I’m Getting a Divorce – What Do I Do?

“Holy shit, she served me with divorce papers!”
or
“Fuck this! I’m sick and tired and can’t take anymore.”

There are only two options here: Option One – you were served divorce paperwork, Option Two – you have made the decision to file for divorce. If you aren’t here yet please read part one here. I’ll discuss each of the two options here specifically then go into general advice for both options.

Option One:

You sat on your ass and let her get the upper hand. You are RE-acting. This is NOT a good place to start and you have a TON of ground to make up only to put you on even footing. This is especially true if you didn’t see this coming. She has already spoken with friends, talked to attorneys or at least legal aid and may have taken steps to position the finances in her favor. At this point you MUST at least consult an attorney BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE.

Lawyers are expensive and if you can’t afford to keep one buy a few hours time and get a game plan going on. I can’t stress this enough. She may appear completely flexible, accommodating and amicable at this stage but this often changes at a moments notice. What decisions you make in the first couple weeks can have effects years down the road and they can be completely devastating to you.

Option Two:

By now you have tried everything in the first article and have improved yourself immeasurably. Things are either too far gone and or she isn’t responding and you want a way out. Here is where time is on your side and you can make preparations. I also recommend consulting with an attorney at this point as well. With option two you can be PRO-active instead of RE-active. You have time to separate finances and prepare for the coming split.

If you are at this point you should be a man of action, not a man of words. Don’t threaten to file for divorce. Don’t beg and plead. A word to the wise, you need to know the laws in your state as well as in your local family court district. At this point your situation needs to be considered: Do you have kids? How are parental duties split? Does she work? How blended are the finances? If you are able I’d take a visit and sit in family court and watch how the judges handle the cases. The experience is quite eye opening and will give you significant insight.

Become a Sponge

Unless you have a huge amount of money you are willing to throw at a legal team you are going to have to learn a lot about divorce in a short amount of time. One of the best resources to start with is NOLO. There are links to the individual states where you can get general information. Another great resource is the self-help section of the state court website – here is an example from California. Lastly, you can check the website of the jurisdiction the divorce will be/is filed in. For example here is the site for San Diego County in California.

As a man you are severely disadvantaged in Family Court. The expectation held by many judges is that you are the financial provider she is the caretaker of the family and home. This means you are expected to foot the financial burden of splitting the households. Listen to your attorney and heed their advice. Don’t be stupid and try to hide money, property or assets in a friends name to withhold it from her. Judges see that all day every day and are quite displeased when it occurs. You are going to get fucked – your actions will determine how severe it will be.

Take a look at a graphic I found. In every instance, the husband is the wrongdoer. This is the stigma you need to overcome.

Fault vs. No-Fault

When a party files for divorce a reason is required for requesting the split. Starting with California in 1969 and finishing with New York in 2010 every state in the United States has a no-fault provision for divorce. 17 states plus the District of Columbia ONLY allow no-fault divorces. All states have different rules and procedures for filing divorce. Consult an attorney to determine your best course of action. I’m assuming in this article that you and your partner are unable to come to an agreement on your own terms and need a judge to mediate your dispute. But what’s the difference between fault and no-fault divorce?

No-Fault Divorce

Generally a no-fault divorce doesn’t need a specific reason. For example in California, which is a pure no-fault state, the reason is always “irreconcilable differences.” Many no-fault states require some kind of trial separation or waiting period before a court grants the divorce. This time can be as short as 1 month (Alabama) or as long as 2 years (Illinois.) In a no-fault situation there is virtually nothing one party can do to stop the divorce and since the fault is not even considered the court divides assets equally between the two parties. It also means that one person could have an affair then file for divorce and the court would treat them the same as the party who remained faithful. Thus no fault.

Fault Divorce

Generally, a fault divorce means one party must give a reason that they are filing for divorce. The reason differs depending on the state, but here are a few of the common fault reasons:

  • Adultery
  • Pregnancy of the wife at the time of marriage unknown to the husband
  • Desertion or abandonment (specified length of time depends on state)
  • Abuse (physical, emotional or mental cruelty) or Cruel Treatment
  • Incarceration (specified length of time depends on state)
  • Insanity
  • Impotence
  • Substance abuse
  • Infection with a sexually transmitted disease

Fault divorces require proof for the divorce to occur, ie why the majority of private investigators exist. Fault divorces involve a fact-finding by the judge and a determination as to how assets will be split. With fault divorces there is no waiting period after the order. Again, check with an attorney as to your specific state requirements and your situation to determine the best path forward.

