Me?”

Myth #4“If we split the retirement accounts, we’ll have to pay significant taxes and penalties.”  This myth comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the tax law.  While one normally would be subject to taxes and penalties for cashing in retirement funds, the Internal Revenue Code contains a specific exception for division of such assets in the context of divorce or separation.  So long as the money is rolled over into a like account, such as an IRA, there is no tax or penalty at the time of the transfer.

Myth #5:  “Since Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, fault is irrelevant.”  Not so fast!  Some people find this one confusing, but yes, fault may still be relevant even in a no-fault state like Michigan.  No-fault only means that the Complaint for Divorce filed at the beginning of the case need not state any particular reason for the divorce (e.g., adultery, abuse, neglect, etc.).  However, where fault exists, it can be taken into consideration on issues such as property division, alimony and, where directly impacting the children, custody and parenting time issues.

Myth #6:  “We can be represented in the divorce by one attorney.”  Although some attorneys may promote this myth, it is a myth nonetheless.  An attorney can only serve one master.  As much as you may feel you and your spouse are united and have a common purpose, there is a conflict of interest in using one attorney – even if you find one willing to do it.  Consult your own attorney, independent of your spouse.  Don’t believe for a moment that your spouse’s attorney is looking out for your best interests.  They may be nice, they may even mean well, but they represent your spouse only.

Myth #7:  “I can’t afford to hire an attorney.”  What you really can’t afford is a Judgment of Divorce that was prepared by your spouse’s attorney and is completely one-sided and non-modifiable, especially as to the property division and sometimes alimony.

Myth #8:  “Custody laws are written to favor Mom.”  Actually, Michigan Child Custody Act does not profoundly favor either parent.  The Act lays out about a dozen custody factors the court must consider, commonly known as the “best interest factors”, each of which requires a detailed analysis in order to determine custody disputes.

Myth #9:  “I will get my day in court and tell my story to the Judge.”  I hear this one quite a bit.  “When will I get to talk to the Judge?”  Judge’s don’t get significantly involved in the details of your case unless your case goes to trial.  Well over 90% of divorce cases settle out of court, making a trial unnecessary.  This is good thing, because trials are very time-consuming, expensive, and usually the parties are better able to craft a resolution that makes sense for them than a Judge.  For many reasons, trial is a last resort that is required in very few cases.

Myth #10:  “All of our assets are going to be divided 50/50.”  This one’s a close call, but it’s a myth nonetheless.  First of all, there’s no requirement that a court make the property division exactly equal.  There are many reasons why the property division may be unequal.  Pre-nuptial agreements, inheritances, pre-marital assets, gifts, and, as mentioned above, fault causing the breakdown of the marriage, can all contribute to an unequal property division.

I encourage everyone to get educated about the divorce process and not allow your decisions to be guided by myths and misinformation.


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10.0James W. Chryssikos