Top Five Myths about the Divorce Court
Whenever I meet with potential clients, I become more and more convinced that there is a rumor mill floating out there filled with misconceptions about the divorce court. These misconceptions about the divorce proceeding and the divorce court system are even shown in movies and other media outlets. For instance, watching the new documentary “Divorce Court” made me and other family law colleagues cringe because it is filled with so many cringe worthy misconceptions. So here it is, the top five myths about divorce court:
1. Each parent is entitled to 50/50 custody of their child.
It is easy to see how this myth got started. After all, each parent contributed 50 percent to the creation of the child. Unfortunately, the court does not care about that. Child custody, or as we call it, a timeshare plan, is based upon many factors to be reviewed and determined by the judge. In essence, the judge will have to determine what custody plan is “in the best interest of the child.” In making this assessment, the judge will look at the child’s age, parent’s schedules, the child’s schedule and the factual circumstances of the case. It is very unlikely that a judge will order 50/50 custody arrangement without review the facts of the case and determining what plan is in the best interest of the child.
2. You are responsible for all of your spouse and child’s expenses after separation even if it leaves you penniless.
A new client came to me stressed out and fearful over not being able to satisfy his support obligations. Based upon a verbal agreement between him and his wife, he was paying her almost 80 percent of his take home pay and has little income left over to pay rent and food. I had to convince him that child support and spousal support can be determined to a certain degree by using Disso Master software and that his support obligation should not leave him penniless. He ultimately discovered that he was overpaying her support and that consulting with a lawyer helped him determine the correct amount of his support obligation.
3. The court system favors women over men.
The husbands and fathers that I have consulted with often time have a preconceived notion that they will lose in court no matter what. Based upon their belief that men get the shorter end of the stick in divorce proceedings, they are either pessimistic about their divorce case or have determined that they will fight the case until their last dime. The court system does not favor women over men. To the contrary, women, like men, can be ordered to pay child and spousal support and can be subject to other unfavorable court orders depending the facts of the case. However, based on my personal experience, gender does play a role when the dispute is about the custody of a very young child. In those cases, the court generally will give mom greater amount of physical custody than dad because the child is still very dependent on mother.
4. Going to court is the only way to get divorced.
Most people think that litigation is the only mean to end a bad marriage. Litigation is when each spouse is represented by their own attorney and the parties have to appear in court to address the different disputes in the divorce such as custody, property division or support. Not all divorce cases should be litigated or belong in court. In fact, litigation is the most expensive and time consuming option for your divorce and should only be used when your spouse is extremely litigious. Contrary to popular belief, you have different options when handling your divorce case such as mediation or collaborative divorce. Each of these options can help you and your spouse work out the issues in your divorce while reducing attorney’s fees and the amount of stress generated by the case.
5. I can use paralegal service to get a cheaper divorce.
Under California law, a paralegal can only perform legal work under the direction and supervision of a licensed attorney. However, there are many legal centers which (illegally) offer an alleged low cost divorce through the use of unsupervised paralegals. Generally, a client would pay a flat fee to have the paralegal prepare legal documents which are then submitted to the judge. There is a saying “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Unfortunately, I have had to fix many divorce judgments that were prepared by these “legal centers.” Due to their limited legal knowledge and a lack of oversight from a licensed family law attorney, the judgments they prepared are incomplete, vague or contain significant errors which the spouses do not find out until years down the road. When it comes to something as important as the division of your family unit and your assets, it is more prudent to utilize the legal services of a licensed attorney or mediator.
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Disclaimer: Regal Law Office, APC and their attorney do not assume any responsibility for the accuracy or timeliness of any information provided herein. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. Online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal help specific to their case.