Divorce: Fact versus Fiction

Divorce: Fact versus FictionMany people may delay their divorce, avoid bringing up the topic, or – worse – settle for way less than they’re entitled to, simply because they don’t have the right information. Before you make any big decisions or rush into anything, ensure you separate myth from truth and fact from fiction. The best way to move forward during any significant life change is to do so feeling informed and confident.

Today’s blog focuses on some common truths and myths about divorce, including issues around alimony, child custody, and asset division.

FICTION: My spouse gets half of everything.

FACT: Tennessee is not a community property state.

Although a few states in the country are community property (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, specifically), Tennessee uses the theory of equitable distribution during asset division. This means that, if you and your spouse can’t come to agreement on dividing your stuff on your own, the courts will do so in an equitable fashion. Equitable doesn’t mean 50/50; it just means fairly.

They’ll determine this division using factors like how long you’ve been married, your ages and health, how you acquired the assets and debt, both of your current finances, and other types of things.

FICTION: We have to go to court to get divorced.

FACT: Most divorces can be resolved without a trial.

If you and your spouse have resolved all your divorce-related matters successfully, an attorney can help you file an agreed divorce. Even if you’re having trouble settling some disputes, you can turn to alternative measures like mediation to help come to mutual agreement in a private setting outside the courtroom. Your Maryville divorce attorney can advise you on the variety of choices available to you. Many couples choose to settle their divorce matters outside of court, in the interest of remaining both private and collaborative.

FICTION: Judges choose mothers in custody disputes.

FACT: Custody decisions are made in the best interests of the child.

Although in the past, some judges tended to favor mothers over fathers in custody matters, this is no longer the case. Tennessee courts make child custody decisions based solely on the best interests of the child, regardless of the parent’s gender. When parents can’t come to agreement on custody decisions, the court does its best to help the child keep a close relationship with both parents (unless it’s unsafe to do so).

Factors the court typically uses when determining child custody include existing family relationships, mental and physical health of each parent, ability to meet the child’s needs, preferences of the child (age 12 and up), financial circumstances, and other relevant matters.

FICTION: My credit score will tank if I get divorced.

FACT: Divorce proceedings don’t affect your credit.

The simple act of getting divorced won’t affect your credit, according to Experian. Your marital status has nothing to do with your credit score. However, your actions during and after your divorce can negatively affect your credit, though, so you do need to be careful.

Many married couples have joint accounts and lines of credit. These can be open in both of your names, or if you’re each an authorized user on each other’s accounts. This means that, until you close and/or separate those accounts, you are both equally responsible for that debt. Our attorneys can provide guidance on safely separating your finances as you plan for your divorce.

FICTION: Only women get alimony.

FACT: Courts award alimony based on need and income.

Alimony is determined based on a number of factors, and gender isn’t one of them. Courts assign alimony to a spouse according to their financial need; generally to maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage. Further, alimony isn’t guaranteed for either spouse. Some of the factors the court uses to decide who receives or pays alimony include the age of each spouse, the length of the marriage, your combined assets and debts, each spouse’s potential earning capacity, and contributions to the marriage.

FICTION: We’ve been married too long to get divorced now.

FACT: It’s never too late to start over.

Divorce after 50, also called “gray divorce,” is on the rise. With people living longer, changes in attitudes toward divorce, and an increase in couples with independent incomes, more people are realizing that divorce is a viable option. An article in Psychology Today notes:

People ages 50 and older who initiate a divorce report they want something more and different. Many of them grew up experiencing their parents’ divorce and divorces of their friends’ parents. They came of age in the late 1960s through the early 1980s when divorce became widespread and are more likely to have married as young adults, divorced, and later remarried. Some have lived for decades in marriages with conflict. Some have little or no interaction with their spouses…They hope that pleasure, contentment, and joy await them as they move into the next stage of their lives.

FICTION: We need to stay together for the kids.

FACT: Children do not necessarily suffer from a divorce.

In fact, your children may benefit from divorce, especially if your marriage has devolved into an unhealthy or hostile one. With a good support system and a strong, healthy co-parenting relationship, your children can both survive and thrive through a divorce.

If you have any concerns or questions about the divorce process, just ask the Maryville family law attorneys at Shepherd & Long, PC. We provide experienced guidance about all matters, including child custody, alimony, child support, and asset division. To schedule an appointment, call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out our contact form. We serve clients throughout East Tennessee and Blount County.