The unfortunate reality is that child custody is the practice area of divorce that tends to cause the most heated disagreements. Divorce can impact nearly every aspect of your life, but matters such as property division and spousal support pale in comparison to the relationship you have with your kids. Far too frequently, dads are relegated to a secondary parent role when custody is determined.
If you are a father facing divorce and an ensuing child custody battle, it is best to take steps so that you are prepared for what lies ahead.
Contact a child custody attorney
The single most important thing you can do to prepare for your child custody case is to hire a family law attorney who focuses on fathers’ rights.
There are a number of different factors you should consider when choosing a divorce lawyer, but first and foremost you need to make sure you find an attorney who understands the specific challenges men and fathers face in family law.
Fortunately, there are law firms out there, such as Cordell & Cordell, that are solely dedicated to providing dads the legal guidance and resources they need during the divorce process. These fathers’ rights attorneys are well-versed in the child custody statutes in your jurisdiction and equipped to navigate the treacherous minefield of custody battles you are likely to face.
Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.
As their dad, this is likely information you already know, but do not leave it to chance. A judge can tell the difference between a father who is intimately involved with his child’s life versus a dad who is a passive participant in it.
Don’t confide in your child
Divorce is such an emotionally trying time that many fathers find themselves desperate for a listening ear to vent their frustrations to. But no matter how stressful your divorce gets or how frustrated you get with your ex, do not rant and rave to your child.
Trashing your ex in front of your child can potentially lead to parental alienation, which is incredibly damaging. It can also badly hurt your child custody case. If a judge finds out that you are using your child as a therapist and turning them against their mother, they are likely to question whether you truly have their best interest in mind.
It is important not to keep things bottled up as you are going through the divorce process, but talk to a friend, a trusted family member, or a mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor. Leave the kids out of it.
When a marriage falls apart, it is difficult to avoid having some hard feelings towards your ex. However, regardless of what you think of her, it is for the best if you two can work together to have an amicable relationship post-divorce.
After divorce, you might wish to never even see your ex again, but that is not realistic when you have children. Although you are no longer husband and wife, you are still both co-parents and you are going to need to communicate on some level as you raise your child.
It is a good idea to start keeping a journal recording important names, dates, places, and people in the lives of your children. You should also detail any negative behaviors from your ex that could help your case, such as engaging in alienating behavior.
Make sure you list precise times and dates. Attention to detail, or lack thereof, can make or break you child custody case.
Paying attention to the fine print is tedious, but it is the only way to know what you are up against before your child custody hearing. Reading up on the latest custody laws can also help you figure out a list of questions to ask your divorce lawyer as your court date nears.
Follow proper courtroom etiquette
If you hope to win child custody you have to make sure you behave appropriately in court and follow correct protocols. Talk with your attorney about what is expected on the day of your hearing. It might even be a good idea to do some roleplaying with your divorce attorney ahead of time to ensure that you understand the expectations prior to your court appearance.
You will also want to make sure you dress appropriately to make a positive impression. Typically, you will want to wear something formal that conveys that you are well put together and a responsible adult.
Monitor social media
When you are in the midst of a child custody battle, it is for the best to shut down your social media accounts across the board. There is not much upside to having those accounts open during this time.
Whatever you do, do not post any details about your case. You should be very careful about all the content that you post because it is very easy for someone to form the wrong impression without proper context. For example, you might post a picture of you and your friends having a couple drinks and the opposing party could use that photo as evidence that you are partying too much and not a responsible parent.
A temporary social media blackout is really for the best.
The celebrity divorce of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie after 25 years of marriage has generated thousands of news headlines as legal experts are weighing in on what might happen to their $137 billion fortune. This split will go down as one of the most expensive divorces in history.
Although most divorcing couples do not have nearly as much wealth at stake as the Bezos family, there still are some lessons to learn from their breakup.
Get a prenup!
Perhaps the most important takeaway is how valuable a prenuptial agreement can be in the event of divorce.
Most of the Bezos’ fortune was built during the course of their marriage. Since the couple lives in Washington, which is a community property state, most of their estate is subject to a 50-50 split.
