Advice For Men
Divorce is never easy, no matter what your sex. During divorce, men face certain challenges and fears that differ from those facing women. When men have been the breadwinners in the marriage, they worry about having to pay exorbitant alimony for an indefinite period of time. Additionally, men fear they will lose their children due to courts favoring the mother.
Divorce Advice For Men—Just Because You’re A Man Doesn’t Mean You’re Going To Get An Unfair Settlement
Some of the most common fears are outgrowths of the history of divorce in the United States.
The customary roles of men and women – with women being the primary caregivers of the children and home and men the primary earners – governed society for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years. The courts and laws reflect those long standing norms. Men have traditionally been the high earner in the family, and, as a result, they have often had to pay spousal support (alimony) and child support.
Because women were historically the primary parents, men often fear they will be discriminated against when they want substantial or equal parenting time. You may be worried that, because you’re a man, you will not only have to pay a great deal of money, but you may also lose your parenting rights (or have them severely limited).
Fortunately, the reality of modern divorce is more nuanced. The courts account for the current social reality where many families consist of two working spouses, both of whom are committed and involved parents. More importantly, matrimonial law is quite fact specific. The actual history and circumstances of the particular family informs the terms of the divorce.
Some mythbusting advice for men:
When spouses earn substantially equal income, alimony is often inappropriate.
When both parents have been significantly involved in the care of the children, when shared legal and residential custody is sought it is often granted.
In NJ and NY, the modern legal community believes that children develop well and are best equipped to grow into well adjusted adults when they have consistent, meaningful and substantial time with both parents. Today, many parents have 50/50 custody.
Even with infant children, there is a trend towards 50/50 custody.
If you are already involved in your children’s lives and have the desire to be involved, there is a strong probability that you will receive 50/50 custody—the courts are loath to disrupt the status quo. If you are the primary caregiver, you may well be named the parent of primary residence (NJ) or granted sole physical custody (NY).
As far as spousal support is concerned, if you are the higher earning spouse or your wife hasn’t worked outside of the home, you may be paying alimony. But alimony is determined based on multiple factors, and particularly in mediation is negotiated so that it is something both parties can live with and adhere to. Alimony can be paid in a variety and combination of ways. Lump sum payments, assumption of debt, a distribution from assets, paying third parties (such as the mortgage bank) on behalf of the recipient spouse, are some of the creative ways alimony can be managed. Scaled or step down alimony (when the amount decreases over time in accordance with a predetermined schedule) is also an option which may be particularly appropriate when a non-working or minimally employed spouse requires more financial support initially while getting on their feet financially.
The courts expect both parties to work full time provided they are capable of doing so and are of pre-retirement age. Though you may need to support your spouse while they seek higher education or training to enable them to become self-sufficient, in most cases your spouse will be expected to earn an income. If a spouse chooses not to reenter the workforce, or determines not to work to her full capacity, a reasonable income will be imputed to her. You will not be charged with overcompensating for her choice to earn less than she could be reasonably expected to earn.
So, advice for men who have inflated, protracted alimony awards as their chief fear? Alimony is based primarily on the payee’s need and payor’s ability to pay. It is not meant to be punitive. Both parties are entitled to a reasonably comparable standard of living as was enjoyed during the marriage. In my experience, men who have negotiated alimony terms through mediation are comfortable with the result.
Advice for men: You’re Probably Going To Need More Support Than You Think
When it comes to divorce, men tend to be less likely than women to seek support.
Collectively we seem to share some mythical frontiersman sort of ideal that we are only whole and worthwhile if we can do it all on our own. This is ludicrous. Most successful, accomplished people get assistance regularly and have substantial support teams. The confidence and flexibility required to appreciate and utilize the value of others is the antithesis of dependency or helplessness. It’s effective. Even frontiersmen lived in communities so they could resource into the strengths of others and the benefits of belonging to a community.
We all need more support than we think, and we do better when we set it up well before crises strike. The sooner you put regular support in place, the less likely you will reach a point of unmanageability or urgent need for it.
