People going through divorce get advice from a surprising number of sources–therapists, brothers-in-law, manicurists, best friends, next door neighbor’s cousins–and the value of that advice is, shall we say, variable, at best.
Here are a few misconceptions about divorce that we hear from clients over and over again:
1. Myth: If I move out of the house, I’ll be guilty of desertion (or abandonment).
Reality: Missouri law provides for people to obtain a divorce (here we call it “dissolution of marriage”) on a “no-fault” basis. That means that you don’t have to prove that your spouse is committing adultery, abusing you, or doing any other evil deed as a “ground” for divorce. Prior to 1973, you had to prove “fault,” which could include abandonment or desertion. Not anymore. There may be good reasons not to move out, but being branded a wrongdoer is not one of them. You should consult with an attorney before making any decision about moving.
2. Myth: Since my spouse is the one who wants the divorce, he’ll have to pay my attorney’s fees.
Reality: Although judges have the power to order divorcing people to pay their ex-spouse’s attorney’s fees, they are not prone to making generous awards and often will not award attorney’s fees at all. Judges often look at the incomes of the husband and wife and apportion the fees between them but there is no reliable way of predicting how it will come out.
3. Myth: My husband has been having an affair so the judge is going to penalize him by having him pay more alimony and giving me more of the property.
Reality: Most judges pay relatively little attention to extramarital relationships, particularly when they occurred just before separation. If the affair started after separation, your judge will likely be stifling a yawn. Your spouse’s conduct may be important if it affects the welfare of your children however, so it is best to consult an attorney to determine if the conduct will be an important issue in your divorce.
4. Myth: I’ll get even with my spouse by telling my story to a judge.
Reality: Most cases settle short of trial. There are lots of good reasons for this, not the least of which are the extremely high cost of trial and the unpredictability of the outcome. As sad as your story may be, don’t forget that your spouse is going to have the same opportunity to ask for the judge’s sympathy that you are. And judges have heard every sad story before. Judges have a very limited time to hear from both of you and they aren’t interested in anyone’s desire to punish their spouse. When you settle your case you maintain control both over the terms of the settlement and over the way in which the agreement is written, something you lose when a judge is in charge.
Links: Part 1