“It is important to understand that agreeing to a prenup is not planning on your marriage failing; it is providing a plan for how to deal with the property of the parties in the event the marriage does not last,” said Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joe Cordell. “It is only ever used in the event that the marriage fails, which could happen whether or not the prenup was signed.”
Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.
For Jeff Bezos, it was impossible to forecast the enormous fortune he would go on to build when he and MacKenzie first tied the knot. However, you do not have to be exorbitantly wealthy to benefit from a prenup. Generally, prenuptial agreements can cover:
Rights for alimony or spousal support
Rights for attorney fees
Each party’s finances
Ownership rights in regards to life insurance or disability policies
It is important to get in touch with a men’s divorce attorney who can help you determine what to include in a prenuptial agreement and to ensure that it is in fact enforceable. This important step is possibly the best way to protect yourself from a nasty divorce.
Affairs can cost you
A potential confounding factor in Bezos’ divorce is that he started dating news anchor/actress Lauren Sanchez during the separation period from his wife. It is uncertain, but that relationship could give his wife MacKenzie more leverage.
In this day and age, judges are rarely concerned with who is to blame in the divorce since no-fault divorce is now the norm, but that relationship could spur MacKenzie to push for more in the divorce settlement than she might have otherwise.
However, just because the divorce process begins on friendly terms is no guarantee it will remain that way. Cordell & Cordell Fairfax divorce attorney Aaron J. Weaver says he’s seen plenty of divorces start amicably before quickly deteriorating.
“What I’ve seen in my practice is it’s not uncommon for parties to start out in a collaborative way seeking settlement and at some point in time someone gets rubbed the wrong way in negotiations, pushes away from the table, and then sometimes mud starts getting slung,” Mr. Weaver said.
The unfortunate truth is that the family court system is set up in a way that breeds conflict. Society should do more to support amicable divorce as it is in the best interest of both parties involved and especially beneficial as the couple co-parents together if they have any children.
Divorce is a life event that completely shakes up your life and can leave you feeling like a shell of your former self.
It is not just the fact that your family is splitting apart, your living situation is changing, and your finances are taking a hit. Divorce also has a very real impact on your physical and mental health.
Here are some of the most significant ways divorce can impact your health.
When the body is stressed, it releases the hormone cortisol. Overexposure to cortisol can disrupt nearly every system in the body and can contribute to anxiety, heart disease, depression, digestive problems, and other issues.
Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.
That is not surprising. A lot of guys might not have handled cooking duties while they were married. And after divorce, it is common to cope with comfort foods (who couldn’t use a night on the couch with some pizza and beer after a tough breakup?).
The chronic stress of divorce also can cause trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is one of those things that can easily snowball. A lack of sleep leads to more stress, which makes it even harder to fall asleep, which causes more anxiety, and so on.
“In the sleep world, stress is to sleep as yin is to yang – opposite forces that are forever linked,” said Chris Winter, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center. “Stress prevents sleep. Sleep deprivation increases stress and its consequences.”
Depression goes hand-in-hand with stress and anxiety, so it should come as no surprise that many men struggle with depression after divorce.
The end of a marriage conjures a lot of emotional turmoil, and a lot of men are not equipped to deal with these mental health issues on their own. The situation is even worse if you were dealt an unfavorable child custody arrangement forcing you to spend less time with your kids than you would like.
Very few couples make it through the entire divorce process without at least a few points of contention.
Divorce, by its very nature, is adversarial and tends to breed conflict. Amicable divorces are rare. Although no-fault divorce is now the norm and it is no longer always necessary to prove marital fault, there still are plenty of opportunities for emotions to erupt.
The process of negotiating child custody arrangements, child support agreements, property division, and alimony/spousal support often is tense and involves a lot of back and forth at a time when each party is already in a precarious emotional state.
Here are three reasons divorced dads should always take the high road:
It’s best for your kids
First and foremost, you always need to keep the best interest of your children in mind.
Seeing their parents split is traumatic, but research shows that the negative outcomes children of divorce are at risk of has more to do with the amount of conflict they are exposed to during the divorce rather than the event of divorce itself.
