Whether or not you are getting a divorce with children, if you are a man, you need to be aware of certain issues in your divorce that are unique to your situation. Women have unique factors that weigh into their divorce experience, but from my experience, women also tend to be aware of those factors and prepare better for them. On the other hand, men tend to under prepare for divorce and are shocked to learn that their case results may not be exactly what they want when all is said and done. The unfortunate part of this is that it is entirely avoidable as far as an outcome. You can certainly prepare for divorce and anticipate the unique issues that are sure to come your way in divorce as a man.
I want to run through those issues with you in today’s blog post and talk a little bit about each. In no way am I trying to tell you that the issues you face in divorce are just like every other man. On the contrary, divorces truly are like snowflakes: each divorce is unique in itself. However, there are many aspects to a divorce case that are nearly universal first in certain groups of people. I can confidently say that as a man, you should be keenly aware of the issues that I am going to discuss. We will also have an opportunity to discuss how to prepare for them and anticipate certain challenges your wife presents in divorce.
The issue of a primary conservatorship of your children
The most important issue that you will face as a man is if you have children that are a part of your divorce. As a father, you need to anticipate certain challenges coming your way and prepare for them as best you can. Fortunately, it will not be a shock to you that you are a father facing a divorce. Something tells me you will not forget about your children as you respond to or file a divorce. The real question is how you respond to the challenges of divorce and what they mean for your family.
The number one complaint and concern that I hear from fathers going through a divorce is that they believe the legal system is conspiring against them. The impression that fathers get of divorce cases is that because they are men, the family courts favor their wives when it comes to conservatorships of the kids. I have witnessed circumstances that would give credence to this belief. Sometimes men get bad deals when it comes to conservatorships situations.
On the other hand, I’ve also seen fathers come out of difficult family law cases with great outcomes for themselves due to proper planning and consideration of important issues that a judge will be considering. The question is, how do you position yourself to succeed in the area of conservatorships. Specifically, what can you do to increase your ability to be named the primary conservator of your children?
Being the primary conservator of your children is the Crown jewel of issues in a Texas family law case. The primary conservator of children not only gets to see the children more, but the children will live with you throughout the school year, and you will be able to receive child support from your Co-parent. Although the designations tend to blend away after a case is over with designations mean a lot during the case itself. As a result, being the primary anything during a divorce tends to be a big deal, at least psychologically. It matters in negotiation, and it can impact how people present themselves and their cases.
The reality of the situation is that women seem to be named as primary conservators of children more often than men. We could spend the rest of today’s blog post taking guesses as to why this is. I certainly have my theories. However, I think the most important reason women tend to be named as primary conservators of children more than men is simply that they have prepared during the lives of their children to do so.
Here is what I mean by that. I do not mean that your wife will have studied or put in some effort immediately before the divorce is filed to be named the kids’ primary conservator. Rather, I mean that your wife will have spent her entire time as a mother getting ready for a moment where a judge would have to choose between you and her to have someone named his primary conservative. Rather than wondering how she did it, you should look at this type of circumstance as early as possible to determine whether or not you will be well suited to be named the Primary Conservatory of your children. Hint: it takes more than just a couple of weeks of city fathering before the divorce to be in a good position.
The simple reality is that men tend to be the primary wage earner in most households where they are present period; obviously, I am not discounting the ability of mothers and women to be wage earners, and I’m certainly not discounting single mothers doing everything they can to earn and income for their families. However, everything else being equal, when a father is in the home, he tends to be the primary wage earner in most households. While this makes you very important in the household in many regards, it puts you at a disadvantage and a potential custody and conservatorships battle.
The reason why that is is that your spouse will have been in the home much more frequently with the children. As a result, she will have been able to have much more time with the kids than you and will have been able to bank many hours being the primary caretaker. While you may have been working to earn your family income, she was at home doing more of the nitty-gritty work and day-to-day caring for the children. While it is not as if you were out and about bar hopping or doing what you want to do, this still presents a challenge for a judge when it comes to naming you as the primary conservator.
The key challenge a judge would face if you petition to be named as a primary conservator of the children is that if your wife has fulfilled that obligation for the kids to this point, a judge will hesitate to change the lifestyle and habits of your family unless there is good reason to do so. You can view the situation as a judge not wanting to rock the boat and change the lives of your children to a dramatic extent by naming the US primary conservator. This isn’t to say that you couldn’t be a good caretaker for your kids on a primary basis. All it means is that you’ve not fulfilled that obligation heretofore.
So, are you stuck in this position with nothing to do about it once your divorce is filed? Unfortunately, in large part, I would say that you might be. It isn’t as if you can make up for a lost time during a divorce if you’ve not been the primary caretaker of your children. All this means is that you need to consider your specific circumstances and make decisions based on where you are and where your family is. You shouldn’t feel sorry for yourself or be angry at yourself, but you went out and earned an income for your family while your wife could be at home more. In many ways, that may have been what was for the best for your children.
