By Tonya Graser Smith
Divorce and rumors – unfortunately – go hand in hand.
There’s a famous tall tale of how Two-Buck Chuck wine, sold at Trader Joe’s, came to be priced so low. The story goes that Charles Shaw, owner of the eponymous wine label, kept prices so low to undercut his wife in their divorce. This is not true. But it makes for a good story.
Of course, there are tons of divorce rumors and myths about the divorce process itself. I’d call them old wives tales, but the fact is husbands are just as likely to put stock in these misconceptions.
Let’s get started dispelling some divorce myths.
Myth No. 1: Mom gets primary custody of the children.
Reality: This might be the mother of divorce myths. And it’s true that there used to be rules that favored moms, especially when more moms stayed home, and there were young children still at home. Most states have done away with such antiquated rules, and it’s up to judges to determine what is in the best interest of children. I have represented fathers who get primary custody; it’s not so unusual these days. And many judges work to order custody as equally as possible between parents.
Myth No. 2: Cheaters get “taken to the cleaners.”
Reality: It has a nice karmic ring to it, right? But the truth is unless your spouse was spending a lot of marital assets on his or her lover, chances are an affair won’t have a drastic impact on the equitable distribution of assets. Adultery can be raised in spousal support claims, as a reason for the non-cheater to get more alimony, but judges these days mostly use economic factors to calculate spousal support.
Myth No. 3: Divorce means divorce court — and financial ruin.
Reality: Divorce comes with a heavy price – financially and emotionally. I wrote about this and how to survive divorce financially and emotionally for Kiplinger. Litigation is the costliest way to split up. But you can get divorced without going to divorce court. For one thing, there’s collaborative divorce, in which you and your soon-to-be ex agree to work with mediators and other professionals – and to settle all matters outside of court. You can read more about collaborative divorce and other tips when it comes to divorce and finances, in this article I wrote for Kiplinger.
Myth No. 4: Goodbye inheritance.
Reality: Divorce doesn’t necessarily mean that a spouse who has inherited assets will lose them in the distribution of marital property. The easiest way to keep your inheritance is to not entangle those assets in the marital property. If you used your inheritance in the down payment on the marital home, it does become stickier and likely becomes marital property. But if you have inherited assets untouched in a trust or bank account in your sole name, those should be protected. So if you think divorce is on the horizon – or your marriage is going through a rough patch – maybe think twice before spending your inheritance on items that would be later be divvied up in divorce.
Myth No. 5: Debt belongs to the person whose name is on it.
Reality: Nope. Just like assets, debt shared within the marriage – prior to getting separated – belongs to everyone. His credit card bills are your credit card bills. Her car loan is your car loan.
Myth No. 6: This divorce is a simple one.
Reality: No divorce is simple. And no matter what, you will be spending a lot of time with your divorce lawyer, so it is important to interview a few candidates before hiring. Pick someone you won’t mind spending time with – and that will go a long way to making your divorce feel as simple as possible.