As the holiday season wraps us in twinkling lights and the scent of freshly baked cookies, it’s a time when joy and merriment fill the air. But amidst the festive cheer, there’s a topic that often lurks in the shadows, waiting to be unwrapped: divorce. Let’s take a moment to debunk our final set of divorce myths that may be dancing in your head with the sugarplums. ‘Tis the season to be jolly…. and informed!
In Parts 1 and 2, I discussed the following:
- Myth #1: I will be at an advantage if I initiate divorce instead of my spouse.
- Myth #2: If I leave the home, then I may be viewed as having abandoned my interest in it.
- Myth #3: Legal separation is a good option if I’m not ready for divorce.
- Myth #4: Alimony is automatically awarded in certain divorce cases.
- Myth #5: The Courts favor mothers over fathers (or vice versa), on the issue of custody.
- Myth #6: If my spouse and I mostly agree on how we want to divide everything, our divorce should be quick.
Moving on to tackle a few more….
Myth #7: My spouse cheated on me. This entitles me to more property and/or alimony.
While a partner’s infidelity will certainly feel hurtful, it does not affect your legal rights and obligations in divorce per se. Minnesota is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that neither party needs to prove fault or blame to obtain a divorce. In fact, such circumstances will generally be completely irrelevant to the case.
Myth #8: Property is always split 50/50 in a divorce.
Sure, sometimes property will be split 50/50 in a divorce. But the reality is that it often is not. Minnesota follows the principle of fair and equitable distribution, which is not the same as equal distribution. Think of equitable distribution as a division that is not dependent on a mathematical formula, whereas equal distribution is. In life, very few things are exacting, mathematical, and “black and white.” The same is true of property division in divorce. A fair and equitable division does not depend on an exact 50/50 split. Factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial situation, the time and cost required to divide various accounts, and contributions to the marriage are considered.
Myth #9: You can only get divorced if both spouses agree.
While an uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on all issues, is often less complicated, it’s not the only option. In Minnesota, only one party needs to want the divorce for the divorce proceeding to take place. More specifically, if one spouse believes the marriage is irretrievably broken, they can seek a divorce even if the other spouse disagrees. This should make intuitive sense –the state is not in the business of forcing anyone to stay married!
Myth #10: Alimony and child support orders are not modifiable.
Subject to a major exception in the case of alimony (called a Karon waiver), spousal maintenance and child support orders can be changed. Life circumstances can change, and so can court orders. For example, if there’s a substantial change in circumstances, such as a job loss or a significant change in income, you may be able to seek a modification of spousal support or child support through the court. However, there are specific legal procedures to be followed and burdens of proof to be met for modifications. There is a body of case law governing this topic (especially regarding alimony) in addition to the relevant Minnesota Statutes. Therefore, it would be wise to consider hiring counsel if you are considering seeking a modification.
With those 10 divorce myths busted, here’s to shedding them like a worn-out holiday sweater. I wish you a season filled with joy, authentic connections, and a fresh perspective as we step into the coming year! If you are considering divorce or have another family law matter to discuss, please visit www.streitlaw.net or call 651-294-6157 or 651-237-3646 for a free consultation or to retain Angela.