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Divorce and Relationship Breakdown: 10 Myths and Misinformation

If you are going through a divorce or experiencing relationship breakdown it is certain that your friends, family and those who have similar experiences are clamouring to give you advice. This can lead to some important questions: Who can you trust? Does everyone have the same experience? Are all divorces the same?


A big part of our job during an initial case assessment or consult is to bring our experience in family law to the table and work to help dispel myths and rumors. This might include things heard from well-meaning friends or things that are found on the internet.


This month, we are going to discuss 10 of the myths and misinformation we often encounter in our practice:


  1. I don’t really need a lawyer. This is simple, all I need to do is split the assets 50/50, get or pay support and have a schedule for the children. Some cases can be relatively simple, but again each case is unique and those unique differences can be critically important. One size does not fit all. Your friend or neighbour’s divorce is not yours and you should not take your guidance from them. There can be nuances and complexities that are easily missed in a cookie cutter approach. Best idea is to do a case assessment with an experienced family law lawyer before making decisions on how you will approach settlement. That meeting can save you many missteps and mistakes. Too often good lawyers hear – “I wish I had come here first”.
  2. If I can just get the meanest and most aggressive lawyer I can get what I want.  Sure if what you want is to increase the level of conflict between you and your spouse, grind the kids up in the middle, destroy any hope of getting along with your spouse in the future and spend way too much in legal fees. Otherwise this idea is fraught with problems.Tip: If your lawyer is promising you the moon – ask them for a written personal guarantee as to the projected outcome and then see what they say.
  3. Divorce means conflict. It is a war and I need to win. Actually, most families recognize that if they can separate the emotional and relationship issues from the legal issues that it really is about a restructuring not a conflict. We restructure the parenting, the finances and the relationship. Good lawyers help you see that and focus on effective restructuring.
  4. If my spouse plays dirty I have to give tit for tat. The literature on conflict resolution tells us that tit for tat doesn’t work. One may have to be appropriately assertive in their approach, but should always remain respectful, honest and reasonable.
  5. I am the better person and better parent so I should have the children and be in charge of them. That is not the measurement of how parenting is decided if the parents can’t agree. Parents are not disenfranchised because they aren’t as ‘good’ as the other parent. Absent agreement by the parents, decisions on parenting are made solely on what works the best for the children and that generally includes having significant involvement with both parents.
  6. I need to strategize around the date of separation because … Actually while the date of separation can be a factor it is less important that many people believe. Each case is unique and it is important to get early legal advice.
  7. I can sign a separation contract without a lawyer if it says we agreed we don’t’ need lawyers. Just not true. Alberta law requires property agreements between spouses to be signed with the benefit of independent legal advice for them to be binding.
  8. The Judge will get that I am right and give me what I want. Judges do the best they can in a hard job. There are never guarantees for anyone in Court. Judges can see it your way, the other sides way or in a totally different way altogether.
  9. Lawyers are too expensive. Hiring lawyers is expensive for sure, but the choice is always about being effective and looking at the total cost/benefit of getting legal advice. Some people choose to go ‘lawyer light’ and get good advice behind the scenes while they work their own way through their matter. In that way they avoid some of the bigger missteps.   One question to ask is “how expensive will it be if I don’t hire a lawyer?” Doing it totally on your own is often not the most financially efficient choice overall.
  10. If I get shared parenting I don’t’ have to pay child support and I save money. Each case is unique and for some families that might be the right answer. Usually, however, there still needs to be an arrangement to make sure that family resources are allocated appropriately to make sure the children’s needs are met in both homes. You might not pay as much support to the other parent, but now you must take on or share some of the direct costs in a different way and there may be no net savings. Statistically, the most expensive way to raise children is in two homes because of the duplication of costs. And if yours is a case where spousal support is appropriate a savings on child support may mean a corresponding increase in spousal support given how spousal support is determined.


The most trustworthy source of information for your divorce or relationship breakdown is an experienced family law lawyer. We have worked with clients who have experienced the same issues you are currently going through. We can talk about the law and how it applies specifically to your circumstances we can also address and, potentially, help dispel any of the misinformation or myths you may hold about this process.


We would love to discuss this further in the form of a consultation or initial case assessment. If you would like more information please contact us.