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3 Common Myths About Marriage, Divorce, and Support Payments in California, That You Should Stop Believing

Abstract: People tend to believe in a number of myths to do with family law. Believing in these myths can hurt a person’s chances while making decisions to do with marriage, divorce, or child support. This article offers information on some of these myths.

Family law, the branch of law that deals with marriage, divorce, and child support, tends to frequently come up in the movies, and feel like familiar ground to many people. This feeling of familiarity often leads them to make assumptions about the way the law operates in this area. A belief in myths, however, can lead to expensive mistakes. If you’re in California, and plan to get married, divorced, or have children, it can help to know what these myths are, and clear the air about them.

Myth: There such a thing as a common law marriage

Many people believe that couples cohabiting for 10 years are considered married under common law. The truth is, however, that the concept of common law marriage is not a part of the law in California. If you only cohabit with someone and don’t marry them, it’s no protection against being sued for financial support or a share of your property. You may still be answerable under a palimony lawsuit, under which your partner claims that you made a verbal promise to offer support and property. Talking to a family law attorney about putting a cohabitation agreement down in writing, however, could protect you from such claims.

Myth: Premarital agreements are pointless because you can’t enforce them

When you use a qualified family law attorney to prepare a legally sound premarital agreement and put it together with full financial disclosure, such an agreement can be legally enforced without trouble. In most cases, you can even limit how much spousal support you will pay in the event of divorce. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a premarital agreement isn’t enforceable when it contravenes the law. For instance, anything you say about child support and child custody in a premarital agreement is considered void, because these are matters that a court needs to decide upon while considering the merits of each individual case.

You are able to sign a premarital agreement even after you get married. However, in every case, it’s important to make sure that anyone who plans on entering a premarital agreement has at least seven days to study the agreement and run it by an attorney, before they sign it.

Myth: Courts only grant child support to mothers

Many people tend to believe that the courts in California tend to look more favorably on mothers applying for child support, than fathers. The myth exists because it was indeed true in the distant past that judges used to discriminate between men and women. Today, however, there are laws that prevent judges from taking parental gender into account when determining child support.

The law can be less convenient to many in other areas, however.

For instance, people are often incredulous that they could ever be called upon to pay child support for a spouse’s child conceived through an extramarital affair; the truth is, however, that biological paternity is irrelevant. If a child is born while a marriage is in effect, both parents are as responsible for the child as they would be if the child was born legitimately, to the two of them. In addition, California being a no-fault state, proving that your spouse has been unfaithful to you does not affect how the court views your divorce. You may even need to pay spousal support or alimony to an adulterous spouse.

Child support payments, once they start, don’t automatically end when the child turns 18, either. If a child isn’t considered mature enough to take on adult responsibilities, child support may still be due.

It’s important to not entertain assumptions to do with marriage, divorce, or any other matter pertaining to family law, based on ideas you’ve simply heard often repeated. It’s important to consult a family law attorney who is qualified to give you advice on what the law really says.