Here are a few of the things that I’ve learned over the past few years from my personal experience with divorce. A man’s experience with divorce is completely different than a woman’s experience. Obviously, we have different ways of dealing with similar situations and different coping methods. There are certain things to keep in mind during your divorce. Also, it’s really important to consider what you want your life to look like after your divorce.
Every divorce is different, but there are some things that are common with all divorces. Divorce is a difficult time for everyone. When I say everyone, I mean everyone, including you, your spouse, your parents, your in-laws, your kids, your friends, and even your co-workers. Anyone you have contact with will be affected in some way from the divorce. Be aware that it will test every relationship you have. I thought I had a good relationship with my mother-in-law, but my divorce changed my belief in that.
As a man coping with divorce, it is always important to keep your cool. A fairly simple, mostly agreeable situation can turn into a complete nightmare by losing your temper. It’s an emotionally difficult time, and most of us struggle at dealing with our emotions. I was advised to not let my emotions distract me from making good decisions, but this is a situation where putting your emotions aside can be very difficult.
It isn’t in your best interest to wait for your wife to file for divorce. In most situations, the person who files for divorce (the petitioner) has more control and credibility in the eyes of the court. Our legal system is based on law and not necessarily on what is fair or equal. As the petitioner, you have first say, and in most court cases, your statements hold more validity.
In most situations, the date divorce papers are filed is very important for two reasons. First, it is used as a fixed point in time for your personal situation. Second, it creates a financial snapshot for both you and your spouse. If you’ve already moved out, it becomes the new standard for your life. If you file papers after you’ve moved out, and you are paying a rent or mortgage payment for your wife and kids in addition to paying for your own place, the court will see that as something acceptable to you. If you file divorce papers before moving out, the added expenses of having a second residence will be seen less as an acceptable norm and more as the reality of the divorce. I found myself working a great deal of overtime to be able to afford the additional apartment. The court saw this as an acceptable circumstance, instead of the hardship that it was. In my situation, it would have benefited me to file divorce papers with the use of an online service instead of waiting for my wife to file divorce papers with the court.
My divorce has enlightened me to two new concepts - Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and negligent parents. Parental alienation is when a child becomes estranged from a parent as the result of the psychological manipulation of the other parent, family members, Psychologists, lawyers or even the court. This alienation can be both subtle or overt and seems to occur more with the non-custodial parent; which is most often the father. The other term, negligent parent, can be used in court to further push the concept of parental alienation. A father can quite easily be referred to as neglectful if they don’t have equal custody, making it just that much more important to stay actively involved in your children's lives and daily activities. One of the subtle ways alienation can be used is in the form of statements like, “We can’t go to the movies, because your father moved out and we can’t afford to go now.” Even though most children do not understand this as being alienating, it still has that effect.
Be mindful of your social media posts during and after your divorce, especially if you have children. Social media posts can be used in court proceedings to portray you in a negative light as a spouse or parent. The court makes decisions based on your character, so it is important to avoid damage to your reputation. Once a negative image is created in court, whether correct or not, it is difficult to change. When it comes to your children, you want your children to see you in the best light. That might include limiting pictures of yourself in new relationships or traveling. Personal information about your life is best communicated with your children directly, not seen on social media.
Do your research. There is a lot of information you can learn on your own, including doing your divorce online without an attorney. Divorce is universal, but laws in each state vary. It is easy enough to research divorce in your state, and there are inexpensive online services with experience in each state. Every court has resources online with forms and information to help with the divorce.
Be involved in your case. You must play an active role in your divorce. Even if you have an excellent attorney, you have to be the one calling the shots. If you are using an attorney, make sure it is someone you can work with and trust. Remember, If you don’t like and trust your attorney, you can always fire them. You’re never stuck with a lawyer. If you don’t think they are doing a good job or have your best interests in mind, you can replace them.
Be completely honest with yourself, the court, and your lawyer. As I mentioned earlier, changing the courts’ opinion is almost impossible. If you are found to be less than completely honest with the court, you’ll never escape that impression. It is important to consider every possible argument your spouse can come up with against you and either write it down for yourself or discuss it with your lawyer. Don’t leave out any details, especially financial details. Most states have an asset and liability disclosure form that is filed with the court. Carefully review these documents and make sure you don’t leave anything off. You don’t want to do more harm to yourself by forgetting to include liabilities. And you don’t want to risk the wrath of the court by leaving off assets or being overly froogle when it comes to your recurring monthly expenses.
Think about what you want your life after divorce to be like as a man. When I went through my divorce, I didn’t give enough consideration to how I was going to live after my divorce. I spent a great deal of effort making sure I provided for my spouse and children, but wasn’t realistic about what I needed to have a reasonable life after my divorce. Over the past few years, I’ve found myself struggling from paycheck to paycheck to provide for my expenses, while making sure everyone else was provided for. While it's admirable to take care of your family, it should not come at the expense of your own hardship. You need to take care of yourself, to be able to take care of others.