Communication

After the divorce is filed you should go radio silent, unless you absolutely have to. Just about the only reason for communication should be for reasons concerning the children. Even then it should only be for logistics, such as picking children up etc. If you don’t have children, don’t communicate at all with her. Nothing good can come of it. If you absolutely MUST communicate it needs to be in writing, preferably email. Texting is ok but it gives them too much access to you and you might reflexively respond without thinking. If you are at this point the majority of your conversations are arguments anyway. Do yourself a favor and leave all that bullshit behind you.

Never Less Than Half

Don’t ever agree to anything less than half, EVER!
Read that sentence again.
Don’t ever agree to anything less than half, EVER!

This applies to absolutely EVERYTHING. Bank Account, household items, time with the children, vehicles, EVERYTHING. If you only take one thing away from this article let it be these last five sentences. Anything you choose to give up must have an equal concession from her end and it must be in writing. It’s been said that a verbal contract is as good as the paper it’s written on and boy is that true. She will deny that any agreement has been made and if you made a substantial change based on her promise you will be the one who pays for it. Often literally paying for it.

When To Move Out

This is never an easy question to answer as most of the time it depends. If you own a home and can stomach moving into your own room, I’d suggest doing that. Once you move out, in most jurisdictions you no longer have property rights to that home. Yes, you still have your name on the title, however she can have you “removed” from the property by the police. You also might have diminished access to your children which can be used against you. For example, you move out, therefore you don’t see your kids as often. She will argue that you abandoned her and the children and she had to pick up the slack in the day to day activities. This never bodes well in court. If you move out you have no say in what she does to the property or if she even continues to pay the mortgage. You could continue to pay the mortgage but you also have another residence to consider.

Are Kids Part of the Picture?

Child custody. This is the term you need to be aware of. This also needs to be your focus. Children NEED their fathers to be present. You must FIGHT to be a part of your children’s lives. According to the research, some of the problems associated with absent fathers are:

  • Behavioral problems
  • Truancy and poor academic performance
  • Delinquency and youth crime
  • Promiscuity and teen pregnancy
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Homelessness
  • Mental health disorders

There are two types of absence, voluntary and involuntary. I can’t do anything here about voluntary absence. If you ditch out of your children by choice you are scum and deserve all manner of horrible things. What I’m speaking to here is involuntary absence. All too often fathers are relegated to a part-time parent by the family courts. No matter what she says, you are EQUALLY important in raising the children. Assuming she is a good mother, you should have an equal timeshare of the children with her. Which means in a given year you spend as much time with the children as she does.

Legal Custody vs Physical Custody

These terms are thrown around concerning child custody but what do they each mean?

Legal Custody

Who can make decisions concerning routine and emergency health care, school, religious attendance and extra-curricular activities? Depending on where you live this list might shrink or grow.

Physical Custody

This is where the children live/spend their time on a day to day basis.

Joint vs Sole Custody

Physical and/or legal custody can be either joint or sole or some specific variation depending on the judge’s order. Judges like to maintain the status quo. What that means is that if you are gone all the time and never see your children, that is likely to reflect in the judge’s order. It also means if you choose to vacate the home and for whatever reason do not see your children you may not have a favorable custody order. See my earlier suggestion “Don’t ever agree to anything less than half, EVER!” Told you it was important.

Financial Orders

There are two types of orders coming out of the family court concerning money and although they seem related they most certainly are not. They are Alimony and Child Support.

Alimony (aka Spousal Support)

Alimony is a payment from the higher wage earner to the lower wage earner in order to equalize their financial situation. The court calculates alimony based on its rules and whether it is a fault or no-fault divorce situation. The length alimony is paid is usually based on the length of the marriage and other factors. These payments are often considered “rehabilitative.” In theory, they exist to help the economically disadvantaged partner get back on their feet. Courts have very broad discretion when determining alimony amounts. Alimony is tax deductible.

Child Support

Child support is a payment from the noncustodial parent to contribute to the costs of raising a child. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, the more money one party makes the larger the child support amount can be. Wages are absolutely taken into account when it comes to child support. Even fathers who have equal custody often STILL pay the mother child support. The same alimony arguments are given: The goal is to equalize the financial situation. Here is a calculator used by the state of California to determine alimony and child support.

Goals for the Court Order

  • Specific – The order should be specific, ie the mother and father will share equal timeshare with the children alternating Friday to Friday starting on XX date. This is much better than “the parties will share equal timeshare with the children.” They both have the same time amount but the latter is open to abuse later on.

Conclusion

Read read read. When you are done with that, read some more. Divorce is tough, mentally draining and turns your entire reality upside down. You must walk into it fully aware and prepared to handle any and all of the consequences (and benefits) that come from not being attached to that person in the future. Keep your head up and reach out to us if you’d like someone to bounce ideas off.

As always, Stay Superior!!


Photo by Carolina Pimenta on Unsplash

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Matt
Matt is a husband, a father, an avid motorcycle rider, and an all around awesome guy.