We recommend you check out a support group (like our monthly divorce support group), even if you feel like you don’t need it. During divorce one is in danger of feeling isolated or overwhelmed. Simply knowing you have access to advice for men and other help, that it’s there should you need it, can be of great benefit and foster relief.
Advice for men: IGNORE THE “HELPFUL” TALES (HORROR STORIES) FROM NON-PROFESSIONALS
Many men and women entering divorce have heard of at least one friend (or friend’s friend) who has had a particularly horrible experience and been forced to concede to unfair terms and endure unjust losses. While it’s true that there is significant discretion in matrimonial law and litigants get a variety of results, it’s useful to take anecdotal information with a grain of salt. Your divorce is unique and can have a positive outcome if you remain engaged and conscientious during the process.
Advice for men: Be Prepared To Have Extra Time And Use It Effectively
When you suddenly lose the routine and regular contact that comes with living full time with your family, you may feel unanchored and a bit lost. You may not have been fully aware of what your days consisted of, but the change can bring an awareness of what is not in place.
Structure, often implicit in the family unit, must be recreated to foster a sense of security. When structure changes, it can be cause feelings of anxiety, disorder and aloneness. People feel like they have no compass.
It’s critical that you replace your prior structure with a healthy new structure of your own design. Now is the time to start thinking about what you want in your life, (not what you don’t want) and to start planning respectively.
For example, you may consider taking an adult education class.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to cook, now is the time. If you’ve wanted to get back to the gym, get that on your schedule. If you’ve neglected your golf game, photography or spiritual quest, check out groups where you can learn and practice with others who share your interest. Use this time to begin turning in the direction of the future you seek.
This is one of the main pieces of advice for men that applies to women too—approach the restructuring of your time with strategy and forethought. Remember that people divorce because fundamental needs were not being sufficiently met. They were not fulfilled or happy. Now is the time to assess your needs and design the life you want and fill your time accordingly. Rediscover what you love, what brings value, meaning and enjoyment, and explore ways to invest in these areas.
Use this time to develop a better relationship with yourself, create a new structure that supports the life you want, and identify and meet the needs that need attention.
Advice For Men Who Were Served With Papers And Weren’t Prepared For Divorce
If you are served with papers, whether you were prepared for a divorce or not, contact a professional before leaving the marital home. This is an absolutely critical piece of advice for men: when possible, put an agreement in place which preserves rights, outlines a temporary parenting schedule, and establishes financial parameters before moving out.
When you leave your home, you can inadvertently create a new status quo—the longer you’re out of the home before the divorce process begins, the longer this new status quo is in place and the more likely you may have unintentionally relinquished rights and established a de facto custody arrangement.
Advice for men: If you are served, seek professional help to get an agreement in place before dramatically altering your current situation. It’s best to execute an interim agreement, outlining your mutual decision to live separately, (usually to support a healthier family environment), expressly stating that you are not waiving any custody or property rights, prior to moving out.
Even if, legally, the marital home is subject to equitable distribution, the courts will also consider the current reality. If you’ve been gone for a year, moving back in is an uphill battle because you’re upsetting the new status quo.
Before establishing a new situation by default, seek the guidance of a professional.
My Most Ignored Piece Of Advice For Men—Don’t Stay In An Unhealthy Situation Out Of Fear Of Losing Rights
Staying in the marital home to safeguard your rights can be both unhealthy and unnecessary. Don’t stand your ground out of anger or fear—work with a professional to create an interim agreement and make thoughtful decisions early. This can set the stage for an easier, faster and more cost-effective divorce.
If your home has become a hostile environment, it’s a good idea to make arrangements for one of you to move out. It’s not beneficial to be under one roof while going through the conflict and disruption of a divorce. Living together when tensions are high can be toxic for your children and delay the family’s healing. It can also result in compromised decision making.
This advice for men should not be ignored. It can prevent a prolonged period in limbo and consequent damage.
My Last Piece Of Advice For Men — Know That There Is Help
You don’t have to go through divorce alone—going to a divorce support group is one of the best things you can do to learn about divorce and meet like-minded people, some of whom have charted the path you are on.
And if you need a professional to mediate your divorce, we’re here to help you every step of the way.