When it comes to getting a divorce, nobody has it easy. Whether you are a man or a woman, a father or a mother, divorce impacts everyone in fairly consistent ways. In recent years, attorneys who bill themselves as Father's Rights attorneys have begun to advertise their services as catering to men and fathers. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of today's blog post regarding tips for women approaching divorce I wanted to touch on why it is that men are seeing attorneys reach out to them.
Why are there Father’s Rights/Men’s Rights attorneys?
There is a belief in the world of family law that women and mothers are favored over men and fathers. Anecdotally, I think that more mothers than fathers end up being named as the primary conservator of children. This is probably the most obvious way that women and mothers tend to end up with the long end of the stick versus fathers who end up holding the short end of the stick after a family law case. We can jump from this reality to men having attorneys advertise their services specifically to them- as if we are an underserved group.
In addition to this observation, I have just made regarding mothers more often than not being named as the primary conservator of children we can also consider the long-standing belief that mothers will more often receive favorable treatment from family court judges when compared to men. The belief boils down to that there is a preference in naming women as primary conservators, that wives should be awarded child support and spousal maintenance will recklessly abandon, and that fathers are stuck with having split custody of their children (at best).
The reality is that the Texas Family Code does not favor women over men. The Texas Family Code does not explicitly favor mothers over fathers. Here is where my anecdotal evidence joins up with the long-standing beliefs in women being favored over men when it comes to conservatorship. Women, more often than not, in my experience put themselves into situations where they can reap the benefits of their circumstances as far as being able to act as the primary caretaker of their children before a divorce or child custody case.
In most families, the mother already acts as the primary conservator of the children. Your family may not be this way but I believe that most families see the mom take primary responsibility for raising kids. This allows mothers and women to be able to slide more readily into this role in a family law case. Men and fathers may be just as competent at raising children but if you have been out of the house working then it is more difficult to assert your claim to primary caretaking responsibilities in a child custody or divorce case. Is that fair? Not necessarily, but it is the reality for most families.
For the most part, the way your family has chosen to divide up the labor in terms of raising children versus going out into the world and earning an income for the family will be what matters the most when determining conservatorships rights and duties throughout a family law case. This doesn't mean that a father cannot win primary conservatorship over a child. What it does mean is that fathers are typically in a position where because they have been the primary income earner they have not been able to be the home and being the position 2 care for the children primarily. But does it mean that you as a father can't win primary custody of your children but it does mean that your spouse likely is in a better position to do so?
Many fathers attempt to spin this around towards the beginning of their divorce or child custody case, they will take on a reduced role or different role at work aiming to be more available on the home front. While there is nothing wrong with doing this you should know ahead of time that judges will look for their prolonged history of taking on the primary child-raising role within the home. It will not necessarily be enough for you to suddenly changed your perspective on parenting or role if only to suit the needs of your family law case.
What does this all mean for men who may be seeking an attorney who caters exclusively to men's and father's interests? There is nothing wrong with hiring an attorney who 6/2 represent you and people like your interests. We see services all over the marketplace that cater to particular groups of people, genders, and age groups. Where I would question you if you decide to hire one of these attorneys will be whether or not men and fathers truly need specialized treatment like this. From my experience, engaged fathers 10/2 do equally as well in divorce and child custody cases compared to engaged mothers.
It may be a value, if you are a man reading this blog post, to ask one of these attorneys how their representation of you would differ from their representation of a woman or mother. Their answer may surprise you and may give you greater clarity into what it means to be a father's rights or men's rights attorney. Ultimately, as long as the attorney you choose to represent you has the requisite level of experience when it comes to divorce or child custody I suppose it doesn't matter how he or she advertises themselves. However, you should be aware of the circumstances that impact your life beyond simply hiring an attorney based on which gender they advertise primarily to.
What do women need to be aware of in a divorce?
Women and men need to focus on similar things in a divorce. This probably was pretty obvious to you based on the first few sections of today's blog post. In my opinion, whether you are going through a divorce with children or without, the focus is of your attention needs to be on basically the same objectives whether you are a man or a woman. To say that men and women face different obstacles and should focus on different goals in a divorce would be untrue. More or less, it is the circumstances of your case, as a man or woman that you need to focus on more than your gender.
With that said, however, there are many concerns that women tend to share in common with one another when compared to men. I'm going to highlight those areas of concern that I have experienced in my years as an attorney because I think that in general, these are lessons that will apply more broadly to women based on these experiences. It may be that your experience or concerns differ from what I am going to discuss today. If so, I would recommend reaching out to one of the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to discuss those questions in greater detail.
As we discussed in the earlier section of today's blog post, if you are a mother to children in a divorce then you may be in a position where you are going to be named as the primary conservator to your children. This is a role where you will be the parent who takes care of your children more often than not and houses the kids during the school year. While your spouse will have visitation time with the children on weekends and during holidays, the burden is on your shoulders to care for the kids more often than not.
