All spouses who divorce go into the process with preconceived notions about what the experience will be like. Below we have listed 6 common myths about the divorce process and why you should ignore them or, at the very least keep an open mind about what will most likely happen during your divorce case.
1. Missouri Family Courts are Biased in Favor of Mothers
This simply is not true. It’s a myth that has been perpetuated over the years but simply does not apply in 2022. It may be that in your case, the court will award you greater physical custody time. However, if that occurs it isn’t because the court is biased. Rather, it is because there were facts in your case that resulted in the court finding that custody schedule to be in your child’s best interests. Which parent obtains physical custody of the child is determined by a judge who will start with a joint physical custody schedule where the child spends close to equal time with each parent. There isn’t a burden for a father to prove that a mother is unstable or incapable of caring for and providing for her child for him to receive joint physical custody. In fact, if a father proves to the judge that it is in the best interests of the child for him to have physical custody, then the judge will award him custody.
2. I’m Going to Get Justice for My Spouse Cheating on Me
No, you aren’t. Missouri is a no-fault divorce state which means that it doesn’t matter why there is a divorce. In Missouri, no one is “at fault” and no one is automatically going to pay for bad behavior. This doesn’t mean that marital misconduct is simply ignored. Instead, the judge will need to receive evidence of the misconduct and how it affected what you are asking the judge to do. For example, if the misconduct resulted in your spouse spending marital money on the relationship and you can prove this to the judge, then the judge can adjust a property or debt division to right that wrong. Also, if you are asking for spousal maintenance then the judge will consider the conduct of each spouse during the marriage in making that support determination. Last, the judge can consider conduct when determining an award of attorney fees to one spouse. So, instead of entering the divorce believing that the judge absolutely will make your spouse pay for the bad behavior, you should understand how the conduct is viewed by the judge when making decisions on your divorce case.
3. I Haven’t Worked So My Spouse Will Have to Pay Me Maintenance
This is a myth that helps stay-at-home parents feel secure in giving up their careers or, simply never building a career. The award of spousal maintenance is not an exact formula, and one should not believe that payment of maintenance will automatically be ordered by the judge. If you are a stay-at-home parent with marketable skills, a judge is less likely to order spousal maintenance. A Missouri judge will expect you to return to work and try to support yourself.
The history of your marriage is important for the judge in making a maintenance determination. If you have a long-term marriage, been a stay-at-home parent, and out of the workforce for many years, then a judge will most likely award spousal maintenance. However, if awarded, you should not view that maintenance sum as lifelong. Instead, understand that Missouri case law states that you need to take steps to become financially self-sufficient and not be reliant on the support. Long-term maintenance isn’t necessarily a thing of the past. However, you should not go into a divorce thinking your former spouse is going to spend years or, the rest of his/her life being financially responsible for you.
4. I Get to Keep the House
It has often been said that if you get custody of the children then you get to keep the marital home. With joint physical custody agreements becoming prominent, this statement is more of a myth. If both parents are receiving close to equal physical custody time, then there is no child argument to be made by a parent who wants to retain the marital home.
If only your name is on the deed, you shouldn’t assume that you will automatically get to keep the house. The judge will consider whether both spouses financially contributed toward the mortgage payments during the marriage. If they did, then the judge will ignore the title of the house and consider it marital property subject to division. If only your name is on the mortgage, you shouldn’t assume that you will automatically be awarded the house. It is an important consideration for the judge, but if part of your spouse’s income was used to pay the mortgage each month, then the house will be considered marital property and will be divided by the judge at divorce. This same logic can be applied to other assets that you and your spouse own in your individual names. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement or can prove that the house is your separate property by law, it will fall into the marital asset to be divided column.
5. I Will Get My Day in Divorce Court
It is much more likely that you will not get your day in court for the judge to hear everything bad about your spouse. If you are lucky, you will not have to step foot into the courthouse. Most divorce cases conclude by the attorneys reaching a negotiated settlement. When this happens, the settlement documents are submitted to the judge by affidavit and the judge signed the final judgment of dissolution of marriage without a need for an appearance in court.
6. Divorce Will Damage My Children
This is a common myth. The divorce process doesn’t damage children. If you and your spouse put your children first during the divorce process and after, then you are ensuring that there is little to no damage to your children. Most children adjust to their parents no longer being married and get used to the new custody schedule. Many of those children may be relieved to no longer be in the former marital home with all of the stress. What children cannot adjust to and what causes the actual damage to them are high conflict parents who cannot put their emotions aside for their children’s best interests and become angry, high conflict parents. Instead of being angry, parents should help their children feel as secure after the divorce as they did before the divorce. Children want stability and security. If you and your soon-to-be former spouse work together to meet that need for your children, then the divorce will not damage your children.
Should you need the advice of an experienced divorce and child custody attorney or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those issues with you.