As a family law lawyer in Massachusetts, one of my biggest jobs is explaining the legal process to clients. This may sound easy, but with so many myths, misconceptions and piles of misinformation out there, it's actually quite hard to separate people's expectations from reality. This is particularly true of the legal divorce process, I've found. We're used to seeing divorce in the media as either a grand emotional battle or something that involves just "signing the papers" and it's over. In real life, divorce is none of those things.
Myth #1 - The Reason Matters
The first myth discussed is the reason for the divorce. Too many clients are under the impression that if they caught their husband cheating or lying or doing something else unsavory, that it creates a great deal of leverage in the divorce. The idea, perpetuated by movies and TV shows, is that a potentially embarrassing situation allows the other party to run the show. Not true. The reality is that the majority of divorces are done on a no-fault basis. This means it doesn't matter who is responsible for the divorce, both parties simply agree to end things. As a result, the husband cheating with your friend won't really matter and certainly will not result in your walking away with all of the marital assets.
Myth #2 - Simply Signing a Paper
Another myth that Hollywood helps to perpetuate is that divorce is over when a person simply signs some piece of paper. The reality is that there is no one simple piece of paper required to end a marriage. Instead, there are many different documents that are filed with the court, including pleadings, financial statements, and other documents required to finalize a divorce. What's more, these papers must be prepared, signed, and filed in a certain way, and at least one party and usually both of them must attend the final court hearing. Divorce is a time consuming process and, unfortunately, cannot be wrapped up with the stroke of a pen.
Myth #3 - Not Always 50/50
Finally, many couples are under the mistaken impression that divorce involves the equal division of assets. Though it is true that in Massachusetts judges divide the marital assets by a process known as equitable division, that does not mean everything truly gets split 50/50. Instead, the division is often much more complicated than splitting each asset in half. Rather than each party dividing the exact value of every bank account, what usually happens is one person will walk away with the house, for example, while the other gets more or all of the retirement accounts. Purely for convenience sake, it makes no sense to divide literally every asset, it would simply take too long and create too many other problems. Instead, judges aim at having the net marital estate equitably divided between the parties.
Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a free one hour no obligation consultation.