Five Divorce Misconceptions

In our office, we see a variety of mistakes made by clients, many of which have an impact on the outcome of their divorce in terms of the division of assets, awards of alimony and/or attorney’s fees, and even in the determination of custody of the minor children. Keep in mind that much of the financial responsibility is the responsibility of the non-custodial parent. Do not ruin your own finances. Do not allow the potential future cost of your children’s college education to be forgotten in your divorce – your spouse owes his or her fair share. After all, the minor children did not ask to be brought into this world; both of you created them, and BOTH of you are responsible for giving them a fair shot in life.

1. When things get rough at home I should move somewhere else. False (with some caveats). The most common mistake we see is the belief that one can simply leave the marital home when things go sour. Our advice to any client is that leaving the home prior to a court order being issued is a mistake, unless of course there is a legitimate fear for you own safety or for the safety of the minor children. Many Chancery Courts in Mississippi routinely rule that the party who has left the marital home without proof of provocation forfeits his or her equitable share of the value/equity of the marital domicile. Trust the advice of a trained professional and duly licensed attorney before making a hasty decision to jump ship altogether.

2. It is okay to start dating as long as I am separated from my spouse. False. Mississippi does not recognize legal separation, and if children are involved, you automatically start out “behind” in terms of the factors considered by the court in an award of custody – Albright v. Albright considers moral fitness as well as continuity of care, so tread very lightly and perhaps just try to enjoy being single for a while (until your marriage is officially dissolved). Also, the Chancery Courts in Mississippi will generally give favor to the adult in the room, i.e., the person who valued the sanctity of marriage until the bitter end, regardless of fault.

3. It is acceptable to drain our joint bank accounts. After all, they are in my name also. False (With a few exceptions). There may in fact be circumstances wherein you should attempt to recoup losses or ensure that future bills will be paid, but this is a challenging and complicated issue. We recommend that you consult with your attorney before taking any such measures, and keep in mind that any action you take out of anger or spite will likely be adverse for you when your case is heard by a Mississippi Chancellor.

4. It is okay to utilize social media to vent about my spouse. We have freedom of speech, after all. False. Any disparaging of your spouse is not solely in the context of personal free speech when children are involved. The Chancery Court is the ultimate arbiter (a.k.a. the super-guardian) of all minor children within its jurisdiction. Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other social media platform as a forum to vent your frustration is ill-advised. Exercise patience and trust the court to make a fair and consistent judgment, one that will be in the best interests of your children. Divorce, even when relatively amicable, is never easy, and it can be tempting to vent your frustrations or to seek emotional support on social media. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this type of behavior rarely, if ever, earns you favor in a Mississippi Chancery Court.

5. It is my right to choose to minimize my spouse’s contact with the children until the divorce is final. False. (With rare exception). The only legitimate reason to become an obstacle to your spouse’s visitation with your minor children prior to a divorce being finalized is when there are safety concerns which can be shown by proof – if the evidence does not demonstrate that your children are in danger when in the care of your spouse, be careful. The last position you want to be in is to have to explain why you took the reins of child custody without the permission of the court. Remember, the Chancery Court is the legal “super-guardian” of all children within its jurisdiction, and that responsibility is taken incredibly seriously.

If you have a question about this article or about child custody in general (whether in the context of a divorce or otherwise), or if you simply would like to share your input, we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact The Law Office of Matthew Poole, via telephone at (601) 573-7429 or email at matthewspoole@gmail.com. We are best equipped to assess your situation and give you some practical advice on steps you can take to receive a favorable result in Mississippi Chancery Court.

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