Elite Representation Committed to Your Best Outcome Schedule a Free Consultation
Splitted house, rings and family figures

Common Misconceptions About Divorce & Family Law

Kathleen M. Kirchner Attorney At Law March 21, 2024

When it comes to divorce and family law, there are many misconceptions that can lead to confusion and unnecessary stress. As an experienced family law attorney, Kathleen M. Kirchner has seen firsthand the impact these misconceptions can have on individuals and families navigating the legal system. That's why she's here to debunk common myths and shed light on the truth behind divorce and family law in Maryland.  

Divorce Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Divorce is always messy and always goes to court. 

While divorce can be a difficult and emotional process, it doesn't have to be messy. With the right approach and legal guidance, couples can use collaborative methods such as mediation or collaborative divorce to reach an amicable agreement without going to court. These options can also save time and money compared to traditional litigation.  

Misconception #2: One spouse must be at fault for the divorce. 

Maryland is both a fault and no-fault divorce state. This means that couples can file for divorce based on mutual consent or one spouse's misconduct, such as adultery or cruelty. However, fault does not necessarily impact the division of assets or alimony. The court will consider a variety of factors when making these decisions.  

Misconception #3: Living together before marriage prevents divorce. 

Many people believe that living together before marriage can reduce the risk of divorce. However, studies have shown that this is not necessarily true. While cohabitation may expose couples to potential issues and help them determine compatibility, it does not guarantee a successful marriage. Other factors like trust, communication, and ongoing commitment play a much larger role in the success of a marriage.  

Child Support Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Child support payments cannot be modified. 

Contrary to this common belief, child support payments can indeed be modified. If there has been a significant change in circumstances since the last child support order was issued, either parent can request a modification. This can be done through the Maryland Child Support Administration or by filing a motion in the circuit court that issued the child support order. Kathleen can guide you through this process, emphasizing the importance of filing a formal motion rather than relying on verbal agreements. 

Misconception #2: Verbal changes to child support payments are legally binding. 

Verbal agreements relating to child support payments are not recognized as legally binding in Maryland. It's crucial to put any modifications in writing to avoid future disputes. Courts may not consider oral agreements as valid evidence and may enforce the original child support order. Kathleen strongly advises against relying on verbal agreements when it comes to child support arrangements. 

Misconception #3: Parents can avoid child support obligations by intentionally making less money. 

This misconception revolves around the concept of voluntary impoverishment, where a parent intentionally reduces their income to avoid child support obligations. Kathleen clarifies that Maryland courts may impute income to a parent who voluntarily impoverishes themselves. This means the court will calculate child support based on the parent's potential income rather than their actual income. 

Custody Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Custody orders are permanent and cannot be modified. 

Custody orders, like many other aspects of family law, can be modified if there's been a significant change in circumstances. It's worth noting that the person filing the petition for modification must have been named as a plaintiff or defendant in the original court case. This process can be complex and it's recommended to seek the assistance of an attorney like Kathleen if the change in custody is contested. 

Misconception #2: Custody and visitation are the same thing.  

Custody and visitation are two separate legal concepts. Custody refers to the physical and legal responsibility for a child, while visitation is the right to spend time with the child. Even if one parent has sole custody, the other parent may still have visitation rights. 

Misconception #3: Mothers always get custody of their children. 

This outdated belief is no longer true in today's legal system. Courts prioritize the best interests of the child and will consider a multitude of things such as each parent's ability to provide a stable and loving home, their relationship with the child, and any history of abuse or neglect. 

Misconception #4: Children can choose who they get to live with.  

While a child's preference may be considered by the court, it is not the determining factor in custody decisions. The court will always prioritize the best interests of the child and make a decision based on all relevant factors. 

Alimony Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Alimony is awarded in every divorce case. 

Alimony is not automatically awarded in every divorce case. The court considers various factors, such as the financial needs and resources of each party, the standard of living during the marriage, and the duration of the marriage, among others, to determine if alimony should be awarded. 

Misconception #2: Alimony payments are always permanent. 

Alimony can be awarded for a specific period of time, known as rehabilitative alimony, to allow the dependent spouse to become self-supporting. However, in some cases, alimony may be awarded indefinitely if one spouse has a significantly lower earning capacity or financial need. Additionally, alimony orders can be modified or terminated if there is a significant change in circumstances.  

Prenuptial Agreement Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Prenups are only for the wealthy.  

Prenuptial agreements, or prenups, are often associated with celebrities and high-net-worth individuals. However, they can be beneficial for any couple entering a marriage, regardless of their financial status. Prenups can help protect both parties' assets and outline expectations for financial responsibilities during the marriage. 

Misconception #2: Prenups are only for people who don't trust their partner.  

Prenups are for everyone. They can also be used to address potential financial issues and protect individual assets in case of divorce or death. Prenuptial agreements can provide peace of mind and promote open communication about finances within a marriage. 

Navigate Your Family Matter With Confidence

Divorce and family law cases can be overwhelming, but with the right guidance, you can overcome any challenge. Kathleen M. Kirchner Attorney At Law is committed to providing her clients with the knowledgeable support and steadfast representation they need to make informed decisions about their legal matters. If you have any questions or concerns about divorce or family law in Maryland, don't hesitate to reach out to Kathleen for help. She works with families throughout the communities of Queen Anne's County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, and Howard County.