There are myths about divorce that I hear repeated often. Sometimes misconceptions arise even from my own clients early on in their work with me. But it is important to steer clear of false assumptions! At best, they are a distraction. At worst, they greatly decrease your ability to make sound, well-informed decisions about your case. If you think you are immune, take a look at Wikipedia’s page on common misconceptions. I was shocked to see how many I believed (…until about five minutes ago). Yikes. Thankfully I know more about Minnesota divorces than pop culture and who invented peanut butter. Let me break down a few divorce myths.
Myth #1: I will be at an advantage if I initiate divorce instead of my spouse.
Nope. No one cares who started it. And—guess what—Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state. So rarely is a spouse’s wrongdoing relevant in divorce proceedings. * The only noteworthy advantage of being the party who starts the divorce (i.e., the petitioner) comes into play if the parties reside in different counties (or in different states). In that case, the petitioner can file the divorce in the district court of the county where either spouse lives. That is, the petitioner will choose the court that the divorce is “venued” in. Venue can sometimes be impactful, as various fees, the availability of motion hearing dates, the availability of court-run alternative dispute resolution programs, and even judicial views on alimony and other issues can vary from county to county. Also, it might simply be inconvenient for one party or the other have to travel to the county where the divorce is venued (though his concern is mitigated by the broad use of remote court proceedings through, e.g., Zoom).
*Exceptions include wrongdoing that: (1) affects the best interests of the children, and/or (2) rises to the level of dissipation of marital assets in anticipation of divorce.
Myth #2: If I leave the marital home, then I may be viewed as having abandoned my interest in it.
False. The court may award the family home to the spouse living in it at the time, should the issue need to be decided by the court. However, if the home is 100% marital property, then the spouse who moved out will typically be awarded enough marital assets (or cash equalizer) to result in each party receiving an equitable share of the equity in the home. E.g., if Spouse #1 is awarded the marital home which has $100,000 in marital equity (equity held by two spouses together), then Spouse #2 may be awarded $100,000 in other marital assets so that the parties end up in similar/the same position.
Myth #3: Legal separation is a good option if I’m not ready for divorce.
In fact, legal separation is rare. And that is for good reason. The process is so similar to divorce, that it will cost more or less the same as a divorce, and it will take just as long too. Procedurally, and legal separation are very similar. They both require parties to file legal paperwork, deal with all the same issues in a divorce, and ask a judge for an order of legal separation/divorce. So, what is the point of a legal separation at all? Typically, a party opting for legal separation is driven by religious or moral beliefs, or to derive a financial benefit that would not be available in divorce (for example, to maintain employer-provided health insurance in some situations).
Stay tuned for further posts debunking other misconceptions in the weeks to come. The takeaway for now is that you need to be aware of your blind spots! If you are considering divorce, get a free consult with an experienced family law attorney—better yet, consult with several. And include Streit Law on your list. Please visit www.streitlaw.net or call 651-294-6157 or 651-237-3646 for a free consultation or to retain Angela.