The problem with lashing out at your ex, even if she has seriously wronged you, is that it is not going to make you feel any better. Whatever happened between the two of you while you are married is now in the past, and you need to be putting your best foot forward. That can’t happen as long as you are being drug into arguments and disagreements.
Rather than ruminating on past events or worrying about what lies ahead, focus on cultivating a mindfulness practice that keeps you centered in the present. This is the most effective way to find peace in the wake of divorce and can help you along your road to divorce recovery.
It’s best for your case
When feelings get hurt during divorce, it can be tempting to do whatever it takes to get back at your ex during the divorce proceedings.
That might mean trying to paint them as a bad parent so you get a better custody arrangement or lying or hiding assets so you come out ahead in the division of property. Tempting as this might be, it is a terrible idea. If the judge finds out you are lying, you are sure to pay for it in the final divorce agreement.
One of the reasons divorce wreaks so much havoc is that many guys make avoidable mistakes throughout the process that compound the damage. Here are some practical steps to take during divorce that can go a long way toward minimizing the harm done and speed your divorce recovery.
Meet with an attorney ASAP
There is a multitude of free information and resources available on the Internet that can be very useful throughout your divorce. There are literally thousands of helpful articles here on DadsDivorce and our partner sites, MensDivorce.com and MensRights.com.
However, most of the information you find while researching divorce online is generalized because every case is unique. It is difficult to determine how the laws and legal statutes are going to apply to your specific situation. It is a major mistake to try to resolve your case without the guidance of someone more knowledgeable on the topic.
You may have an aversion to getting an attorney involved and might prefer to handle the case on your own, especially if you and your ex are splitting on friendly terms. The problem is that the divorce process can cause amicable relationships to turn bitter without the help of legal professional to sort through the messy and confusing details.
At the very least, meet with an attorney for an initial consultation, which comes at a nominal free and sometimes is even free. This does not require retaining the attorney and can provide valuable information as you determine the next steps to take in your divorce.
A certain amount of stress is unavoidable in most divorce cases. It ranks as the second-most stressful life event a person can experience. So keep in mind during your divorce that there are likely going to be days you feel completely overwhelmed.
Regardless of how messy your divorce gets, you can do yourself a huge favor by prioritizing taking care of yourself. That means eating right, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, and doing what you can to maintain your mental health.
If you reach a point where you do not know how to cope with everything that is on your plate, consider seeing a licensed counselor or therapist. Mental health professional can help you figure out strategies to manage your stress better than you ever though was possible.
One reason divorce recovery is such an uphill climb for many guys is that it is so expensive. The cost of attorney fees, alimony, and child support can wipe out your bank account, and it can take years to get back on your feet.
One of the reasons hiring a family law attorney is such a worthwhile investment is that they can help minimize the long-term monetary damage of your divorce. However, there also are some steps you can personally take to keep yourself afloat financially.
Come up with a realistic budget that you can stick to before, during, and after divorce that factors in all of your monthly costs and expenses. This will give you a clear understanding of the money you have coming in and where all your money is going to each month. Once you have a detailed budget put together, you can then determine whether you need to trim some expenses or find a way to bring in more income.
It also is critical to avoid any major purchases before your divorce is final. If you are in a dispute over child support or alimony, your wife’s attorney likely will take note if you were able to drop a bunch of money on a new car and that could decrease your chances of winning.
While the holidays are a time of joy for many families, that is not always the case when you have gone through divorce or are in the middle of one.
Divorced fathers often spend the holidays separated from their children, and that is heartbreaking. It is especially tough when it is your first holiday season as a divorced dad. Instead of warmth and happiness, you might be feeling isolated and lonely.
As tough as this is, it is important to keep in mind these emotions are all part of the healing process. DadsDivorce has produced numerous articles, videos, and podcasts to help guys like you through this difficult transition.
At DadsDivorce and Men’s Divorce, you can find resources that offer practical tips to help you through this time. On our Men’s Divorce Forum provides a community of men and fathers who have gone through similar experiences who can help you learn how to cope and strive after divorce. Our sponsor, Cordell & Cordell, is dedicated to giving men the legal resources they need to rebuild their lives after divorce.
