There has been a recent string of high-profile celebrities engaged in family law proceedings. In the media’s effort to cover the various cases, common misconceptions have been propagated. This article is an attempt to clear up some of those misconceptions…
Misconception #1: Legal Separation v. Dissolution
Early on in their domestic dispute, a certain former “friend” filed for a Legal Separation from her husband after tabloids hinted at his flirtation with one of his co-stars. The media depicted this preference for filing a Legal Separation over a filing a Dissolution as an indication of her desire to “work things out” with her husband. This may have been the case. However, this media depiction validated a common misconception that a Legal Separation is vastly different from a Dissolution. In truth, the two petitions are quite similar. In both a Legal Separation action and a Dissolution, the parties community assets and debts are divided and spousal and child support can be ordered. The primary difference between the two is that in a Legal Separation, the parties marital status is not terminated, therefore, the parties cannot get remarried.
Misconception #2: “The Divorce Isn’t Even Final Yet”
While the couple in this scenario are still happily married (as far as I know) early on, there existed a controversy with the husband’s ex-wife. The tabloids successfully created a scandal when they stated that a certain “pretty woman” was engaged to a cameraman, even though the cameraman was still married to his first wife. Legally, however, no scandal existed. The most relevant date in family law matters is not the date of entry of the final Judgment, but the date of separation. Often, parties can be separated for years, each carrying on completely separate lives, without a final Judgment of Dissolution. The date of separation signifies the date the “community” ended. After this date, for example, any income earned by a party is that party’s separate property, and any debt incurred by a party after the date of separation is deemed to be that party’s separate debt.
These are just a few examples of the difference between how family law matters are perceived by the public and how family law matters truly are in the legal realm.