Divorce is unfamiliar territory for everyone. When you're first involved in this process, you feel adrift in a world that is turned upside down. You're vulnerable and you need help. When we're suffering from these circumstances in our lives, family, close friends, and business associates freely offer their advice. Their advice may be well intended, but in some circumstances can be quite harmful.
The following are some examples of bad divorce advice that friends, relatives, and sometimes even lawyers may give to you:
- "Normal visitation/timesharing for a non-custodial parent is every other weekend and one evening per week." Says who?! There is no law in any state that says a non- custodial parent's visitation is limited to every other weekend and one evening per week. Yes, this is the schedule that many people utilize, but a schedule that works for one family may be disastrous for another. Your parenting time should be based on what's best for your children and your life and not on some "normal" visitation/timesharing schedule.
- You need to stay together for the kids. Seriously, holding children hostage for years to their parents' miserable, contentious marriage will inflict more harm to young hearts and minds than if the spouses had divorced sooner rather than later. Of course, you consider thoughtfully and carefully about whether divorce is the best alternative for you and for your children. But do not use the children as an excuse to remain in an otherwise miserable relationship.
- The average divorce takes 6 to 12 months. Divorce statistics are extremely difficult to obtain. In fact, the length of the divorce is irrelevant. When you're going through a divorce, do you really care how long the "average" divorce takes? What's important is what you are doing to make sure that your divorce proceeds efficiently and expeditiously.
- Retirement plans usually are divided equally. This is another overgeneralization. Retirement plans are simply one asset in your marital estate. How retirement plans ultimately are divided in any case depends upon all the facts and circumstances of that case.
- If you don't hire an aggressive lawyer to protect you in your divorce, you'll end up with little or nothing. This statement is a trial attorney's marketing dream. But is it really true? The answer is that it is sometimes true and sometimes it is not true. If your spouse purposefully is hiding assets, threatening you with physical abuse, or refusing to cooperate in a divorce, then you may need an aggressive lawyer to protect you. On the other hand, many lower-key, calmer attorneys can represent you just as effectively and sometimes even more effectively than an overaggressive lawyer.
- A do it-yourself (DIY) divorce saves money. Another divorce myth is that the only way to save money in a divorce is a "do it-yourself divorce". Your friends may say to you: "If everything you need to know about your divorce is free online, then why hire a lawyer?" Some people may save money in that they did not have to pay attorney's fees. But mistakes are going to be made in a DIY divorce. Those mistakes can be costly to fix later and require attorney assistance. Tragically, some DIY mistakes cannot be corrected. By analogy, I am not a building contractor. Consequently, if I try to build my home myself, I'm inevitably going to make mistakes no matter how much information is online. In addition, general information made available to the general public can only help so much. One size does not fit all divorce facts and circumstances. So online information does serve a purpose. However, relying only on general information can be dangerous to your future.
- Joint parental rights/decision-making is only in the child's best interest if the parents get along. This statement is partially true. Joint custody does require parents to be able to work together for the benefit of their children. But a divorcing couple does not have to get along famously and agree on all issues in order to make joint decision-making work. They just have to be able to communicate with each other and agree on what is relevant to their children.
- "You should report the abuse (or neglect) to the Department of Children and Families (DCF)". A parent should never call DCF regarding another parent. As soon as the protective investigator from DCF learns that you are involved in a contested divorce case, they will become immediately suspicious of the validity of the allegation. Doing so may cause them not to carefully evaluate legitimate concerns. Also it may cause them to side against you with the other parent. Your complaint then would end up with a negative report from DCF that is negative towards you. Instead, if you are concerned about abuse and neglect, take your child to a mandated reporter such as your child's doctor or therapist. Let the professional evaluate and interview your child alone and make a report (if necessary) without your involvement.
- "He is so nasty so just stop responding to any of his emails." Refusal to communicate will not be seen as a positive by any judge. That is true even if the other parent is unreasonable. You are expected to communicate and put your child's needs before your desires. Non‑communication will likely be used against you to prove that you cannot or will not co‑parent appropriately. Instead, send brief weekly emails and answer only once a week unless it is urgent. Alternatively, you can communicate through a web-based parent communication website such as www.ourfamilywizard.com".
So how do you know good divorce advice and bad divorce advice? Sadly, there's no great answer to that question. It is very difficult to be able to differentiate fact from fiction when your world is falling apart and your head is spinning. Hopefully, the above examples of bad divorce advice will help you know terrible advice when you hear it.
Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney Charles D. Jamieson understands that divorce is an extremely sensitive and important issue. Thanks to extensive experience and a focus on open communication, Attorney Jamieson adeptly addresses the complex issues surrounding divorce while delivering excellent personal service. To discuss your pending or anticipated divorce, then pleasecontact The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. or call 561-478-0312 to schedule a consultation.