A divorce is one of the most difficult and traumatic events that can occur during your life. It is emotional, tries your patience, tests your endurance, and can wear you down emotionally, psychologically, and physically. While our firm represents both men and women in divorce cases, today, I want to focus on the ten mistakes I see men make in divorces over and over again. If you are a man going through a divorce, it is important that you review these and compare them to your own behavior, it could save you some heartache and could affect the outcome of your case:
- Underestimating the seriousness of divorce
Divorce is a very serious process. There are deadlines and timelines that have to be met throughout your case. One part of the process is called discovery where you will be required to answer certain questions and produce documents. Often, our male clients have difficulties meeting the deadlines for producing documents and answering the questions asked by opposing counsel or getting back to us with answers that we need in order to move forward with their cases. This is usually due to the deadlines and tasks they have to complete for their employers. However, it is also very important that you meet the deadlines set by the Court, by the Rules of Civil Procedure, and by your attorney in your divorce case.
- Failing to admit you need help
Like I mentioned earlier, divorce is difficult. You will experience all the various stages of grief while going through your divorce and even for months and sometimes years after. Men take pride in their ability to be tough, strong, and independent. While these are admirable traits, it is important that while you are going through your divorce and even afterwards that you reach out for help when you need it. There is no shame in talking to a counselor of pastor about your feelings and the steps you can take to move forward in the healthiest manner possible.
- Stop working to avoid child or spousal support
Many clients have a mistaken belief that if they quit their job, engage in behaviors that cause them to lose their job, or otherwise take a voluntary paycut during their divorce that the judge will see that they no long have the ability to pay child support and alimony. The Judge in your case is more concerned about your ability to earn money than he or she is about what you are actually earning. If your Wife’s attorney can show that you have deliberately or voluntarily reduced your income, he or she is not going to be happy about that. You may end up paying the same amount of child support or spousal support as you would have with the higher paying job without the current income to pay it. Even worse, it will have tarnished your reputation with the judge; and once you lost that, you may never get it back.
- Not taking advantage of every second of parenting time available to you
In the past, men who did not get custody received about 80 days a year of parenting time with their children. Now, under the standard schedule generally utilized in North Alabama, dads who don’t have custody receive anywhere from about 35-40% of the year with children; and true shared custody if being the norm in our area. Unfortunately, not everyone takes advantage of all the time that is awarded under the schedule during the time their divorces are pending, this damages the dad’s arguments for why he needs or deserves equal parenting time at the close of the case. That is why it is vitally important that if you have a schedule for visitation you are supposed to follow while your divorce is pending, you should exercise every minute awarded to you.
- Forget that their lives are under a microscope
When you are going through a divorce, your life is under a microscope. Ever action and interaction is being watch to see how you will react or what you will do. Many of us document our lives on social media, posting pictures of the places we go and the people we associate with. While you are going through your divorce, be careful about the information you share with the world and how you act and react to the people around you and the situations you find yourself in each day.
- Overstating or Understating Expenses
Make sure that any expenses you communicate to your attorney can be validated by bills, bank statements, or credit card statements. If you make a cash purchase, get and keep a receipt. Without documentation to back up your expenses, opposing counsel is going to pick apart your budget in exhausting detail during trial. However, also make sure you are including all of your usual and regular expenses, even the ones that you pay without thinking about them being part of your budget like birthday gifts, tithes to your church, or lunches during work. If you can document an expense, it should be included in your budget.
- Failing to Control your Temper
While your Wife’s behavior, the opposing counsel’s behavior, or the judge’s statements may make you angry, it is important that you hold your tongue and control your temper while your divorce case is pending. If you show out while your case is pending, you are going to damage your reputation with the Court and give your Wife’s attorney the ammunition he or she needs to make you look like an “angry, controlling man” in court. That is definitely not the image you want to portray.
- Moving out of the Marital Residence
Unless you have been ordered to do so by the court, you should never move out of the marital residence while your case is pending. Most of the courts in North Alabama utilize Standing Pendente Lite Orders. These orders dictate the behavior of the parties while the case is pending before the Court. Many of those orders state that the parties’ children are to remain in the marital residence with the person who been their primary caregiver. It also states that the other parent should begin immediately paying child support and a share of the monthly household expenses. If you have moved out, you could find yourself with a standard schedule of visitation, a set amount of support, and a chunk of your monthly income going toward household expenses while also trying to pay the expenses at your new residence. This often puts an incredible strain on your finances and could impact your ability to afford to proceed with your case. If that happens, you may end up having to settle for less than you really want or deserve because of your financial inability to continue with the case.
- Moving on before the case is over
It is tempting to move forward with your life while your divorce is still pending. However, even if a divorce has been filed, you are still a married man until the date that your divorce is completely final. So, do not under any circumstances start dating until the divorce is absolutely and completely final.
- Assuming that because you worked for it, you get to keep all your retirement
I cannot tell you how many times I have had a client tell me that all of his retirement should be awarded to him because he is the one who has worked for it. However, that is not the case. If you accumulated retirement assets during your divorce, it will be subject to division regardless of who worked to earn it.
If you are concerned that a divorce is on the horizon or if you have already been served with a Complaint for Divorce, it is important that you speak with an experienced family law attorney who regularly practices in your jurisdiction to get advice on how to protect yourself, your assets, and your relationship with your children and make sure you avoid making the common mistakes I covered today.