Divorce Tips for Men
I’m worried I’ll lose touch with my kids and be drowning in debt.
In our practice with male divorce clients, the most common questions men ask us are:
- How often can I see my kids?
- Will I lose my business?
- How much maintenance (alimony) will I have to pay and for how long?
- What about my kids’ college tuition?
- Can I afford to retire someday, or will I lose everything?
Those are good questions and are best asked with the help of an attorney before you actually announce your intention to divorce and certainly before filing for divorce. One of the biggest mistakes we see a divorcing man make is to stay in his marriage long past when he first realized it was time to get out. Then, once he makes the decision to leave, he has a real and overwhelming sense of urgency that doesn’t usually serve him well. That’s a mistake you will want to avoid.
You should begin your divorce process by planning to take several months and come up with an exit strategy.
If you’re leaving your marriage you may be feeling pretty guilty. That’s a common feeling among men, and it’s understandable, given that you are making a decision that may come as a surprise to your wife. But, if you’re done, you probably want out. Now. If you approach your divorce in this mindset, things can go from bad to worse in a hurry. There is a better way.
How Then Do You Plan for Your Divorce?
Since there are two components to a divorce, parenting and financial, you will need a two-pronged strategy.
The Kids. If you have kids, you probably worry about continuing to see them regularly and maintaining your real and important place in their lives. That’s usually a top priority for all fathers. We recognize and understand the critical role of fathers in kids’ lives and maintain our clients’ rights as fathers accordingly.
Here are a couple of strategic points you need to keep in mind as a father. If your kids are still in school, the first order of business is to assure that you are actively involved in their lives in such a way that your involvement can be documented. In many cases, when the father initiates the divorce process, the mother reacts by holding the children closer and closer. She goes to a lawyer who advises her that more often than not, the courts are ordering parenting plans that have parents sharing the children equally, or near equally. And that freaks mothers out. Often to the point that they react by attacking the father’s parenting skills. So, if you anticipate this before you announce your intention to divorce, you can situate yourself more favorably in the eyes of the court. Understand that you can save a lot of time and money in legal fees if you meet with your lawyer before filing to come up with the right strategy to protect your rights to fully parenting your children.
The Finances. On the financial front, one of the key points to consider before you leave the family home is how you can prove any separate property interests you may have in what might seem like combined marital assets. It’s best to understand your rights in this regard long before you move out of the family home, because the last thing you want to do is lose access to your past financial records and files, as well as the computers those files may sit on.
Financial Documents You’ll Want to Find and Copy
What follows are examples of documents that may be stored in the household laptop, PC, file cabinet or even in boxes in the garage. You will be way ahead of the game if you’ve located and saved this stuff!
The House: If you had a house before marriage and used the proceeds of the sale of that house to purchase your current home, you may be able to make a successful separate property claim on the money used for the purchase. To do so, you will need the records of the sale of the first home and the closing documents on the current home.
The Business: If you owned your business before this marriage, you may be able to prevail on a separate property claim on all or a part of the business. We can brainstorm with you and help you figure out what evidence you may have saved that will help you prove your claim.
The Retirement: Regarding your retirement account: I have good news and bad. The bad news is that your retirement is in fact up for division in the divorce. The good news is that whatever was in your account before marriage can usually be carved out as a separate property interest. Again, you’ll need the documentation on this as evidence to prove your interest. Keep in mind that most financial institutions only keep records going back seven years, so if you are one of those people who keeps old financial records in a box somewhere – well done. Go find them.
Then call and make an appointment with us so we can meet with you and get you going in the right direction on both the kids and the financial situation before you talk about divorce with your wife or spouse.
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
This is a huge issue for many men who are the primary bread-winners for their family. Although you may end up paying maintenance, there is some good news. Most courts these days expect women to take whatever steps are necessary to support themselves. So, your maintenance package will likely last just long enough for your ex to get trained and out into the work force so she’ll become self-sufficient.
The take-away here is simple: it’s in your best interest to help your soon-to-be-ex find a way to re-enter the workforce or increase her hours at work before you leave the marriage. This is not the time to discourage your wife from branching out by taking classes or starting a small business. Whatever you can do to put her on the path to being self-supportive will help you and your children in the long run.
As you can see, pre-divorce planning can go a long way to setting you up for a divorce that is as stress-free and emotionally painless as possible. Like business (and life in general), it’s all about strategy.
If you have further questions or want to arrange a confidential consultation, please contact us today. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue-Redmond and can meet with you in one or both of those locations as needed. We look forward to meeting you and helping you achieve the solutions you seek.