By Alan E. Freed of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C.
Here is part 2 of my review of common misconceptions about divorce that we hear from clients over and over again:
1. Myth: My friend (neighbor, cousin, child’s friend’s parent, etc.) got $5,000 a month in support so I should get the same.
Reality: Every case is different. Even if your friend has the same number of children as you and her husband works alongside yours in the same job, each family has unique characteristics that set it apart from all others. On top of that, the personalities of the spouses will differ, their attorneys will have different styles, the judge in your case is probably different from your friend’s, and you probably have no idea of what your friend’s property and debts consist, or what type of conduct the couple has engaged in. Your lawyer is the best person to advise you about the likely range of outcomes given your individual circumstances.
2. Myth: Everyone I know who is paying maintenance (alimony) to his ex-wife is only required to pay for a few years so I shouldn’t have to pay for more than a few years.
Reality: Although different judges in different Missouri courts have different ideas about how to order maintenance, Missouri law makes it clear that, if a court orders maintenance, it cannot limit the number of years absent acknowledge an anticipated guaranteed change of circumstances that will render the maintenance unnecessary. This could happen when a woman has left the workforce for a couple of years to raise an infant but has a high paying job waiting for her when she returns, or when a maintenance recipient is in the fourth year of medical school and will be earning a high income within a short time. In most cases, if there is a maintenance award, it will be open-ended and modifiable, meaning that if circumstances change, both the payer and the recipient have the right to ask a court to change the maintenance order in the future. Most people who have “limited term” maintenance, i.e., maintenance that lasts for a limited number of years, achieved that order through negotiation, which is one more reason that you should consider settling your case rather than letting a judge decide the outcome.
3. Myth: My husband and I agreed that I wouldn’t have to work so, since he wants the divorce, I have the right to stay home and take care of the kids.
Reality: Judges expect every able-bodied person to work, or at least to attempt to get a job. Whatever agreements you had with your spouse about not working get tossed out the window in a divorce. It’s probably a good idea to test the waters and see what kind of work you can find before a judge decides what you should be earning. Your attorney can also recommend experts who can determine the type of work for which you are best suited through various testing tools.
Links: Part 1