Money and financial stability are extremely important no matter where you are in life, and when you are going through divorce, it becomes even more imperative to take the right steps toward protecting your financial security. However, the atmosphere that exists during a divorce often makes determining the “right” steps you should be taking more difficult than you might think — changing expenses, charged emotions, and an uncertain future all combine to make it difficult to thoroughly plan ahead. Fortunately, you can avoid many financial headaches by steering clear of the seven common financial mistakes that guys make during divorce with a little foresight and planning. Here are seven common financial mistakes guys make during divorce that you should avoid:
1. Giving up on everything
During a long and drawn out divorce, a lot of guys reach a breaking point in which they are so physically and emotionally drained with the process that they just want to give in on everything to get the divorce over with.
This can be a huge mistake for a number of reasons:
1) Property division is generally final, meaning you cannot go back and try to fight for assets later if you realize you gave up on something valuable or sentimental.
2) It is very easy to underestimate the value of possessions in your home. Refurnishing a whole new house without your fair share of the assets can be extremely difficult.
3) Modifying orders for alimony, child support, visitation, etc., typically requires showing that there has been a significant change in circumstances. You may not have grounds to attempt a modification later if you situation is similar to when the divorce occurred.
2. Not understanding separate and marital property
Determining what is included in the marital pot that is up for division can be a murky area that is frequently contentious during the divorce process. Laws will vary by state, though most will define marital property as anything acquired by you or your spouse during the course of the marriage. This includes money, property, retirement benefits, investment accounts, etc. Separate property typically includes anything owned prior to marriage, and then specific awards received during the marriage, such as gifts and inheritances. While this may seem straightforward, it can get murky when separate property is commingled with marital funds or used to pay for marital assets.
3. Assuming you will keep your own debts and she will keep hers
Just like all wealth and property acquired during marriage is considered marital property and subject to division, so are any debts that are racked up. Just because your wife had bad shopping habits and accumulated thousands in credit card debt while you were responsible with your spending does not mean she will be taking all of that with her in a divorce. Order credit reports for you and your spouse to get an accurate picture of marital debt and brush up on your state’s property division laws.
4. Attempting to hide assets
As long as divorce has existed, people have thought about — or attempted — to keep certain assets out of the marital estate by “hiding” them from the courts. Though it may sound tempting to try to be sneaky and get away with more than your share, it is never a good idea to hide assets in divorce. Technology has made the chances of getting caught very high, and the potential risk of damaging your case is serious. Not only will it paint your side as the “bad guy,” but you also risk financial penalties, a lesser portion of the marital assets and damage to your credibility that is difficult to overcome for the remainder of your case.
5. Not refinancing mortgages
Generally speaking, the marital home is the largest asset and/or debt a married couple acquires during the course of their marriage. Because of this, it becomes one of the most complex to divide after a divorce. If one spouse is awarded the home, you need to make sure to include provisions in the decree regarding refinancing the mortgage; otherwise, both parties will continue to be held responsible for the loan. Clearly, this can cause problems down the line if the spouse awarded the home is unable to afford the mortgage payments.
6. Vague language in your decree
Specific details are extremely important to include in the wording of your decree to ensure there is less room for argument regarding agreements made during the divorce further down the road. Be sure to include the “what, where, when, who and how” whenever possible. This can include provisions for your parenting plan, such as how everyday pick-ups and drop-offs should work or required notice for moves out of you current area, or the reasons alimony can be modified or terminated. Essentially, the more specific you are in your decree, the less room there is to deviate from the agreement without the risk of being held in contempt.
7. Improper drafting of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
Even after a decree is entered and your divorce appears to be over, completing a Qualified Domestic Relations Order often remains. This document, many times referred to a Separation Agreement, provides instruction to the plan administrator on how to divide retirement accounts and all other assets, debts, liabilities, 401Ks, IRAs, etc. which helps avoid additional fees and tax obligations. If done improperly or too late, it can mean significant fiscal consequences to one or both parties.
These are just some of the more common financial mistakes guys make during the course of a divorce that can be costly and disasterous. It is advisable to take immediate steps to safeguard your financial security during divorce — get a highly skilled divorce attorney to look out for your best interests, and be proactive when it comes to protecting your financial future.
Mat Camp is the editor for Mensdivorce.com, a website dedicated to providing useful information and resources to men before, during and after divorce.
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Adjusting to co-parenting after divorce or separation is often a huge transition for dads. And when you haven’t been the primary caregiver before, it’s also a daunting task. If you haven’t been heavily involved in children’s daily routine, the separation will be a big change for you and your kids. There are four pillars for building a strong co-parenting relationship that puts your children first.
Studies show that children adjust best to their parents’ separation when they have ongoing and positive relationships with both parents. So get involved in your child’s life and stay involved. Work with your co-parent to make sure all of these pillars are in place:
Communication is hard for separated and divorced parents. But you cannot avoid it if you are committed to taking a child-first approach to your co-parenting arrangements. Your objective is to establish clear, child-focused, conflict-free communication. Decide which type of communication works best for you. If you’d rather avoid speaking, then use written communication channels – which are less open to emotion, opinion or interpretation.
