Debunking Dr. Phil's Divorce Advice

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 04, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When he's not berating his imprisoned staff behind closed doors, Dr. Phillip Calvin "Phil" McGraw has a popular television show on which he berates invited guests. He also has a website, and via this website Dr. Phil dispenses a list of "Divorce Survival Tips."

Dr. Phil is not an attorney, although contributing author Areva Martin is. But that didn't stop her from posting some words of not-so-wisdom under the Dr. Phil banner.

The Good

Not all of Dr. Phil's advice on divorce was bad. For instance, advising parents to avoid putting children in the middle of divorce decisions and to not alienate them from your soon-to-be ex is spot on. He's also correct when he says that courts will only make child custody decisions based on the best interest of the children, and tend to lean to joint custody arrangements.

The Bad

No, you shouldn't delay your divorce filing "[i]f your spouse is due a raise or a bonus," and there is no benefit if you "stick it out to the 10-year mark." The majority of states have no-fault divorces that don't take the length of a marriage into account, and in some states the divorce process may be simpler if you've been married less than five years. Especially if you feel threatened or unsafe, delaying a divorce can only exacerbate matters.

And it's not entirely true that "[h]alf of everything your spouse owns belongs to you." Even in community property states that divide marital property 50/50, that split only applies to marital property, i.e., only property acquired during the marriage. And even then, things like gifts and inheritances remain separate property, even if acquired during the marriage.

The Ugly

Advising separating spouses to be "prepared for battle," "stash some cash" hidden away from the other spouse, and "[t]ake half of the money out of your accounts ... so that your spouse won't beat you to it" is reckless and irresponsible.

It is absolutely untrue that "[d]ivorce proceedings are like war in most cases," and going in with that mentality can only heighten the tension in an already contentious situation. And if it does turn ugly, a judge or mediator probably won't look kindly on you preemptively emptying joint accounts.

The best thing you can do if you're considering a divorce is to find a lawyer that you trust. Although we don't think you need to "consult with at least three attorneys." Every divorce case is unique, and only an experienced divorce attorney in your area will be qualified to give you this kind of advice.

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