Five divorce myths debunked

When contemplating a divorce, it's natural to feel confused and anxious. You are likely to turn to friends and family members for advice and information. But, unless your associates are skilled and experienced divorce lawyers, chances are good that you'll get some bad information, much like the following five prevalent myths surrounding divorce in Florida.

1. If you cheated, you'll lose everything.

Florida is a no-fault divorce state. This means that infidelity will likely play no role in property division, spousal support and custody arrangements. One possible exception is when a spouse has spent joint funds or used marital assets for the extramarital affair. Proof is required, and only then may the innocent party receive additional amounts in division of property and spousal support to offset the funds spent on the affair. Various other factors contribute, such as how long you were married, income sources, tax consequences and other relevant issues.

2. Courts always award custody to the mother.

Florida courts consider the best interests of the child when allocating parenting time, which is referred to as time-sharing. Though one parent may end up with a majority share of the time, this will not necessarily be Mom. If you and your spouse cannot agree to a schedule without court intervention, the judge will look at various factors and decide for you. These factors include determining which one of you is more likely to facilitate contact between your child and the other parent, the bond your child already has with each parent, mental and physical health, your child's home, school and community record, and other issues that pertain to your unique situation.

3. Children can choose which parent they want to live with.

Your child's age, maturity and intelligence are important considerations when it comes to deciding where they wish to live. If the court finds the child able based on those criteria, he or she may be allowed to express a preference for where to live. However, this is merely one of the many factors that the court considers when deciding on time-sharing. Judges may give it very little weight if other circumstances indicate that a home is not in the child's best interests.

4. Divorce is a huge, expensive fight.

It's no surprise that divorce is no love fest, but it does not have to be overly aggressive and volatile. With the guidance of an experienced and empathetic divorce lawyer, couples are often able to reach agreements on important issues with little to no acrimony. Collaborative divorce methods and mediation are useful tools to ease this process. Additionally, the better negotiations go, the better able you are to obtain your divorce without running up legal fees and incurring additional expenses.

5. Property is always divided equally.

Florida is an equitable distribution state. Many people mistakenly interpret this to mean equal division of property. What it really means is fair distribution. Once again, the court looks at relevant factors to make this determination, such as how long you have been married, whether one of you sacrificed school or a career, whether you want to keep the house and other applicable economic criteria.

Your friends and family members are likely well-meaning when they try to advise and support you. But, it's best to just let them help with moral and emotional support, and allow a Florida divorce lawyer to do the heavy lifting when it comes to legal questions.

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Amy L. Beauchaine, Attorney at Law
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