Set a business-like tone in your communications with the other parent and speak to them as you would to a colleague at work. You don’t have to be friends; simply be professional and courteous to each other.
Try to make requests rather than demands, and always be polite and civil in your communications. It also goes a long way if you really listen to what the other parent is saying.
When your co-parent sends you a request or asks for your input on a parenting decision, respond in a timely manner. And when you’re the initiator, make sure you give the other parent a reasonable amount of time to respond. Be realistic.
Commit to communicating regularly and consistently. This shows your kids you are parenting as a team with their best interests at heart.
Good co-parenting often means compromising. Research shows that parents who are more flexible are able to co-parent more effectively than those who are more rigid. There is no single “right way” to parent your children; as long as your children are safe and well looked after by their co-parent, don’t try to assert your will into how things are done in the other household. That said; try to avoid being “Disneyland Dad” where “dad’s house” means funhouse.
Be flexible about requests for changes in the custody schedule for special occasions or vacations. Birthdays fall when they fall and if the other parent’s birthday occurs during your parenting time, be reasonable if your ex wants to celebrate with your children. If the idea of doing your ex a favor is intolerable, then do it for your kids. They have the right to celebrate birthdays and family occasions with both sides of the family – don’t take that away from them just to get back at the other parent.
Cooperation in co-parenting means you share the responsibility for raising your children together and treat each other with respect and consideration. As separated parents, you will need to work together to manage your parenting time schedule, transitions, school, shared expenses, childcare and activities. You will also need to coordinate doctor and dentist appointments, sick days, birthday parties and family gatherings. Seek out the tools you need to manage your co-parenting arrangements in a business-like way.
By cooperating with your co-parent, you show your children their needs take priority and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best parent possible.
Even though you are separated, you will continue to make important parenting decisions together: which school your children attend, which doctor your child goes to, whether your child needs therapy, and so on. Co-parenting works best when both parents take an active role in important decisions about their children’s mental and physical well-being. Cooperation gives you both support through the big life decisions so that neither of you is ever left feeling solely responsible.
The definition of cooperation is the process of working together toward the same end. This means continuing to work together to raise healthy, happy kids who needn’t choose sides.
Studies show that children adjust much more easily to divorce or separation when both parents remain present in their life and provide a loving, stable and consistent environment for them to grow up in.
Consistency doesn’t mean that you have to parent in the same way or that a daily routine must be mirrored in both houses. But routine is very important to kids – it gives them a sense of security and safety. When expectations around chores, rules, mealtimes, homework, TV and social media are consistent in both houses, children can develop the self-discipline they need to be successful in life.
Consistency in bedtime and bedtime rituals is very important for children of all ages. For kids to develop healthy sleep habits, they should go to bed at roughly the same time every night. A consistent bedtime routine in both homes is really comforting for children – especially for younger ones. Discuss bedtime and bedtime rituals with your co-parent and find a plan that you can both agree on and consistently achieve.
For children living between two homes, consistency on transition days can really help to reduce stress. Have a consistent transition time and a routine for drop off and pick up. Your children should know what to expect and when to expect it.
With consistent co-parenting, your children will be more relaxed, more willing to join in with chores and family routines, and easier and much more fun to be around.
With these four pillars in place, you will have the foundation for developing a successful co-parenting relationship. Which is great news for your children! Dads play an important role in their children’s development and overall well-being. Numerous studies have shown that kids with involved dads do better socially and academically than children who have a distant or absent relationship with their fathers. In fact, the crucial, difference-making factor is having an actively involved dad – not where he lives in relation to the child.
So even though co-parenting is a lot of work, it is truly worth your effort.
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How to Keep It Together When Divorce Blindsides You
Off to War, Only to Return to a Dreaded Divorce Proceeding
The day my life changed started out like any other. Being married and in the military, the trip I faced felt like countless trips before. The same routine played out for over a decade. I deployed, was scheduled for random night flights, and engaged in many short trips; all while maintaining the normal day job when not on the road. None of this interfered with attending sports practice and field trips with the kids.
For a few years, my job involved traveling to so many different locations that I’d occasionally wake up at night wondering where I was. But this move and this job would be different.
I was heading up the team, which meant I would finally be in control of my schedule.
My family and I had just moved back into a house we had lived in before, in a town from about five years prior, and I was leaving for a few weeks to train and qualify in a new aircraft. The kids were starting school and the future seemed brighter than ever.
Divorce Blindsides You In the Worst Way
Fast forward to a few weeks later, I was preparing for my final evaluation flight so I could come home when…I got the call.
Those who have been there know what I mean by “the call.” Evidently the marriage had been wrong from the beginning, at least from her perspective, and she wanted a divorce. I sat in my hotel room, speechless, the wind completely knocked out of me, my world spinning out of control. I was in shock; this is not how I had envisioned the future. I always knew the marriage my wife and I shared was going to go the distance. We were best friends and we never fought. Turns out I could not have been more wrong.
