Child holding family figures

Dispelling Common Family Law Misconceptions

Lamb and Lamb, P.C. Oct. 13, 2023

Dealing with family law matters is always stressful and emotionally draining, especially when your financial stability and the future of your life with children are at stake. Unfortunately, misconceptions can add to the stress and further complicate the process for everyone involved.  

Our attorneys at Lamb and Lamb, P.C., have more than 20 years of experience helping residents of Salem, Massachusetts, and the surrounding area resolve their family law matters. In our experience, we have seen that many of the misconceptions our clients have when they first call us are perpetuated by what they have read online, what they have seen on TV, or what they have heard from friends or co-workers.  

Many people fall victim to family law misconceptions and myths without realizing it, and you may be one of them. Being able to separate fact from fiction can help you gain clarity and confidence when approaching divorce or any other family law matter. At Lamb and Lamb, P.C., we serve not only Salem, but also Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, and Lynnfield.  

Common Family Law Misconceptions & Myths

In the section below, we will dispel some of the most common misconceptions and myths about family law to ensure that you approach the matter at hand with a more accurate understanding of your rights and the legal process.  

“A custodial parent can withhold parenting time if the other parent does not pay child support” 

There is no denying the fact that it can be very frustrating when the parent who has an obligation to financially support their child fails or refuses to make the payments. Since the non-custodial parent who has parenting time may also have an obligation to pay child support, it is not a common scenario when the custodial parent withholds parenting time for the other parent’s non-payment of support. However, withholding parenting time can lead to unforeseen legal consequences for the custodial parent and may even be considered “contempt of court.” In the eyes of the law, parenting time and child support are always addressed separately.   

“You cannot get a divorce if one spouse refuses to sign divorce papers” 

Fortunately, you can. In Massachusetts, you can initiate the process to terminate your marriage on your own by filing a complaint for divorce. You do not need your spouse’s signature on any of the divorce papers unless you want to get an uncontested divorce. However, since your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers in the first place, getting an uncontested divorce will most likely not be an option. In this scenario, the case will proceed as a contested divorce. Yes, contested divorces are usually more complicated, expensive, and time-consuming, but they may be the only option left when one spouse does not want to end the marriage.  

“If one spouse cheated during the marriage, the other spouse gets everything”  

Adultery does not impact the division of assets as much as people think it does. Generally, even if it is proven that one spouse engaged in an extramarital affair during the marriage, it will not have a substantial effect on the way marital property is distributed among the spouses in divorce. However, if there is evidence that the unfaithful spouse used marital assets to commit adultery (e.g., purchasing gifts for their affair), this could potentially affect the division of assets, but it would be wrong to believe that the non-cheating spouse “gets everything.”  

“The mother is awarded primary custody of the children” 

Many divorcing parents mistakenly believe that mothers are always favored over fathers in child custody cases. However, Massachusetts laws are gender-neutral and require courts to consider the best interests of the child when making decisions related to custody and parenting time. For this reason, both parents have an equal opportunity to be awarded primary custody regardless of their gender.  

“Assets are always split 50/50 in divorce”

Massachusetts law requires that marital property is divided in a fair and equitable manner, which can be a 50/50 split. Judges in the state consider a multitude of factors to ensure that the division of property is fair and just. Such factors include but are not limited to each spouse’s income and employability, separate property, financial needs, and contributions to acquiring marital property. 

“I will have to go to court to get divorced”

Yes, only a judge can order a judgment of divorce. However, that does not equate to a protracted and heavily litigated divorce. Today, an ever-increasing number of couples prefer alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation. In mediation, divorcing spouses select a neutral mediator who helps facilitate negotiations between them to help reach a mutually beneficial agreement and then file a joint petition for divorce.  

“Prenuptial agreements cannot be challenged”

Generally, prenuptial agreements are binding and enforceable. However, not all prenups are written and executed correctly, which makes it possible to challenge them. Common reasons a prenup can be declared invalid include fraud, misrepresentation of facts, duress, coercion, and provisions promoting illegal activity or anything against public policy.  Additionally, prenups must also be fair and reasonable at the time one party is seeking to enforce the prenup.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

Unfortunately, there are many widespread misconceptions about family law. Some of them could result in you entering into an unfair agreement or making a legal decision not in your favor. Our attorneys at Lamb and Lamb, P.C., are committed to providing you with reliable legal guidance to ensure that you can navigate your legal matters effectively. Get in touch today to get the legal counsel you need and deserve.