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Setting the record straight on family and divorce law myths

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Setting the record straight on family and divorce law myths.

There are some incredible myths around divorce that simply won’t go away. We take a look at some of the most common.

During my career as a family lawyer, I have received many calls from clients who have been under the impression that certain laws relating to divorce exist when the reality is completely the opposite.

I never cease to be amazed at some of the ‘myths’ that do the rounds, some of which are quite worrying, and even sad. Often people who understandably have a limited knowledge of family law have completely the wrong end of the stick in terms of how family law really works. As experts in the field, don’t we have a duty to try and make sure the right messages get out there and these myths are stamped out once and for all?

Below, I have picked out just a few examples of the questions I am regularly asked to try to dispel some of the myths.

Am I automatically divorced after 5 years?

In short, no. This is a common misconception. There is no period of time in England and Wales which entitles a person to an automatic divorce. There is a formal process, involving the filing of forms, that is required if you wish to bring an end to a marriage.

Can wives be asked to pay maintenance to their ex-husband?

Yes, they can. More women are becoming the main breadwinners and, where there is a need, the court can make what is known as a spousal maintenance award against a wife in favour of a husband. The same rules apply to both sexes.

I am a separated father. Am I only allowed to see my children on weekends?

No! There are no set days when fathers (or mothers, as the case may be) have contact with their children. Every family is unique and arrangements which may work for one family may be completely wrong for another. When arrangements for contact are being made, work commitments of both parents are taken into account to ensure that children can spend quality time with both of their parents.

Do the children automatically live with their mother if we separate?

There is no automatic presumption that children should live with a particular parent.

When parents separate, they can agree between themselves where the children will live and contact arrangements for the parents they don’t live with. It is only if parents cannot agree that the courts might get involved and grant what is known as a child arrangements order which will set out details where the child will live etc (assuming father is named on the birth certificate). We would always advise parents to try and sort out these arrangements without going to court though.

Do the school have to keep both parents informed of our child’s progress?

I am often contacted by parents who are frustrated that the school will not keep them informed of their child’s developments because their child does not live with them. The school should keep each person with parental responsibility informed when requested to do so. It is always best for parents to be able to communicate directly so that they can discuss day-to-day matters, such as schooling, together. Where this is not possible, a parent should feel able to speak to their child’s teacher.

This is just a small sample of the many myths that are out there and by no means a comprehensive list. Perhaps this just highlights the importance of getting advice from a specialist family lawyer who will dispel the myths and give you the relevant advice you need in your particular circumstances.


Rebecca Franklin
Family lawyer, Birmingham

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