5 min read
We Set the Record Straight on 10 Family Law Misconceptions
Getting divorced can be a hard and emotional process, but there are further complications to worry about when it comes to unraveling the ins and outs of New Jersey family law. From misunderstandings surrounding the division of assets to misconceptions around alimony requirements, navigating the complexities of legal proceedings can be especially challenging when you’re going through marital dissolution.
It’s crucial for couples going through a divorce to thoroughly explore their options in accordance with NJ state laws. This allows them to be fully equipped to navigate each step of the process with confidence and knowledge. It’s important to dispel any common misconceptions or myths related to New Jersey family law. We’ll delve into key areas where misunderstandings tend to arise during divorce proceedings.
MISCONCEPTION #1: The spouse who cheated automatically gets their parenting time reduced.
In New Jersey, judges take a neutral stance when it comes to divorce. In fact, infidelity isn’t held against either parent regarding custody decisions. This means the court won’t consider cheating by one spouse as part of their decision-making process.
MISCONCEPTION #2: You can deny visitation rights for missing child support payments.
The responsibility of providing for one’s children and the opportunity to spend quality time with them are distinct and separate concepts. Failing to make child support payments doesn’t mean custodial parents can’t enjoy visitation, as courts generally don’t associate these issues in their rulings. So, it isn’t legal for a spouse to deny visitation because of a missed child support check.
MISCONCEPTION #3: Fathers have no rights when it comes to child custody.
Fathers in New Jersey not only have the same legal rights to their children that mothers do, but they can also receive special consideration from courts when it comes to custody disputes. For a child’s best interests to be maintained during custody proceedings, fathers are granted certain protections by law as well, even if they aren’t married to the mother of their child.
MISCONCEPTION #4: The mother is always awarded primary custody of the children.
In New Jersey, parents who are fit to raise a child have equal rights when it comes to custody battles. Still, one factor that may give an edge in deciding the outcome goes back centuries: the Tender Years Doctrine. This concept suggests that for younger kids, traditionally defined as those under 7 years old, having their mother be granted primary physical care is in their best interest. While this idea isn’t binding on courts today, age and parental fitness remain important considerations any judge must consider thoughtfully before deciding about legal custody.
MISCONCEPTION #5: You’ll be divorced soon after filing.
This depends on what your definition of “soon” is. A divorce being settled largely depends on the type and complexity of your case. For a no-fault divorce to be finalized, parties must have been separated for 18 months beforehand. If you’re filing fault-based papers, then that requirement is eliminated.
Depending on how quickly your spouse responds, as well court backlogs, an uncontested NJ divorce might take under six months if there are few issues involved such as property division or custody arrangements. However, more complex cases could stretch out beyond 14 months before being settled by agreement or court order.
MISCONCEPTION #6: Going to court is the only way you can get divorced.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can provide a smoother path to the end of your marriage than traditional litigation. With ADR, both spouses must agree on most issues, but it eliminates much of the paperwork and costs associated with taking your case before a judge in court. With so many possible paths toward dissolving a marriage in lieu of traditional litigation, having the guidance of a family law attorney can help ensure that you and your spouse find the best solution tailored specifically to your situation.
MISCONCEPTION #7: You’re automatically entitled to a divorce if your spouse cheated.
This misconception may actually be true. In New Jersey, adultery is the only grounds for divorce that has no waiting period before you file. However, you’ll need to prove your spouse cheated for this process to move faster. And, even if they did, it generally doesn’t negatively affect child custody or financial settlements.
MISCONCEPTION #8: The wife is always awarded alimony payments.
The simple answer to this is “false.” Alimony isn’t automatic in New Jersey. A spouse seeking alimony needs to prove they need financial support before a judge will order it.
MISCONCEPTION #9: Assets are always split 50/50 in a divorce.
In New Jersey, family courts take a considerate approach when it comes to the distribution of assets in divorce cases. Instead of the 50/50 split that’s often assumed by couples, what’s considered most “fair” takes precedence: This could mean everything from an even division or one spouse receiving more based on factors like length of marriage and economic situation. The court uses N.J.S.A 2A:34-23 as the guideline for making decisions about asset divisions, which are designed with fairness (rather than equality) at their heart.
MISCONCEPTION #10: Prenuptial agreements are binding and can’t be challenged.
Actually, the courts may reject a prenup if they find it unfair or unconscionable. This could include an agreement that creates an undue financial hardship, restricts child custody rights after divorce, or sets conditions on private behaviors such as appearance and sexual acts in the marriage.
Don’t Take Chances With What You Think You ‘Know’ About the Law
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to divorce. Unfortunately, if you are getting divorced or considering getting one, people will crawl out of the woodwork with all kinds of “legal” advice that has little basis in reality. That’s why it’s so important to contact an experienced family law attorney to help you with the specifics of your case.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we’ll fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.