There are a lot of misconceptions out there about divorce -- and they can make people who are contemplating the end of their marriage uncertain and afraid. Most of the time, however, the things that you hear about divorce aren't exactly true. Instead, they're based on popular stereotypes, media representations, and misunderstandings of the law.
Here are some of the top things you should know about divorce (and probably don't):
1. Spousal support is not automatic -- and not gender-specific.
Sometimes men are afraid to get a divorce because they believe that their spousal support obligation will be long-lasting and overwhelming. In reality, spousal support is far from automatic for anyone. You're more likely to pay support if your marriage was fairly lengthy and your spouse stayed out of the workforce to benefit the family in some way (such as while raising the children).
In addition, spousal support can also be claimed by men. In modern relationships, it's no longer entirely unusual for a husband to stay home with the children while his wife pursues a well-paying professional career.
Spousal support is often awarded only temporarily, as a means to allow the disadvantaged spouse to get back on his or her feet, financially speaking -- and only when there is a significant disparity in a couple's resources and income.
2. Mothers don't always get custody of the children.
In fact, today's family court judges tend to prefer some form of shared parenting, where both parents have more-or-less equal time with the children. Neither gender is presumed to be better than the other at childcare.
An ideal custody arrangement is usually one that the couple works out for themselves. The courts usually prefer to let parents negotiate the terms they have to live with as much as possible -- only stepping in when there's an impasse.
3. You don't always lose half of everything you own.
Divorce does mean dividing up your assets between you and your spouse -- but some of those assets may be protected from division because they're really non-marital assets that only belong to one of you. Knowing what has to be split and what can be kept is important to a fair settlement.
In addition, how you split the assets is often subject to negotiation. If, for example, you want to keep your pension plan, you may trade that off against your share of the equity in your home -- so a fair split may look very different than you think.
If you've been hesitating about divorce because you've heard horror stories about what can happen, the smart thing to do is to consult a family law lawyer about the specifics of your case.