Due to this responsibility, mothers should be concerned with ensuring that they receive a fair and accurate amount of child support. Child support is intended to help the primary conservator of the children provide the necessities of life to their children such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Medical support goes along with child support. That medical support could be provided by you through private insurance, insurance provided through your employer, or Medicaid. Either way, you should work with your attorney to ensure that your children are provided for appropriately in this way.
This means that you should work to verify what your spouse earns in terms of net monthly income before agreeing to any amount of child support in your case. Many times mothers will simply take their spouse's word on what they earn and leave it at that. This is not a good enough method for you to employ in your case, however. You need to go through the steps of ensuring that your parent has been honest and complete with you in terms of your child support considerations. You do not want to put yourself and your children in a situation where you have accepted a lower level of child support than is necessary for your children or fair under the law.
For instance, you may need to issue discovery requests to your spouse to inquire about the different methods of income that he earns. Many times mothers are not involved in the family finances except to perform basic operations like paying bills and buying groceries. You may be completely unaware of one of these streams of income that your spouse says that should be included in the Child Support calculation. You would be doing yourself and your family a disservice by not inquiring about these avenues of income are behalf of your child.
If you can before your divorce, you should also begin to become as acclimated as possible to your family's finances. For example, if you do not have access to your checking account online then you should begin to complete the process to gain access. This may be as simple as contacting your bank by phone and requesting a username and password. This will not only be helpful to you as you begin the process of determining child support for yourself but may also lead you to understand that you may need post-divorce spousal support.
Post-divorce spousal support
One of the most difficult things about a divorce is that your household will go from two possible wage earners to one. The proposition of working after an extended absence from the workforce can be extremely intimidating for many people. If you have not worked in some time, have an unfinished degree, or have a disability then you may be in serious need of post-divorce spousal maintenance. The key to this discussion is being able to present evidence in a courtroom as to why spousal maintenance is needed or being able to negotiate for an appropriate level of spousal support via contractual alimony in negotiations with your spouse.
Texas has two types of post-divorce spousal support: contractual alimony and spousal maintenance. Contractual alimony is post-divorce spousal support that is negotiated upon with your spouse in mediation. You would need to be able to show that you cannot provide for your minimal basic needs after a divorce to put yourself in a position to be able to receive these types of benefits. The other side of the coin is that your spouse would need to have the financial ability to pay you some amount of post-divorce spousal support.
Therefore, you are going to need to be able to specify what your budget is, what your likely expenses will be and be able to present that sort of information either in mediation to your spouse four in the form of evidence in a trial. This is not material that you should be preparing before mediation or trial on the night before going to court. Rather, this is a lengthy process that involves you becoming very familiar with what your needs are and what the ability of your spouse is to pay these types of benefits.
On the other hand, spousal maintenance can only be awarded by a judge after a divorce trial. Special maintenance payments are limited to 20% of your spouse's gross monthly income. You would need to be able to show a judge that you lack the ability to earnest sufficient income to meet those minimal basic needs after your divorce. That may be the result of your needing to re-enter the workforce, your need to care for a child with disabilities, or your need to care for yourself with your disabilities. Whatever your circumstances are you need to be ready to present them to a judge clearly and concisely.
The fact is that judges are not overly excited to award a mother, or father for that matter, spousal maintenance after a divorce. You are more likely to receive a disproportionate share of your community estate than to receive spousal maintenance. With so many factors weighing into this discussion, you should hire an experienced family law attorney to represent you if you are requesting spousal maintenance. Not having an attorney to represent you could be the difference between your receiving this tremendous benefit and going without.
What to do with the family home?
The last thing I wanted to discuss today is regarding your family home. The family home has a great deal of emotional and sentimental attachment to it beyond its financial importance to your family. The decision of whether or not to remain in the family home after a divorce is a complex one that you should consider your circumstances before weighing in with the advice of other people. Simply put, if you cannot afford to stay in the house after a divorce you should not attempt to keep the house.
For example, many mothers attempt to remain in the family house after divorce even if they cannot afford to do so. Their motivation lies in wanting to maintain some degree of stability and consistency in the lives of their children after a case comes to a close. While this is a Noble goal it should not necessarily be the driving force between you and keeping your house. If you cannot afford to pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes, and other portions of a house bill that you should choose to allow your spouse to remain in the house or simply agree to sell the home.
Keep in mind that a divorce is ultimately a time of transition period this is true for you, your husband, and your children. It may not be a bad time for all of you to transition into new living arrangements as well. While the family house may have memories that you think could be beneficial to your children in the immediate aftermath of a divorce I would also offer to you that there are benefits to new beginnings and fresh starts. However, you need to examine your circumstances for deciding this.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today'sblog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer 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 Texasfamily law as well as about the circumstances surrounding the filing of a divorce or child custody case in your life.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.