If you are initiating a New Jersey divorce, you need to make informed decisions based on accurate information. Unfortunately, the myths and misconceptions surrounding the divorce process run rampant. People are quick to jump down a Google “rabbit hole”, work themselves up into a frenzy and make hasty knee jerk decisions based on their “research”. This is why we recommend waiting until you have consulted with a divorce attorney—not a search engine—before making any big decisions. They can provide you with the right information you need to choose your next move wisely.
That said, there are some common myths about getting divorced in New Jersey that we see constantly circulated. These are the top 5:
- Assets are split 50/50 in a divorce. Not in New Jersey. Not in most states, actually. Equitable distribution considers the needs of each party and the facts of each case. The goal is to divvy up property in a way that is the mostly fair – but that almost never means entirely equal. As a legal theory, equitable distribution recognizes that some factors can make ownership of property inherently unequal. Judges will weigh a host of factors, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of both parties, the income/property brought into the marriage by each, the education and employability of both parties, any written agreements (prenuptial agreements) between the two, etc.
- The wife always gets primary custody of the kids. Historically, this was truer than not. However, that’s no longer a reality today. Whatever decision the court decides when it comes to custody or parenting time MUST reflect the best interests of the child(ren) involved. That doesn’t always mean a 50/50 split of time, but both parents are presumed to have an equal right to custody or parenting time unless proven otherwise.
- We can’t agree on anything, so we have to go to court. Divorce litigation can be expensive, intensive, and often extensive. It is true that the more things you and your soon-to-be-ex can agree on, the less likely you’ll have a bitter court battle ahead. But there are alternatives to litigation. Mediation, for instance, can be highly effective for a lot of couples – even those with a lot of disagreements.
- The wife always gets alimony. Firstly, no one is guaranteed alimony in a New Jersey divorce. Beyond that, not all alimony favors the wife. There is a list of factors judges will consider when weighing alimony, but gender isn’t on that list. Primarily, it will come down to both parties’ respective incomes, how long they’ve been married and the standard of living established during the marriage. As women increasingly step into the role as primary wage earner, more men are being awarded alimony.
- I need to give the court a good reason to get divorced. It’s true that up until 2007, couples divorcing in New Jersey had to assert specific grounds for divorce. These included reasons like desertion, addiction, adultery, institutionalization, imprisonment and extreme cruelty. Those grounds still exist, but the vast majority of those divorcing here now assert no-fault desert under the umbrella “irreconcilable differences.”
So, instead of going on a rogue divorce debunking mission in cyberspace that will waste both time and sanity—take a deep breath—and call an attorney instead.