Divorce is a difficult process, and it has become more complicated due to unreliable and confusing information available online. We have had many people come to our office who have done their own research about divorce proceedings, custody and other issues. It has led them to several misconceptions about how divorce works and the laws surrounding it. We want to make sure you’re aware of the top three misconceptions and how to avoid them.
1. Custody Laws Are the Same in Every State
Many people believe custody laws are similar across states. For example, Oregon laws differ from those in Washington or California, so finding the applicable Oregon laws online is difficult. Oregon law does not refer to time with your children as “custody;” it’s known as “parenting time” and defined by circumstances such as where the child spends his or her time, and with whom. Legal custody allows the parent to make decisions about major issues such as the child’s medical care or schooling. Additionally, an Oregon judge cannot order joint legal custody, only sole custody to either parent. Parents must reach an agreement to get joint custody.
2. If It’s in My Name It Belongs to Me
The division of assets and debts is another area rife with misconceptions. Many people think if their spouse's name is not listed on the property, then they do not receive half of the property. This is untrue because, in divorce, it doesn’t matter whose name is there, the court may divide assets 50-50. Conversely, if your spouse racks up credit card debt, both will likely pay the debt. A judge does not go through and divide every piece; he or she looks at the bigger picture and equalizes everything.
3. I Can Do This On My Own
The last, and most important misconception, is that you can do it on your own. Legal issues are complex and it’s always advisable to seek help from a professional. You wouldn’t diagnose a broken arm, so don’t diagnose a broken marriage. You are dealing with binding legal documents which should be drafted by a professional attorney. Attempting to complete the documents on your own could cost more money in the long term. Doing it right from the beginning saves you time and money.