We hope you are able to spend this time of year with your loved ones. For those of you who are not that fortunate, remember you are not alone.
Happy Holidays from DadsDivorce and DadsDivorce sponsor Cordell & Cordell.
It is critical to your well-being to avoid bottling up these emotions. That is one of the most self-destructive habits you can develop during this challenging time.
However, it is important that you find appropriate outlets to vent about those feelings. Reach out to family members and close friends. It is certainly worth looking into seeing a therapist to help you sort through what you are experiencing.
Do not, under any circumstances, use your children as a sounding board. This is already a heartbreaking process for them, and they should not be expected to talk you through your struggles.
This does not mean you should try to feign fake emotional strength. It is healthy to admit that you are sad to your kids and show your vulnerabilities, so that they know it is OK to feel that way too. But any emotional breakdowns you might go through should be away from their eyes and ears and in the company of a trusted confidant who is more emotionally equipped to help you.
Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.
Effective co-parenting requires clear communication, flexibility, patience, and a commitment to doing what is best for your children regardless of how you and your ex feel about each other.
This is obviously more challenging if there are hard feelings between you and your ex. A lot of couples are utilizing co-parenting counselors to help figure out this process.
“Co-parenting counseling is a specific kind of counseling intended to teach parents who are separated or divorced to communicate more effectively,” said Cordell & Cordell divorce attorney Jamie Spero. “The purpose of it is to talk about the kids’ best interest in a neutral environment with a neutral third party who has special training, and this person is supposed to help you learn to communicate more effectively, so you can co-parent your children easier.”
You might be in a spot where your ex is just too disagreeable to co-parent with. In these scenarios, it might be worth employing a parallel parenting model, which is designed for high-conflict couples.
Avoid bad-mouthing your ex in front of your kids
It does not matter how terrible your ex is, you should never speak ill of her in front of your children. Kids tend to idolize their parents and love them unconditionally. When they hear you breaking her down, it creates confusion and can result in a toxic relationship and even parental alienation.
Just like you, your children need to have a place to talk about the feelings they have about your divorce. Seeing their parents fall out of love and break up is confusing and can lead to heartache, anger, sadness, and a number of other unpleasant emotions.
Divorce has a way of impacting nearly every part of your life.
The costs of divorce – attorney fees, child support, alimony, and more – can wreck your finances. Depending on how the division of property goes, your living situation can drastically change. And worst of all, divorce can even change the amount of time you get to spend with your children.
With so much at stake, it is understandable if you start to feel stressed and overwhelmed. That can take a huge toll on both your mind and body.
It is critical to be proactive in taking steps to minimize the physical and mental strain of divorce so that you maintain your overall health.
Looking after your mental well-being is every bit as important as taking care of your physical health. The emotional turmoil of divorce can create a spiral of anxiety and depression that seems unending.
Some men might feel hesitant to open up about their feelings. Traditional views of masculinity emphasize the importance of toughness, fearlessness, and invulnerability to pain, but these unrealistic notions are counterproductive and prevent many men from seeking the help they need.
Not only will a therapist allow you to vent about what you are going through, but they are qualified to recognize the symptoms of depression and can determine the best way to treat the disorder.
Divorce is not the time to hold things in. That is only going to make things worse. A therapist can help you manage the negative feelings you are experiencing and help you get back on your feet.
Avoid bad habits
One of the factors contributing to the increased health risks men face during and after divorce is their propensity to fall into bad habits.
With so much stress and frustration, there is a natural temptation to try to drown your sorrows in a case of beer or bottle of liquor, but self-medicating with alcohol is a slippery slope.
Research shows men are more likely to binge drink during divorce. Not only is this a risky behavior health-wise, but it could potentially be used as evidence to paint you as an unfit father during your child custody case.
Another mistake a lot of guys make immediately after divorce is jumping into a rebound relationship too quickly and becoming a habitual dater. Starting a new relationship too soon after divorce makes it more likely that someone ends up hurt – whether that is you or the person you are dating.
Surviving divorce is no easy task no matter how tough you are. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is the second-most stressful life event behind only the death of a spouse or child.
