When you’re going through a divorce, it might feel like everyone you know wants to give you advice. Your friends and loved ones may mean well, but their stories don’t necessarily reflect the realities of the specific circumstances surrounding your divorce.
At JB, we know how important it is to lean on your circle and share what you’re going through—these conversations can be a big source of support. But they can also lead to misunderstandings, misconceptions, and straight-up myths being shared.
Let’s talk about five of the most common myths we hear about divorce and why they may not be accurate.
Myth #1: Assets are always split 50/50
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state (not a community property state). Under equitable distribution guidelines, marital assets not covered by prenuptial agreements are divided fairly—not necessarily equally—between both parties.
There isn’t a hard-and-fast formula for asset distribution during the divorce process, just as there is no single factor in determining child support and alimony. Instead, many factors are considered when talking about fair division, including:
- Each party’s financial situation and earning capacity
- Individual assets
- Each party’s contribution to marital assets and non-monetary assets (such as childcare)
- Length of the marriage
- Marital agreements, including prenuptial agreements
- Each person’s future needs and responsibilities
- The parties’ health and ages
Many clients are surprised to learn that behaviors like adultery or extreme cruelty don’t necessarily give one party the upper hand when it comes to divvying up assets. Such allegations must be proven before a judge of your case if litigated, and depending on the circumstances, may have an impact on a settlement arrangement.
However, remember that your grounds for divorce don’t always affect equitable distribution. An experienced family law attorney can provide insights into your specific situation.
Myth #2: Fighting it out in court is the only way to get divorced
TV shows and movies often make it seem like every divorce ends up in a bitter and acrimonious trial. This isn’t the case.
Many divorcing couples successfully avoid litigation by using an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process like mediation or arbitration.
Mediation can have a number of benefits, chief among them being the ability to personalize the divorce process and settlement. Rather than leaving it up to the court’s discretion, mediation focuses on communication and finding areas of compromise.
It’s also a myth that mediation only works for couples divorcing amicably and anticipating a harmonious process. As long as both parties are willing to communicate honestly and compromise, mediation can be a viable option.
Additionally, litigation doesn’t mean closing all doors for mediation with the other party. You can start with litigation and then switch to mediation if needed, or vice versa. New Jersey’s judicial system is designed to encourage resolution before trial, so there are often opportunities for mediation and settlement-focused discussions within the litigation process.
No matter what you choose, the right attorney matters
It’s worth noting that opting out of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) doesn’t mean you’ll have a hostile divorce. Even when both parties have differing perspectives and objectives, working with the right divorce lawyer can help resolve the issues at hand, provided both parties are committed to finding a solution.
Myth #3: Children can pick who they live with
Child custody is often one of the most difficult and may be one of the most contentious issues divorcing couples face. Regardless of the custody outcomes, generally, the goal of custody and parenting time arrangements is to ensure that children are supported and can maintain meaningful relationships with both parents. (Barring situations where extreme issues like mental illness, addiction, abuse, or safety are in question.)
But what happens when children, especially older children, have strong opinions about which parent they live with?
Most states allow judges to take children’s desires into account as long as the child is of sufficient age or maturity. However, New Jersey law does not specify what age is “sufficient,” nor does it give a standard for what constitutes an adequate level of maturity. The important thing here is to work closely with your attorney, who should have a clear understanding of your family dynamics and needs so they can help you navigate child custody concerns.
Myth #4: Divorce comes with a negative stigma
The idea of stigma is a complicated one. What feels stigmatizing can vary considerably between individuals and is often influenced by your cultural background, family dynamics, and personal values.
In reality, while there may be certain societal or cultural pressures and expectations surrounding marriage and divorce, these do not define your worth as a person, nor do they dictate your future happiness. In fact, choosing to leave a toxic or unhappy marriage can be seen as a courageous and empowering decision rather than something to be stigmatized.
Myth #5: You don’t need to hire a divorce attorney
We’ve saved one of the biggest myths for the last!
Working with a divorce attorney to end your marriage isn’t just about filing the paperwork. Having an attorney can be an advantage, and having the right one matters, too.
Of all the individuals in your support network who will be helping you through your divorce, your attorney has the unique role of being fully focused on helping you make informed decisions to protect your legal rights, both short- and long-term. They can also help you access resources, figure out your plans, and provide insight into how decisions will impact future you.
Let our experienced team de-stress your New Jersey divorce
The family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger have extensive experience helping clients manage their divorces and set a course for the future they want.
We aim to de-stress the divorce process while helping you meet the goals you have for your new life. Contact us to schedule your strategy session with our team.