A myth can travel half way around the world before the truth catches up with it and unfortunately this applies to family law also.

Here are the most common family law myths

Common Law marriage

It is often cited that if a couple have been married for a certain number of years they obtain a “Common Law Marriage”. Whilst Common Law Marriage did used to exist in this country, it was abolished in 1753 by King George II. Accordingly, this means that for those couples who have been cohabiting for a number of years, they simply do not have the same legal rights as those who have been married, often having to rely on property and trust laws in order to affect a financial settlement.

Quickie Divorce

In the last year many of the notable tabloid newspapers have used the term “quickie divorce” to describe the relationship breakdown of Jean Bernard Fernandez- Versini and Cheryl Tweedy, Professor Green and Millie Mackintosh, and Billie Piper and Laurence Fox. Despite the common usage of the term in the mainstream media, there is no such thing. Divorce is a set procedure for everyone, which has many inherent delays. Perhaps the biggest delay is after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi, the Petitioner will need to wait 6 weeks and one-day to apply for a Decree Absolute. Whilst this may seem relatively quick, in reality divorces take far longer as negotiating the finances between the parties is often a contentious and protracted process.

The conduct of the parties makes a difference in the division of finances

It is fairly common to hear people going through a divorce due to their partner’s adultery, or unreasonable behaviour to state that their partner should have less in the divorce as it was their infidelity or bad behaviour that caused the breakdown in their marriage. Whist it is understandable that in this situation the aggrieved partner may feel like he or she is owed some recompense, this is not the general position of the Courts. When looking at the division of finances, the conduct of the parties is only relevant in the most extreme circumstances where it would be inequitable of the Court to ignore one parties’ conduct when considering the division of the assets. In reality, people may behave very badly indeed but the Court will start by looking at the principles of equality and needs on a strictly objective basis. The Courts attempt to adopt an approach of being firm but fair.

Whether these misconceptions are a historical hangover or are perpetuated by dramatic and simplified representations of divorce in the media, it is important that anyone going through a divorce is not under any misapprehension as to the realities of divorce. If you would like any advice on divorce or family matters generally then please feel free to get in touch.

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Published: 26/07/19