Evidently, the marriage had been wrong from the beginning, at least from her perspective, and she wanted a divorce. I sat in my hotel room, speechless, the wind completely knocked out of me, my world spinning out of control. I was in shock; this is not how I had envisioned the future. I always knew the marriage my wife and I shared was going to go the distance. We were best friends, and we never fought. Turns out I could not have been more wrong.
Divorce Blindsides Everyone, and I Was Far from Alone
I learned later that my story was far from unique. I quickly realized how common it was for divorce to blindside a man who thought his marriage was rock solid. When I called my old commanding officer—who I knew was traveling down a similar path with his wife of over 25 years—his story was nearly identical to mine.
Shortly after talking with him, I went to see the man whose job I was assuming. I started to tell him that I had some personal issues at home to work through for a few days when he got up and shut the door. He returned to his seat and his normally stern face changed. His eyes swelling and red. He appeared to gain a heavy burden in a matter of seconds.
I learned that my confession had taken him back seven years to the heart-breaking goodbye he bid his daughters as they moved across the country with their mom. He recalled the gut wrenching agony he faced recently when, while visiting them, he heard them call another man ‘Dad.’
Sharing my story with others, I heard more of the same.
Statistics today show that a large majority of divorces are initiated by women. The size of the club I was joining, kicking and screaming, reflected the reality of most men facing divorce.
Fighting for My Kids
The nightmare intensified for me several weeks later when I met with an attorney to discuss my options. She told me—rather bluntly—that, as a working dad versus a stay-at-home mom, I was headed to visitation every other weekend. Should the military move me out of the area, she could move with the kids anywhere she wanted and I would see them when I could and a few weeks in the summer.
I left livid, emotions bubbling inside like hot lava threatening to overflow. Not only did it only take one person to end a marriage, but she could also take the kids away! Sure I was a working father, but that did not mean I did not make time for my family or that my relationship with my children was of any less value than their relationship with their mother.
I quickly decided I would fight to be more of a presence in my children’s lives after the divorce; in stark contrast to what my lawyer told me to expect.
My divorce transitioned through many stages, turning from a friendly desire to work out the details together into multi-state legal combat after the kids were taken halfway across the country by their mother. It spanned nearly two years from the initial phone call until the official divorce settlement. In the end, we came to an agreement and today I enjoy much more time with my children than the first lawyer advised me to accept in that initial meeting.
My Solo Fathers Book Series Was Born from This
So much of my divorce was on-the-job training. I searched the web, but the articles and books I found seemed slanted towards a women’s perspective. The lessons I learned—not only from my divorce but also from the many dads who had gone before me that helped me along the way—fueled my inspiration to reach out to help others facing the same situation.
That first night in the hotel, after the phone call, I felt more alone than ever before. I was flying solo. It was only through connecting with many other solo fathers out there that I learned we were all flying a similar path. I learned an abundance of lessons from my successes and failures.
There are many details covered in my books and blog—but all the elements can be boiled down into three main steps for men to follow to navigate the storms of divorce with the best possible outcome:
1. Take care of yourself.
Divorce is second from the top of life’s greatest stresses, behind the death of a spouse.
No matter how you enter the pattern, you will be tested to your limits. Without a doubt, you have to see to your kids’ needs and your legal case, but you fail both if you aren’t at your best.
Never in your life will so much be riding on your performance. You must take care of your health—through exercise, diet, and rest—while also maintaining your mental focus on areas you can control and avoid toxic mental spirals into frustration, regret, and rumination you can’t control.
Above all, stay focused on positive thinking.
2. Take care of your kids.
They need you, a strong you. Divorce will rock their foundation. You can’t control how they will react, but you can be there for them when they need you.
Despite how you feel about their mom, they need her too. In my case, I had their mom over a legal barrel after she absconded with them across the country. Full custody was mine for the taking. But the kids needed their mom. I knew them, and I knew their relationship with both of us. They needed both their parents.
So, despite pressure from attorneys, family, and friends; I chose the custody arrangement that fit their best interests. You and only you know your children and what they need. It will take deep soul-searching, but you can determine what the best situation is for them and never lose focus of that goal.
3. Take care of your case.
Odds are you will need legal help to get through your divorce. Most divorces are carried out through the legal system, but very few men actually ride the whole process out.
There are many pitfalls early on—like moving out—that can cause irreparable damage to your case. No matter how strongly you believe in your desired outcome being the best for your family, if you haven’t attended to the details of your case, you may not get to your solution.
The legal system is slow, so the best advice I can give when it comes to taking care of your case is to be slow as well—meaning methodical. You don’t have to agree to anything right away. Listen, get informed, and take time to think things through before you make any decisions or commitments. The arrangements being worked out now will be binding and guide your future relationship with your kids for years to come, so be dedicated to the process and clear about what you want.
I firmly believe that, while all our divorce stories are unique, they also share many common elements. As dads and men, we naturally draw inwards, cowboy up, and work alone to solve our problems. My goal is to help dads break out of that tendency.
In flying, we depend on our peers to discuss, grade, and improve our skills constantly. We can do that as solo fathers too; we can work together as a community to build us all up. I am forever in debted to the dads that advised and helped me. It’s through sites like this that we must support each other so the next guy to get that phone call will start out a little more informed, knowing he is not alone.
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