Seven Myths about Divorce

October 13, 2009 | Divorce, Legal Perspective

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

There is a widely-circulated article on the ‘Net called “Seven Myths About Divorce,” attributed to Dr. Orli Peter. It is published here and here. I recently corresponded with Dr. Orli, and she confirmed that she wrote the piece ten years ago.  She was uncertain, however, whether the data might apply to today’s men and women, suggesting that the findings might be outdated.

Let me dispel the Seven Myths about Pennsylvania Divorce:

1.  Myth: Property is divided equally. Fact: Pennsylvania is not a community property jurisdiction in which property is always divided equally between divorcing spouses. In Pennsylvania, marital property may be divided in any proportions that a judge deems equitable, even if one spouse is awarded all of the marital property (as in Wang v. Feng).

2. Myth: Seven years is a common law marriage. Fact: Common law marriage (which was outlawed by Pennsylvania prospectively in 2005) does not require cohabitation for any particular time period. Instead, common law marriage generally requires the spouses to exchange informal vows.

3. Myth: Pennsylvania does not award alimony. Fact: Prior to 1980, Pennsylvania did not award post-divorce alimony. Today, alimony is authorized by Pennsylvania law and is frequently awarded by Pennsylvania’s courts.

4. Myth: Marital infidelity doesn’t matter. Fact: Marital infidelity is not a compelling factor in most divorces but may render a cheating spouse ineligible to receive spousal support or post-divorce alimony. Infidelity also constitutes grounds for a fault divorce under Pennsylvania law if it can be proven by clear and convincing evidence.

5. Myth: Medical and dental practices have no value. Fact: Some professional practices are worth the fair market value of their hard assets and receivables. Others are more valuable if they have developed goodwill that a buyer would be interested in purchasing.

6. Myth: Mothers always win custody. Fact: While some mothers sacrifice their careers to devote themselves to  child rearing, many fathers have flexible work schedules that allow them to stay involved with the family. Today the courts are willing to consider equally-shared custody arrangements in cases where both parents are fit, invested in their children’s lives, and available to provide personal care.

7. Myth: Some people have an advantage in court because of who they know. Fact: People who are represented by experienced divorce lawyers may have an advantage because their lawyers have credibility in court, know the law and legal procedures, get most cases settled out of court, and do not waste the court’s time.

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