27 May Divorce Advice for Fathers
Every divorce is different for everyone involved. No two couples are alike, so of course, no two divorces are identical. And there are a plethora of reasons why the divorce experience is wildly different for each former spouse: emotions run wild and affect everyone differently, different approaches of legal representatives can have profound effects on involved individuals, and the best-laid plans go get thrown askew by an unpredictable judge. Keeping this all in mind, there are some characteristics shared by most fathers involved in a divorce.
It is currently true that fathers are (statistically) less likely to be awarded full custody of children as a divorce unfolds. As this is the case, fathers are legally bound to pay child support to their former spouses. And if fathers do decide to fight for full (or partial) custody of their child, their backgrounds and aptitude for child-raising will be investigated by courts.
So, as a father in a divorce, how can you navigate this complicated time? What can you do to make sure divorce goes as smoothly as possible, and your divorce ends with what’s best for you and your child? Here are five pieces of advice for fathers in a divorce.
1. Be the Best Version of Yourself.
Especially if you are in a legal battle for your children, courts will be looking very carefully at everything you do and say and making judgments based upon your behavior and actions. A late night of drinking with your friends that ends with a violent outburst could find its way to the judge’s ears, and even minor crimes and infractions will be viewed very seriously as evidence of bad character.
So think about everything you can do to be the best version of yourself. If you are able to do so, set aside drugs and alcohol entirely during divorce proceedings. Make sure to take care of yourself physically and emotionally, and only show judges the happiest and healthiest version of you that you can muster. Any vices, from smoking to indulging in fast food, could subliminally influence a court’s perception of you. So live as cleanly as you can, and become a pillar of virtue every way you can.
The alternatives are seriously damaging. Show up in court looking unkempt or unhealthy, and your judge will notice. Keep succumbing to that drinking habit, and you may make a mistake that you regret. Even if you aren’t fighting for custody of your child, the way that your former spouse’s counsel and divorce court judge perceive you will have a big effect on your divorce’s outcome, so do everything you can to keep yourself in the best state possible.
2. Get a Good Lawyer. Fast.
Think that you will be able to skate through a divorce with a second-rate attorney? Maybe you are planning on reading a few law books and handling everything on your own? If you want to make it through your divorce in one piece, think again. From a legal perspective, divorce is hard: there are so many statutes and precedents that come into play, that it takes a seasoned and experienced professional to navigate the legal landscape effectively. And with anything else, you are begging for a longer, more trying, and more difficult divorce process.
A good lawyer will know the ins and outs of divorce law in your area and will be able to apply a fine knowledge of the law to help you meet outcomes that are important to you. It’s not even difficult to find a high-quality divorce lawyer in your area. A good lawyer might cost more upfront but could save you huge sums in alimony and child support down the road. And maybe most importantly, a good lawyer will do a million things that you never thought of, all in the name of making the divorce process easier. As a father going through a divorce, you need the best representation, and you need it quickly.
3. Keep it Civil.
It is perfectly understandable and even expected, that you will be full of emotion and under a lot of stress as you go through a divorce. But don’t let this stress turn you into a monster, and do everything you can to keep a cool, level head throughout the entire divorce process. There is nothing wrong with feeling a lot of pain, confusion, and even anger during your divorce. But when you let these emotions influence the ways you treat your former spouse, their legal representation, or anyone else involved in the divorce process, you can pay the price in a big way.
If you lose your temper with your former spouse, this momentary lapse in civility can follow you into court, and be used as evidence against your character in custody battles and other deliberations. If you treat your former spouse’s friends or families with anything less than courtesy, they could bring your negative attitude to the eye of your former spouse’s legal team, and you will be punished with a lot more than burnt bridges.
And the flip side of all of these negatives is just as good of an incentive to keep your calm. If you can discuss things with your former spouse in a civil manner, it is more likely that more of your divorce can be settled out of court, saving you time and money. If you can communicate in an open, honest, yet civil manner, you are more likely to see your former spouse react in a similar manner. And as the tone of the divorce process changes for the better overall, you will leave your divorce much better off, both financially and emotionally.
4. Think HONESTLY About What’s Best for your Kids
As divorce proceedings evolve, the emotion and tension of marital dissolution can lead to an adversarial atmosphere between you and your former spouse. Custody battles can become less and less about what’s best for your children, and more about “winning” a fight with your former partner. Or maybe you would rather take care of your children for financial reasons, and don’t want to pay child support to your ex and fight viciously for custody for the sake of your pocketbook. These are only two examples of a bad way to approach custody disputes.
Instead of falling into traps like these, think honestly and deeply about what’s best for your kids, and act accordingly. Do your children spend more time with their mother, and share a closer emotional bond with her than they do with you? Will you really be able to provide excellent quality of life for your kids on your own, without the help and support of a former spouse you once relied on? Depending on the answers to these questions, it may be better to set your ego aside and accept that your children are best off with their mother.
On the flip side, don’t come to this decision automatically just because it’s what society expects. If you truly believe that you can provide a better, more stable environment for children to grow up in, then there is no reason not to fight for full or partial custody. If, after honest reflection, you know deep down that your children belong with you, then do everything you can to make it happen. But no matter what conclusion you come to, think deeply and honestly about what is best for your kids, first and foremost. Doing otherwise won’t make anybody happy in the end.
5. Don’t Play Legal or Emotional Games
If you earn more money than your former spouse, it may be tempting to drive up the cost of litigation, and do everything you can to make sure you get what you want out of divorce by “papering the other side to death“. But don’t do this. Not only is it ethically dubious, and will cost you an arm and a leg in the process, but it won’t lead to what’s best for your children in the long run. Even if you beat out your former spouse by outspending them, you waste resources that could be going towards your children’s futures.
And don’t play emotional games either. No matter what problems you and your spouse have had in the past, bringing manipulative and aggressive tendencies into divorce means you are okay with your children getting caught in the crossfire. Even if you leave an emotional or psychological battlefield unscathed, damaging your former spouse means you are okay with your children having an unhappy parent. If you really want what’s best for your child or children, then don’t fight dirty.
Besides demonstrating immaturity, playing legal and emotional games sets a bad example for your children. If you want them to grow up, to be honest, good-hearted adults, then act like one yourself and keep things civil. Just like all other aspects of divorce, as a father, you should be putting your children first and thinking about their future. So be the best version of yourself, be civil, and don’t play games with your children’s well-being.