Divorce Myths Debunked
Everyone knows the statistics, over 50% of marriages in America now end in divorce-but did you know that 73.654% of statistics are made up on the spot?? Unbelievable right? Somehow, it became commonly accepted that half of all marriages end in divorce. This quote permeates American culture and perspectives on divorce coloring thought process and opinion. While the various measures of divorce occurrence lead to distinct facts and figures, the numbers are no help. Knowing the math of the matter doesn’t make divorce any easier, but knowing the truth will.
With that in mind we have gathered up five of the most commonly held beliefs about divorce-the fact and the fiction-to bring you all the knowledge we can as you enter what is considered to be one of the most stressful experiences of life.
Myth #1: The US’s divorce rate is the highest in the world
There are literally dozens of methods to calculate the national divorce rate, all of which give slightly different indications for the occurrence of divorce in America and how that plays into the global sphere. No matter what source you check, the United States does not have the highest divorce rate.
According to Guinness World Records, that title is held by the island nation the Republic of Maldives. Maldives, a series of 26 atolls located in the Indian Ocean, boasts fewer than 11 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants each year, almost three times the number in the United States which clocks in with 4.34. Whether or not this is cause for celebration is up for debate. The US still ranks 3rd overall with Belarus taking the 2nd spot according to Guinness.
The United Nations published a study in their Demographic Yearbook listing the top 10 countries with the highest incidence of divorce. On their list, Russia took the top slot with Belarus again taking 2nd place and the Ukraine rounding out the top three. The US made the list but not the top five, coming in at #6. Again, not necessarily a cause for celebration, but this widespread belief is in fact FALSE.
Myth #2: Short marriages can avoid divorce by opting for annulment
Annulment is a bit of a buzzword that is often incorrectly understood as a synonym for divorce. Television writers often use annulment as an escape for a fictional character’s zany late night Vegas wedding so that everything can go back to normal in the next episode. Like most things as seen on TV, annulment is not that simple. The length of time a couple has been married actually holds no bearing on their eligibility for annulment. Annulments are only granted under very specific circumstances when it can be proven that a marriage is void or that one spouse misled the other about a material fact prior to marriage. So what makes a marriage void? If for example one spouse is currently already married to a different person, the marriage is void and can be annulled. The same is true if spouses find out they are closely related. Material facts qualifying for annulment include things like one spouse not being the physical gender he or she claimed to be at the time of marriage. A couple who has only been married a short time will require divorce unless they can prove one of the previously mentioned criteria and a couple married for decades may qualify for annulment if they find any of the above to be true. Ultimately, time is not a factor for divorce and this myth is FALSE.
Myth #3: All ex-wives are entitled to alimony
This is a big complex myth so let’s break it down. For readers who do not know, alimony is money (either a lump sum or payments over time) obligated from one former spouse to the other agreed on at the time of divorce. The intent of alimony is to provide either partner continued access to the lifestyle he or she became accustom to during the period of marriage. The widespread belief that all ex-wives are entitled to and will receive alimony comes from two notions. First, the antiquated idea that men are sole breadwinners and women are financially dependent on their husbands and second that all marriages result in alimony payments.
The truth is most women do not receive alimony. Whether or not a woman worked during marriage, her entitlement to alimony is based on her skill set and physical ability to earn a living. Vocational experts are often brought in to determine what a woman’s potential salary could be based on age, education, experience, etc. and alimony allocations are made from these findings. Regardless of such investigation and findings, not all divorces end in alimony settlements. Length is a major determining factor. The shorter the term of marriage, the less likely it is that either spouse became financially dependent on the other and therefore is entitled to alimony. Financial dependence can be tough to prove and this myth is FALSE.
Myth #4: Engagement rings belong to the bride
Division of assets, or the splitting up of shared property, is a major aspect of divorce proceedings. The incredibly difficult process of distribution includes everything acquired during marriage. Houses, rental property, retirement and pension plans, stocks, art, and everything else is assigned value and split between divorcing parties. A note here that split does not mean 50%. After covering the big stuff smaller items of value are addressed like jewelry. Most gifts between spouses are considered marital property and therefore are split during divorce with the exception of engagement and wedding bands (or other engagement/wedding presents between engaged individuals). Because these are technically exchanged prior to marriage and therefore prior to the legal joining of assets, the recipient is considered the sole owner. Courts have continually ruled that engagement rings belong to the bride making this myth TRUE.
Myth #5: Mothers always get custody of the children
This one seems to come from a common belief that the mother should get custody of the children but legally that’s not the case. Regardless of whether or not the mother is the primary caregiver during the marriage both parents are legally entitled to equal time. There are of course caveats to this including creating an environment where the child can be successful and not having to go from one house to another every other day. The best interest of the child extends to safety and well-being. If a mother does not meet a state’s standards and regulations to be deemed a “fit parent” she will not be given primary custody of a child. Should both parents be considered fit to raise children they typically share custody. Societal prejudice aside, this myth is FALSE.
There you have it- 5 divorce delusions debunked. Hopefully this list has helped clarify some of the many misconceptions about divorce racing through your head. While your family and friends may have lots of opinions, ideas and beliefs about divorce-editorial or practical-the truth is divorce is a legal matter. While we can’t answer all your questions in a few short paragraphs, our team is here to protect your interests and assist with the difficult process.
If divorce is on your mind, give us a call at 856-227-7888 and take the legal steps you need to make the best of the situation. We offer free consultations to discuss your legal options.