I'm constantly looking for articles which might help some of my readers and posting them on Facebook and Twitter.
Over the past few days, I have stumbled across three different divorce blogs. Each of them had a different voice, but they all gave pretty much the same divorce advice for fathers. And it wasn't good advice.
The first I read was written by a very embittered divorcing (or divorced) father. His advice? "Fight dirty." Throw your ex under the proverbial bus and take whatever you can get. The system is geared against you so pull out the big guns, take no prisoners, make it as difficult and nasty as you can. Protect what's yours. Exact your revenge. Get a private investigator. Throw a little mud if you need to. Make your ex look like a villain while you look like a prince. I actually felt sorry for the writer of this article. And even more so for his ex and his children.
The second article I read was on another women's divorce website. It contained legal advice for men (it said it was for "father's" - no, the apostrophe wasn't a typo). The writer was almost apologetic to women - the main readership for this particular blog. I'm sorry - this advice isn't for you. It's for your former partner. Don't hate me, he says. He goes on to tell the men - stay in the marital home at all costs. The courts won't favor you if you're the one who moves out. Make sure you have police reports showing acrimony and domestic violence. All your friends should write character references. Because you're such a great guy the courts will trust them. Courts favor people who have been married longer, you're more likely to get custody. So if you're not past the ten year mark, consider staying. And my favorite, if there isn't an order requiring you to hold on to marital assets, liquidate and hide your money as quickly as possible.
The third I read was on Divorce Saloon - another site who's main readership is women. Their advice was along the same lines as the second article. Among my favourites: get a new steady girlfriend to move in as soon as possible. Use the new mommy and your superior financial power to show that you have a "stable" home environment that your ex can't demonstrate. The article suggests that the father should get more involved in your children's lives, "become" a "helicopter parent". In addition to promoting your character, your witnesses should suggest that STBX is an abusive, workaholic drunk. The article finishes with a feeble but really folks - "this shouldn't be a war - just share the children". The article is a play by play on how to screw your ex in the divorce, so I would hope Divorce Saloon's readership can see through the BS.
The advice from all three was this: make your ex look as bad as you can. Protect "your" assets. Get custody of your kids to save on child support and exact revenge on your STBX. They didn't suggest making false police reports, but your case is stronger with them...so...you know. Even if being with your kids makes you physically ill, put on a brave face super dad. Stay in the house, even stay married longer, not because that's what's best for your family, but because you might lose your property and custody rights if you leave. Don't worry about finding the next great love of your life, find someone who will fit the bill as "mother" for your kids and move her in as quickly as possible until the ink on the divorce dries.
And I have to tell you, of all the articles I have read on the subject of divorce, this is absolutely the worst advice you can get.
If you want advice from someone who has been in those shoes, consider this:
1. Be fair. If your STBX was a stay at home mom, she contributed too. Maybe not actual wages, but she raised your children. And that's worth something. And if you're a working woman with comparable wages, split everything down the middle. Let him keep his retirement savings and you keep yours. Share your debts equally. If you had two cars, each of you gets the one you drove during the marriage.
2. Share custody as equitably as possible. Your children deserve to know both their parents.
3. Don't stay in an untenable relationship because you might "get more" in the end. You'll "get more" if you have a fulfilling life after divorce.
4. Don't start looking for the new mommy or daddy while you're still tying up loose ends with the old one. You and the kids need some time to acclimatize to the new post-split world. Jumping into a new relationship will not help that.
5. Don't force your friends to choose between you and your ex. You might not be pleased with the result. The courts don't put too much weight in these types of subjective assessments anyway.
6. The person who remains should be the person who had the main responsibility for the children prior to the break up. Whether mom or dad. If you're mature enough to handle it, consider a "nesting" arrangement (see the Cuckoo Mama). You can both rotate in and out of the house until you're able to divide assets and figure out living arrangements.
7. Make the sale of the home as quick and painless as possible. Whether you're the person in the house or not. Do what you need to do to start your new separate lives with as little disruption to your children as possible.
8. Don't change your parenting style just so you look better in court. If there's something wrong with your parenting style - change it because it's good for you and your children.
9. Don't inflame the situation so you can have police reports to show the courts. Treat each other with mutual respect. If you're treating each other with respect, you won't need a private investigator.
10. Don't hide or dispose of assets. Provide full disclosure. If necessary, provide your ex with temporary support immediately after leaving.
12. Sit down together, make a list, and don't argue over what is essentially chattel. It's not worth your energy. If your ex wants the Persian rug - let him/her have it. It's just a thing. Save your energy for the big discussions about child support and child rearing decisions.
12. If you're having trouble making those decisions together on your own - GET HELP! You can engage mediation services, parenting coordinators or counselors to help you and your family.
The family courts were designed to pit former couples against each other. There are some good lawyers out of there. But some of the people who fill the family court halls are committed to "winning the fight" while filling their pockets. The blog writers above have accepted the "money mandate" as the hallmark of the legal profession but you don't have to.
If you actually end up in front of a judge (which is rare), you'll almost always have a perceived "winner" and a "loser". Even if you are the "winner", your family will lose. If you are the "winner" in court, you'll have not only given up a fortune in legal fees and your children's future - you'll also have lost little piece of your soul.
Instead of reading those blogs take my advice. Try to end your marriage as peacefully as possible. Maintain both your dignity and self respect. Take your children and their feelings and needs into consideration at every single step of the process. Don't spend tens of thousands of dollars to "save" your "assets."
Do what you need to do to get through the process and to move on with your new life. Whether you like it or not, that is the inevitable conclusion of this chapter of your story, life goes on. If you go through the process as the other bloggers suggest, you'll never be able to close that chapter. You will remain bitter. You will be the one who suffers for it. Your ex and your children may be able to move on if they're resilient enough. But you won't. And I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Including the Goblin King.