There are numerous factors that make moving on after divorce so difficult. When you get married and start a family, you think you have your future figured out, but divorce flips your plans upside down, forcing you to start from scratch and rebuild many of the most important aspects of your life.
However, surviving divorce is possible, no matter how nasty things get between you and your ex. Divorce recovery is a slow process, but with patience, focus, and really hard intentional work, you can do it.
One of the toughest parts of divorce for fathers is that too often dads get the short end of the stick in child custody decisions. Despite the shared parenting movement’s enormous progress, many judges still default to automatically awarding primary custody to mothers.
This is why it is important at the very beginning of the divorce process to get in touch with a family law attorney who focuses on fathers’ rights. Divorce is uniquely challenging for dads, so you should make sure you hire an attorney who understands what you are facing.
Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.
Regardless of what your child custody arrangement ends up looking like, you should use the time during and following a divorce to focus on becoming the best father you can possibly be for your children.
Depending on the age of your children, they might initially end up with some hard feelings toward you after your divorce. It is possible they blame you for the breakup and harbor resentment. It is critical for you to acknowledge the emotions they are feeling and give them an outlet to vent, whether that is to you, a trusted family member, or counselor.
Another big part of being a good father to your children in the aftermath of divorce is working with your ex to establish a strong co-parenting relationship. This can be particularly tough if your divorce was not amicable. Even if you and your ex have hard feelings, you need to agree to put your differences aside so that you can effectively co-parent. Your children’s well-being should be the top priority for both of you.
Effective co-parenting requires clear communication, flexibility, and cooperation. If your ex refuses to cooperate, you might need to consider a parallel parenting arrangement, which is a high-conflict co-parenting model designed to shield children from whatever disagreements their parents might have.
Divorce is so draining that it becomes very easy to shut down. At the end of the day, you might just want to crash on the couch with some beer, pizza, and Netflix.
There is nothing wrong with taking an occasional night to regroup and veg on the recliner, but don’t make that habitual.
There is a very strong relationship between body and mind, and exercise is proven to be one of the best reducers of stress and anxiety. So hit the gym, go for a bike ride, walk around the park, or even jump into a pick-up basketball game with some buddies. Just make sure you are staying physically active, even when you do not feel like it.
Striving to become a better parent and taking care of your physical and mental health all tie into the larger picture of overall personal development.
When you were married, your relationship with your spouse probably formed an enormous part of your identity. That all changes after divorce, but it also presents an opportunity for you to really focus on self-improvement.
Now that you are single, you likely have more time to take up new hobbies that you always wanted to try. In addition to doing everything possible to become a better dad, you also can devote tremendous energy to advancing your career and putting yourself in a better financial position moving forward.
The key to personal development is identifying specific areas of your life that need improvement and then coming up with a realistic strategy to make progress. So if career success is a goal of yours, maybe there is a promotion you can work for. If you feel getting into better shape is important for you, then set a weight-loss goal. Just make sure you are taking steps to keep your life moving in a positive direction.
My wife and I have been living apart for four months. She has our son, and we came to a mutual agreement regarding visitation rights and the amount of child support I should pay.
We have agreed to keep everything peaceful, as long as we both follow what we agreed to. Once it is time to get our divorce, will we need to get a lawyer or just go through the courts?
I am not licensed to practice in your state and cannot provide you legal advice. However, I can give general tips regarding your situation based on the jurisdiction where I practice.
Cordell & Cordell Fairfax Divorce Attorney Timothy Jacques
First, each state has different requirements for divorce when there are children involved. Typically, you must be separated for 6-to-12 months and have an agreement as to custody, visitation, support, and equitable distribution. (Some states recognize formal separation and some do not.)
Once you have met the separation criteria in your state, typically a complaint for divorce is filed with the court, followed by the separation agreement and a final decree of divorce. Many states make the process simple and do not require amicable spouse to appear in court.
However, the amount of child support one pays can vary great based on a number of factors including, how many days of visitation each party receive, the income of the parties, and necessary child care and out of pocket medical expenses.
You should contact your local Cordell & Cordell office for an in-depth consultation regarding your specific facts and before you agree to any amount of child support.