We bust some of the most notorious myths related to family legal matters, setting the record straight.

Myths

Is it true that if I get divorced I only have to pay our community debt, that I don’t have to pay ex’s debt?

You and your marital partner are responsible for debts you each incurred from date of marriage to date of separation. Those are what are called community debts.  Keep in mind that if one of the parties takes a debt as his or her own in the Judgment, that was a community debt, it is important to have specific language in the Judgment so that you do not have to worry  about that debt in the future. -Link

Hand Written Court Orders Filed By The Court: Valid Court Orders Or Not?

Some people think that if they hold a handwritten court order that is filed with the court, they do not have to abide by it until something else happens. First, it is always a good idea to obtain the Court’s Minute Order if one exists, and to carefully review any proposed handwritten order prior to signing it.  If you have a handwritten Court Order signed by the parties and the Judge, and it is file stamped by the Court, you have a Valid Court Order that you must comply with.

I Want My Name Back

Whether or not your Ex wants to go back to her maiden name is not up to you, its up to her. She is the person who changed her name, and she alone has to make that decision. Sometimes, if there are children in the marriage, it is easier for a Mom to have the same last name as the children. It avoids confusion, and the children don’t have to explain why their Mom’s last name is different than his/her last name.

Married Ten Plus Years Does Not A Life Sentence Make

If you are married ten plus years, you do not automatically pay or receive spousal support for the rest of your life.  The magic wand at 10 years does not exist. It is the goal of this state that the supported party shall become self supporting within a reasonable period of time.  In many cases, a reasonable period of time to achieve this goal is one-half of the length of the marriage. But don’t take this to the bank if you’ve been married for 34 years, for example.  In that case, the court will not set a termination date.  The court will consider and weigh many factors of the parties during the marriage and thereafter, and let’s face it concerns regarding age and/or health may create a scenario in which self-support may not be a realistic expectation at all.

Informal Modification of Spousal and/or Child Support

You lost your job, or didn’t lose your job but you and the former ball and chain agreed that he or she would take a reduced support amount.  Five years later, your ex seeks the full amount due together with interest and you are convinced, actually adamant, that you don’t owe the money. While I feel your pain and understand your insistence that you and the ex had an agreement, unless it was a formal written agreement signed by both of you and filed with the court, you still owe the money plus interest. The moral of that story is please, go the extra distance to make sure that your deal is a bona fide deal.  If not, it will cost you dearly later on.

Common Law Marriage

There is no common law marriage in California.  It was abolished in 1895. Some people believe that because they have lived together for a period of time that they turn into married people.  Something like the pumpkin at midnight, but in the marriage realm. Common Law Marriage is valid in eleven states, namely: Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and the District of Columbia. This gets interesting because if two people have a valid common law marriage in their state, and they relocate to California where they ultimately end their union, California will honor their marriage as a valid marriage.

He Cheated On Me So I Get Everything Right?

Not true.  California is a no fault state.  This means that in a dissolution proceeding, the distribution of assets is equitable, and generally divided equally.  If one party cheats on the other, it has no effect on the distribution of assets.  However, if his/her dalliances have been in front of the children causing them some emotional trauma, or had some other negative effect, it might be relevant.