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10 divorce myths debunked by a divorce lawyer

10 myths about divorce

‘Take him to the cleaners,’ common law man and wife, a quickie divorce, David Milburn, Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Harrogate shares his top 10 myths about divorce.

With my years of experience as a divorce lawyer, I have learnt to always expect the unexpected. But the thing that surprises me repeatedly, is just how many myths there are surrounding divorce and family law. Myths that have become folklore in modern society but are usually completely incorrect in the eyes of the law.

Here are my top 10 myths about divorce.

1, You can get divorced in twelve weeks

A very tempting marketing strapline but there is no such thing as a quickie divorce. Best case scenario the courts will take around four months, although more likely six months, to complete the divorce but it can be longer.

2, It’s not possible to have a divorce without someone blaming the other

It is possible but ONLY if you have been separated for two years (and both agree to the divorce) or over five years (just one person wants to get divorced). If not, then yes, one person will have to blame the other (usually unreasonable behaviour or adultery).

3, Prenups and postnups are legally binding

Whilst they are ‘worth the paper they are written on’ they are not automatically legally binding in England & Wales.  If a prenup is done properly and fairly then there is a good prospect that it will be upheld by the court at a later date.  It’s crucial to get advice from a solicitor as they can be complicated to draft and there are various criteria that need to be fulfilled to stand the best chance of it being upheld.

4, You will get a better settlement if your spouse had an affair

Whilst adultery is grounds for divorce there is no financial compensation for adulterous behaviour. The courts are more interested in finding a fair solution that meets the family’s needs.

5, A common-law wife has the same rights as a married wife

A common law marriage is a complete fiction however long a couple lives together.  In fact, cohabiting couples have very little legal protection if the relationship ends.  There are some ways to protect yourself and again advice should be sought from a solicitor.

6, You can’t commit adultery if you are separated

You can. If you are separated but not yet divorced and start a new relationship with a person of the opposite sex, this is adultery. This can be used to form the basis of a divorce petition.

7, Being divorced means you have no more financial claims on each other

This one always shocks people but without a financial order, you are still financially tied together and open to further financial claims even when you are divorced. So, say you inherit well in 10 years, your ex could make a claim for a proportion of the money.

8, Unmarried fathers have no rights

Not the case. Unmarried fathers have various rights in relation to their children and can make an application to the court if necessary.  Also, if his name is on the birth certificate he will automatically have Parental Responsibility which are the legal rights, duties and responsibilities in relation to the child /ren.

9, If your ex-partner does not pay maintenance you can stop him from seeing the kids

No, you can’t.  The court sees child maintenance and child custody as two separate issues. You cannot use one to influence the other. And it works both ways, in that if you have been denied visitation you cannot stop maintenance payments.

10, Most financial settlements are split 50/50

There is no set formula for dividing assets in a divorce.  An equal sharing is often a starting point but there are many other factors to consider. If a couple cannot agree then a court can make the decision.

Get in touch

If are considering a separation or divorce please do seek legal advice or get in touch here.  The best divorce advice is to get legal advice and get it early before any decision making.

Read our step-by-step guide on how to get divorced here. 

This article was first published in August 2018 and since been updated. 

David Milburn is the Managing Partner at the Harrogate office and a formidable divorce lawyer. He deals with all work relating to the breakdown of relationships with a particular focus on divorce. He has extensive experience of the division of matrimonial finances and cases involving high-value assets, often with complex business structures or trust elements.

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  1. Matthew Blake says:

    My ex partner had me arrested for domestic abuse and threats to kill. She then got with a domestic abuse team so she could get allocated a flat and when she did even tho she denies it she admitted to the police she hit me and they dropped the charges. I still can’t go near my kids and have to go hey social services . I have lost everything and she has took everything and now is playing happy family with someone else and my children. Is there anything I can do. She is mentally unstable and an alcoholic who hides her drinking very well as I have witnessed myself over the years we were together. Her family are known alcoholics and her mum has lost 3 children to social services due to alcohol. I am worried for my children and don’t know what to do

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