Men facing divorce should abide scrupulously by one principle: look forward, not back. They will thus focus on practical solutions to the challenges they face, and they will avoid bitterness and vindictiveness which are expensive and self-consuming. This is trebly so in instances where there are children involved.
Men facing divorce should expect the worst - nuclear war - and be pleasantly surprised if the actual experience is less than that. The worst ones are the ones that begin like this: “We’re friends and this is going to be friendly.” The problem is there’s always something that’s been concealed by one side or the other. And once the news that you’re splitting up gets out, “friends” and acquaintances who had heretofore been holding their peace begin talking …and then out comes that which had been concealed. Add to this lawyers doing discovery, and the potential for unpleasant surprises becomes a virtual certainty.
When you know your divorce is inevitable, and there are either assets or children at stake, immediately make the rounds of the best divorce lawyers in your area, especially the ones that you know your wife might prefer to retain. Pay each one an ‘introductory visit,’ and insist on paying them for their time. While you are there tell each one the same little fib.
The fib goes like this: if you’re concerned your wife’s attorney will find out about your girlfriend, tell the lawyers you have several accounts offshore that you intend to seek to conceal from your wife. If you’re concerned about hidden assets, tell them you haven’t been faithful. Five things--all good--will result from these relatively inexpensive visits.
First, you’ve shopped and taken the measures of the best, and based on the results of your firsthand research, you’ll hire the one you prefer. You and your lawyer may be spending some dark days together soon so get one who not only has a good reputation as a lawyer and conciliator, but who can make you laugh a little.
Second, your wife can’t use any of the lawyers with whom you visited, and paid, because under their Canon of Ethics, lawyers cannot represent both sides in a dispute, especially if you have revealed to them something in confidence, which of course you have.
Third, you’ve gained an important psychological advantage over your wife in the contest to come because you’ve created the impression you’re one step ahead of her, and by denying her her preferred gunslinger(s) you may reduce her taste for the fight.
Fourth, you’ll pick up some valuable tips and get an important sense of several lawyers’ different approaches to seeking a solution to the dilemma you face.
And finally, because lawyers talk amongst themselves on the back steps of the courthouse, you’ve started a rumor/initiated a false trail/raised a red herring that may well throw the bloodhounds off your trail.
All the jewelry in the house, or lockbox, is probably under the law owned 50-50 by you and your wife (except whatever jewelry she ‘brought into the marriage’), but you’ll never convince her you still have an interest in those diamond earrings you gave her in the good days 10 years ago. When her lawyer explains the 50-50 part to her you can bet those earrings are going to disappear right out of the ‘marital estate’ ... but not if they’re logged in and locked up in your lawyer’s safe waiting to be appraised. Look at what other things you have that are small and valuable and get them out of harm’s way too.
Tighten up with your wife’s best friend, brother, mother, father, whoever you know she trusts and will be counting on for emotional support during the coming days. Appear to confide in them with the design of keeping them friendly with you too. Lawyers, one or both of whom may feel they have a financial interest in a prolonged battle, aren’t necessarily reliable peace negotiators for warring spouses seeking to find an avenue to peace. If the divorce process is lengthy, there will be several times your back channel will earn its keep.
If you’re going to see your kids much, you’ll have to make a comfortable place for them at your (new?) house. You must make them feel welcome there, and you’ll have to feed them there. Take-out and leftovers get tired fast. Ask the kids what they like and learn to cook it. Pancakes, pizza, Hamburger Helper, how tough is it? You can do it! And that’s just the start. Learn to administer first aid, settle arguments among kids, help with homework, make school snacks, do laundry and the hundred other things moms do. What does liberation look like? Dinner on the table and smiling kids asking for seconds.
Once there’s a case against you it’s illegal to destroy evidence. Once there’s a case against you it is inevitable the ex’s lawyer will subpoena your laptop/iPad. Even before there’s a case against you your soon-to-be-ex may well just ‘lift’ your laptop and hustle it down to the local computer shop to have the hard drive copied. If your laptop/iPad has any financial information you wish your wife not to see, or any correspondence with a paramour(s) you wish your wife not to see, or any evidence of visits to a pornographic site(s) that could be adverse to your interests in a custody fight, save yourself a bundle of headaches and get rid of it before it’s too late.
There is substantial research that says there’s a direct relationship between the level of animosity between parents during their divorce and adverse emotional effects on the children. Knowing this, “The System” objects to exs saying unkind things about one another, especially in front of the children. Dads (and moms) who engage in this sort of behavior will get marked down for it by the judge. Do not email, tweet, post or otherwise transfer electronically anything you wouldn’t want on the judge’s desk at your final hearing ... because that is exactly where it will end up. And don’t diss the ex to the kids because it’s not good for the kids and the judge will hear about it, so it’s not helpful to your interests either.
Judges know that dads are attentive to their new girlfriends. They therefore inevitably conclude that if Dad is with his kids and the girlfriend at the same time, the kids are going to be told to get into the back seat and be quiet. But everything about divorce court is about making the interests of the children paramount. Judges believe you can’t do that when your paramour’s around. So don’t do it. You’ll be marked down for it. Besides, the kids will tell the ex, and that will inevitably touch off her fuse, which might give you some momentary satisfaction, but will cost you big in the long run.
It’s a breeze to get a record of every call to and from your cell phone. The way to make phone calls of which there is no record is with those throwaway, pay-as-you-go phones. Get two now: one for you and one for your girlfriend into which you program your pay-as-you-go number. Keep yours locked in your office desk drawer.
Take a tip from Gen. Petraeus: Even if you and your girlfriend set up new email accounts and only correspond with one another from them, the chances are you’ll get caught by a techie who for whatever reason goes into your hard drive where there is an unerasable record of everything your computer has done. The safest way to communicate is by texting or calling on throwaway pay-as-you-go phones. Chuck them and get new ones regularly. If you’ve already made mistakes on this, there’s no time like the present to begin your new more cautious ways.
Things are going to change. Get with your accountant or financial advisor to look at the big picture and what you should do to adjust to your new financial circumstances.
As in all things, if you get educated about what’s before you and go into it expecting the worst, the chances of it being worse than you expected are about even. Get a lawyer you can get along with, who can make you smile once in awhile. Take the precautions suggested here. Look forward not back. Move on with strength and grace, and hopefully after a couple of years when you do look back on the whole mess, you won’t have regrets at least about how the split was handled.
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