That is the other way to think about this situation. You need to begin thinking about things just as much from the perspective of what is in the best interest of your children than what is in your best interest. Many times, hopefully, most of the time, those interests will be the same. However, what you believe to be in your best interest may not be in the best interest of your kids. Although you truly want to be the primary caretaker of your children in your heart of hearts, they may do better with your wife as your primary caretaker while you fight tooth and nail to have as much time with the kids as possible outside of that arrangement.
This doesn’t mean you are giving up on your children or are being an absentee father. It does mean that you are taking your situation for what it is and making the best of it. Often, you will be able to negotiate very flexible Visitation arrangements and even negotiate things like split custody where you and your spouse see the children equally. Even a standard possession order allows you to possess the kids a great deal throughout the year. It would help if you worked with your attorney to determine what is in your children’s best interests and where you can stand to be successful regarding issues related to conservatorships. While you may find that some of the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the case may not be within your reach, many others may be.
Setting yourself up for failure with decisions at the beginning of a divorce.
If one of the goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of the case is to be able to remain on as the primary caretaker of your children and to keep the marital home after the divorce ends, then there are some steps you can take at the beginning of a case that will almost certainly sink your chances. Keep in mind that the primary caretaker of your children sits in the driver’s seat when it comes to decision-making and responsibility holding. While both parents after divorce play a crucial role in Co-parenting, the primary conservative has certain responsibilities because you would be with your children more than your ex-spouse. As a result, you need to take that role seriously and begin acting as if you are already in that position even before your divorce comes to an end.
For example, if times are getting tough in your home and you anticipate a divorce is on the way, many times, fathers like yourselves may decide to leave home to increase the peace in minimizing confrontation between you and your spouse. In many ways, I can’t say that I would blame you for taking this mindset. For one, most men want to do the right thing and avoid conflict when possible. You may see leaving home as doing what is best for the kids at that moment. Have your children be exposed to fighting between their parents when you can leave the house and let cooler heads prevail?
Unfortunately, your decision 2 leave the house and your children and wife behind could end up being a mistake for you. For one, if you are asking to be the primary Conservatory of your children, a judge likely will not look favorably upon you’re leaving the family house. Remember that the primary conservative is in charge of the day-to-day care of your children. You are not setting an excellent precedent by willingly leaving your children with another person, even if your spouse is at the beginning of a divorce. Of course, I will not say that it is universally true that fathers who leave the house at the beginning of divorce have no shot to win primary conservatorships. I am saying that I have seen this happen time and again to many fathers, and it should certainly be something that you keep in mind as you make decisions at the beginning of a case.
The other trend that I see from having worked on behalf of many clients and divorce is that by leaving the family home at the beginning of a divorce, you increase the likelihood that you will never get back into the house. This can be problematic to the extent that you want to keep the house after the divorce, but it can also perch from the perspective of needing to document any property currently in the home. It is not uncommon to see property grow legs and walk away due to your spouse moving, selling, or otherwise disposing of property that may even be owned by you separately from your spouse.
If you feel like leaving the house is something you have to do, I recommend you do two things. Suppose you feel like your children truly are better served by you being their primary caretaker. I would recommend exploring the possibility of removing your children from the house to keep them with you. I’m not telling you to hide your children from your spouse; I’m also not telling you to put your children in danger. I am telling you that if You truly understand that your children are better off staying with you than with your spouse, you should not leave them behind. Keeping your children with you and caring for them on a full-time basis puts you in a stronger position to win primary conservatorships and if you choose to have the kids remained with mom in the family home.
The other consideration I would recommend to men who will be leaving the family home at the beginning of a divorce is to document any property in the home as best you can. This means taking photographs of rooms, writing down what you see, and performing any other due diligence that you might need to do before leaving the house. Copying financial documents on your computer or copying physical paper documents is a great place to start. Again, I’m not recommending you do anything illegal or anything that would be unethical in your divorce.
Having an experienced divorce attorney is the best plan of action for any man going through a divorce.
Simply put, both men and women face issues that are unique to their gender during a divorce. Today’s blog post touched on only a few of the many issues facing you as a man in a divorce. No matter how well prepared you feel for divorce, my recommendation would always be to consult with experienced family law attorneys before your case begins. Almost universally, men tend to do better in divorce when hiring a competent and experienced attorney representing men during difficult times.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan take pride in serving both men and women. Still, our lawyers can certainly represent the interests of you as a man and father going through a divorce. Our office offers free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law, as well as about how your family circumstances may be changed by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.