Mr. Rebates

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Guy’s Divorce Survival Guide

February 9, 2011

When cou­ples first marry it’s all bliss and blowjobs. But they’re also mak­ing legal com­mit­ments to each other. Too often guys choose to ignore the legal and finan­cial impli­ca­tions of get­ting married.
In a “com­mu­nity prop­erty” state (Cal­i­for­nia, Texas, and eight oth­ers), your spouse is enti­tled to half of every dol­lar you earn, includ­ing every dol­lar you put into your retire­ment plan and 401(k). But every dol­lar her par­ents gives her is hers—because gifts to one per­son are sep­a­rate prop­erty. Gifts to both of you are com­mu­nity property.
By the time a mar­riage is over—and there is a 50–50 chance it will be over at some point—most men are at the “just get me out” stage. They often don’t care about most of the property—800-thread count sheets, tea sets, and fancy kitchen gizmos—that was pur­chased over the course of the marriage.
But men do care about their kids. This is where they make their biggest mis­take. Most of the men I rep­re­sent will walk away from the house and the fur­nish­ings, pack their three bags of clothes and leave. The man assumes, incor­rectly, that he’s doing the right thing for his soon-to-be ex-wife and kids. He thinks that if he gives her all the stuff, she’ll treat him fairly when it comes to the chil­dren. He thinks he’ll get 50 per­cent custody—and because he’s being a “good guy” she will treat him as one.
In my expe­ri­ence, that’s rarely how it happens.
The minute the man leaves the house he is giv­ing his part­ner con­trol of the kids. The sta­tus quo has been estab­lished. She has all the stuffand the kids. He’ll be pay­ing child sup­port and see­ing his chil­dren every other week­end (plus maybe a mid-week dinner).
With this in mind, how should a guy pre­pare for divorce?
First, he needs to know what the com­mu­nity prop­erty is and that he is enti­tled to half of it. I’m not say­ing he needs to take half the sil­ver tea sets—but he should be sure to get half the value of the tea sets. I rec­om­mended that he build a room-by-room inven­tory of things that were pur­chased dur­ing the marriage.
Many men will see tak­ing inven­tory as petty, or a waste of time, but most courts require that each side dis­close to the other all the items of the mar­riage. There may be some things that he gen­uinely wants to keep that he would not have thought of oth­er­wise, and there will likely be a con­sid­er­able num­ber of items that he doesn’t want but should be com­pen­sated for.
Sec­ond, he needs a plan for how to deal with the chil­dren and vis­i­ta­tion. He should never leave the house (unless he is in phys­i­cal dan­ger) with­out hav­ing a plan in place for how the the cou­ple is going to co-parent.
This is a cru­cial area for men to review—and not just their day-to-day lives. They should con­sider the hol­i­days and spe­cial events through­out the year they want to have with their chil­dren. Gen­er­ally par­ents alter­nate holidays—odd num­bered years go to one par­ent and even num­bered years to the other—but if there is a par­tic­u­lar hol­i­day that’s desired every year, then be pre­pared to give up some other holiday.
Then there is the prob­lem of post breakup life. Here’s the good news for men: in my expe­ri­ence, guys gen­er­ally have a new woman in their life within a year. But be careful—even if your wife is the one who ini­ti­ated the divorce, she might be sen­si­tive about you dat­ing some­one new. Go ahead and date, just don’t intro­duce your new girl­friend to your kids.
If the divorce gets ugly and your ex is angry, don’t engage her anger with anger. If she gets mad, let her be mad, pick up the kids, and go on about your life. Remem­ber that you will sur­vive this—even if you don’t jump into another rela­tion­ship right away.
Take some time to be alone. Some men need to hit the gym to work out their anger. Every guy should do some reflec­tion on the relationship—not only on what went wrong, but what was right about your mar­riage. Go to a 12-step group, see a ther­a­pist, or even go to the bookstore.
Just because a rela­tion­ship changes form doesn’t mean it was all bad. A short period of self-centered emo­tional heal­ing is a good thing—it will make your next rela­tion­ship that much bet­ter. My ex and I broke up, and once I real­ized that we were just going in dif­fer­ent direc­tions, all the anger dis­si­pated, and today we’re great friends.


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