Seven Myths about Family Law That Might Surprise You


When it comes down to it, you really shouldn’t believe everything you hear.  Truth be told, there are a number of myths about family law that might surprise you.  For example, what you think you know about divorce or child custody, may be entirely false.  Reality can be a huge eye-opener.

All things considered, the end of a marriage can be as devastating as death itself.  It’s no wonder that you might take an emotional approach to your decision. Or, for that matter, one that your spouse wants to make for you. And, even if you weren’t married, and had children together, things can get ugly.

Meanwhile, you may find yourself getting upset over what may actually be non-issues.  Life might seem a bit simpler once you have a clearer understanding of common fallacies regarding various family law issues.

Myth One: Legal Separation

There is no such thing as legal separation in New Jersey as mandated by a judge.  That said, you and your spouse could consult with an attorney to draft a separation agreement.  In many cases, this requires you to compromise and negotiate terms.   You may hear separation agreements referred to as Marital Settlement Agreements (MSAs) or Property Agreements.   Be careful not to confuse the process of separating households as meaning legal separation.

Myth Two: At-Fault Divorces

You are a domestic violence victim, and your reasons for divorce are clear.  In fact, you’re certain that the judge will punish your former spouse for his or her behavior.  According to NJSA 2A: 34-2, there are a number of causes that can be cited as a reason for divorce.  Without question, extreme cruelty is one of them.  Nevertheless, misconduct of any type does not translate to punitive financial damages.  Of course, the court will act to determine if you need some sort of protective order.  However, the rules regarding spousal support, child support, parenting time, and equitable distribution will not change because you claim you have been wronged.

Myth Three: Divorce Waiting Periods

You’re not looking to be adversarial with your soon to be ex.  Someone told you that you need to be separated for eighteen months before you can file for a no-fault divorce.  While it’s true that you can still file for divorce on that basis, you have other options.  For example, you could certify that the two of you experienced irreconcilable differences that lasted longer than six months.

Myth Four: Both Spouses Need to Agree to a Divorce

Just about everyone has heard someone complain that they can’t get a divorce.  In fact, there seems to be a misconception regarding consent.  Maybe you’re concerned that your husband or wife wants to hold onto you.   Or, that there is an issue with a divorce going against your spouse’s religious convictions.  However, you do not need permission to end your marriage.  It’s your legal right to do so.  Meanwhile, the process is always easier when you both work through your issues and attempt to come to terms regarding your children and assets.

Myth Five: Custody is General Specific

It’s a common misconception to assume that the courts will unilaterally grant custody to the mother.  That’s not to say this wasn’t common practice in prior years.  If nothing else, consider the children of same-sex couples.  How would the courts make a determination based on the basis of gender-specific custody?  The bottom line is that both custody and parenting time are evaluated based on the best interests of the children.  These days, the courts are more focused on providing children with equal access to both parents as often as feasible.

Myth Six:  Misinformation about Alimony Payments

There’s a ton of misinformation about alimony payments.  For one, you may think that spousal support is only available to those married at least ten years.  Not true.  Additionally, a number of factors go into the computation of alimony.  For example, New Jersey law states that for marriages or civil unions less than 20 years in duration, it would take exceptional circumstances for alimony payments to span more than the number of year of marriage.

Myth Seven: Child Support and Visitation

Once again, it’s a fairly regular and wrong assumption among parents.  Generally, it plays out in two different scenarios.   One is that a parent doesn’t plan on asking for child support to deny visitation.  The other?   The custodial parent decides to withhold parenting time based on non-receipt of support payments.   Once again, this is something New Jersey courts frown upon.  Denying visitation because you are fearful that your child is in danger is one thing.  It’s something for the courts to address.  However, withholding parenting time rarely translates to the best interests of your child.

Contact Us

Family law is one of the most emotional areas of the law. Attorney Sam Stoia provides experience, understanding, and negotiation skills to his clients.   If you have concerns about divorce or issues with custody/parenting time, Sam will set up an initial consultation at no cost.  Call to schedule an appointment!