Every family is different, which makes the laws used to decide family matters quite complex. No two cases are alike, so a friend or family member who recently dealt with the court is not a good source of legal information – even if they’re eager to offer it. It’s best to consult an attorney and avoid the well-meaning but often ill-informed advice of others. It’s also wise to ignore these common family law myths.

Irreconcilable Differences

A common reason for divorce in the United States, irreconcilable differences isn’t grounds for divorce in the United Kingdom. There a person filing for divorce must give the court a compelling reason or wait until they have lived apart from their spouse for at least two years to file. UK law also forbids so-called “quickie” divorces. Couples married less than a year aren’t allowed to divorce.

Women and Custody

It is a long-standing and pervasive myth in the U.S. that women get favorable treatment in custody cases. The court attempts to solve custody disputes by determining what is best for the children. When it deems both parents able to provide adequate care, it examines other factors including past arrangements and the child’s bond with each parent and any siblings. The parents’ genders don’t play a role in the decision.

Common Law Marriage

Cohabitating couples sometimes get nervous, fearing that living together too long will result in a common law marriage. In the U.K., however, there is no such thing as common law marriage. In the U.S., only 14 states and the District of Columbia recognize common law marriages. Many of these states limit common law marriage to unions formed before a specified date, and New Hampshire uses the distinction only when dealing with inheritance issues. Even in states the do recognize common law marriage, it takes much more than simply living together to establish one.

Family law is a complicated and often emotionally charged matter. It’s important to approach family legal issues with logic and the help of a qualified attorney. Those who instead choose to believe common family law myths have quite a bit to lose. The may believe they’re protected under the law even when they’re not. They may also miss an opportunity to help themselves, believing a myth that leaves them feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Avoid these traps with the facts.