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Family law can be a minefield and most people turn to the Internet before even speaking to friends, for answers to their questions and worries. The problem is, there are quite a few misconceptions out there; so, here’s the actual truth on 5 of the most common myths….
#1 – The Common Law Spouse
Unmarried couples in England are living together more so now than ever; and many consider themselves “common law spouses”. The reality is that there is no such thing as a common law spouse under English law and there hasn’t been since the 1700’s!
Unmarried partners do not automatically have the same rights as married couples, to expect financial support from their partner after a separation. People often say that if they had known the pros and cons of staying unmarried whilst living together long-term, they might have made planned differently for their future.
All I say, is make sure you’re aware of your rights and the options available to you, so that you can make the right decision for yourself.
#2 – The quickie divorce
You’d be forgiven for believing the myth that a quickie divorce is even possible. It seems that newspaper reports of celebrity divorces have led to the misunderstanding that if you pay more, you can speed up your divorce. This is just not true.
In England, the process of divorce has a specific structure and timeline, which must be followed and you cannot pay to avoid it. Typically, a divorce will take between 3-6 months, depending upon how amicable the parties are, and how long it takes the court to process each application. After the Court pronounces the Decree Nisi order, there is a mandatory 6 weeks and 1-day cooling-off period before Decree Absolute can be applied for, and only then is the divorce final.
#3 – Children automatically live with the mother
I have lost count of the number of times someone has said this to me; and once again, it is just simply not true. It is the more common arrangement, but each family is different and arrangements are decided based on what is in the children’s best interests. So, if the father has the flexibility to be the main carer for the children daily, then it is a very real and possible outcome.
There is no standard time that children should spend with their parents, each case would be decided on what works in the particular circumstances. The aim should be, to encourage a positive and stable relationship with both parents.
#4 – The blame affects the financial claim
It is common for one person to accept the blame for the breakdown of a relationship; maybe for adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Many think that this should affect the outcome of the financial settlement but that is only true in very extreme cases. Usually, the reason for the breakdown of the marriage is totally unrelated to the finances and so it would not be considered in deciding how to share the finances; it will instead be decided on what each person “needs”.
#5 – Prenuptial Agreements; all or nothing
This one goes both ways. Some people believe pre-nuptial agreements are completely binding, and others think they hold no weight at all; neither of which are strictly true. The truth lies somewhere in between. The Court’s decision about whether to uphold a pre-nuptial agreement will depend upon how the parties entered into the agreement and whether the outcome is fair in their current circumstances amongst many other things. It is more likely that a pre-nuptial agreement will be followed now, but it is by no means a certainty.