Financial Advice for Men During a Divorce

Financial Advice for Men During a Divorce

George Levett, Stirling Ackroyd Legal, International Law Firm 

The thought of splitting your assets during a divorce can seem very daunting. In addition to the natural stress that is associated with divorce and deciding child custody rights, the process can seem even more overwhelming. To keep you sane through this there are loads of great resources online to keep you organised and on top of things.

When looking at your financials…

There is a strong need for you to make a list of all your tangible and intangible assets. This essentially means that you should list all your keepsakes, loans, copyrights and collections. Knowing what’s at stake will help you make an informed decision. For example, you may have overlooked certain assets during your marriage and considered them to be of little value but making a list can help you identify them and their importance.

To help you make the best decision and decide how you want to go about splitting your marital assets, it’s important you speak to an experienced lawyer so that you know all your options and how best to protect yourself.

These simple steps should make it easier for you to think about your divorce with a clear and focused head.

The Family Home

The main thing you may be concerned with is deciding how to split the family home. Most likely, this is your most valuable asset so it will be of high priority to you both.

Speak to your partner. There was a time where you and your partner were civil and could reach a mutual decision. Don’t put off reaching out to your partner in order to decide what should happen next. Remember that arguments over the mortgage and who is entitled to the furniture are relatively normal, as long as you can come to an agreement over it.

If you find that you can’t reach a mutual decision, your next move is probably to speak to a lawyer.

How to split the home

Different countries have different ways of going about this. England is known as the best country for divorce law because assets are split 50-50. However, you might not think that this is fair and in other countries, it’s possible that you may be able to retain more than just half of your assets depending on factors such as your financial status, age and health in comparison to your ex-partner, which is known as equitable distribution.

Your lawyer will help you through the legal minefield and make sure your interests are put first. The stakes are high, especially when considering a valuable asset like a house, meaning it’s really important for you to choose the right lawyer.

Contacting a realtor can also help you assess the value of your home, as this allows both you and your ex-partner to make the best possible decision. Your options are quite open as you can sell your home, give it away and perhaps even claim it, depending on your particular situation.

Your Business

Did you know that in some countries, your ex-partner may be entitled to half your business? This doesn’t sound particularly appealing so it’s worth knowing how to protect yourself and keep calm if you stand to lose half your business. 

What to do with a family business

A family business can be difficult to separate, especially if it has been run by you and your ex-partner. Most likely, your ex will probably come after it. Your protection can be found through a good lawyer who can find ways for you to retain your business, or a larger share if that’s what you want.

Issues are likely to arise if you and your ex-partner haven’t explicitly outlined your roles. Even if you did agree on job titles, they will need to be explained during the divorce since your ex-partner may try to minimise the duties of your role.

  1. Co-run

If the relationship between you and your ex is still amiable, there is a chance that you would be able to retain your business and keep your wealth. You could try co-owning the business with your ex. If your relationship ended on good terms, you’re in a good position as you won’t have to go through the hassle of fighting your ex in court.

  1. Buy-out

You can opt to buy your partner’s share if you really want to keep the business to yourself, although you may have to be willing to give up properties or a large sum of cash in order to appease your partner’s demands. Having a good lawyer is necessary to ensure that you’re not being manipulated into giving up more than your ex-partner is actually entitled to.

  1. Sell

If you find that you’re put off your business or can’t see yourself working with your ex, then you could offer to sell your share for a price. You’ll be giving yourself a fresh start and a clean break from your ex-partner, which is great especially if you left the relationship on bad terms.

If you both decide to sell and move on to newer ventures, you should know that the amount of money made from the sale can be less than expected, since the value of your business can depend on trends in the market. With a good lawyer by your side, you can find out the optimum time for you and your ex-partner to sell the business in order to make the most money.

There is no doubt that divorce can lead to confusion, anger and stress. We know that when it comes to dividing your assets, the conversation with your ex can be very heated but your greatest advantage is through a good lawyer. Knowing your legal rights and researching what you are entitled to can minimize the financial impact on yourself and make divorce a smoother and more efficient journey towards a new start.

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Keeping Your Head

Keeping Your Head

She did it again. She raged at you. Pissed you off. And you reacted. You blew a gasket. Provided you didn’t hit her or assault her in any way, you can come out of this ok. Keeping your head during a divorce is tough, really tough.

Divorce is emotional, and emotions run wild during the divorce process. But, you can control the emotions and control the process if you can keep your head and your emotions in check. Knowing you’re going to chat with the soon to be Ex and be emotionally charged, there are some things you can do to keep a steady course while navigating the rough seas ahead.

Keeping Your Head

The first rule of keeping your cool: Learn to be here, now.

Ram Dass wrote a great book in the late sixties on the subject, with a basic premise: Be Here. Now. (That’s the title of the book, too).

We tend to live a great deal of our lives out while not really being in the moment. There are many tried and true clichés on the subject, though it boils down to some simple understanding about how we build up stress. Most stress in life really has almost nothing to do with what’s actually happening in the present moment, it has to do with how we apply outdated emotions that worked in the past to a current situation that only looks like something that has happened before. We do this really quickly, too, so it takes a minute to recognize in ourselves that we are not really staying present but responding from past built in automatic responses.

If you are stressed in the moment, look around and decide if there is an actual real threat in front of you (like the house on fire) or if you are just working yourself up over something that isn’t even happening (like an imagined conversation going badly with the ex, before you even picked up the phone).

This is what I mean by “be here, now” – Keeping your head by staying present in the moment when you are feeling stress. If you are focused on a past you can’t change or a future that hasn’t materialized, then you are anywhere but here. Learn to get back quickly.

A rubber band may help.

It might sound sort of silly, but it could be the best silliest thing you do for yourself. Heck, the kids wear bracelets everywhere these days so you could even consider it a fashion statement. Go get yourself a regular rubber band and put it on your wrist. You could even get a Live Strong bracelet or a pretty multi-colored rainbow band, whatever your preference. Just make sure it is strong and that you can snap it when you fiddle with it.

I’m pretty sure you can figure this part out already, but just in case you haven’t caught on yet: When you start getting upset, give your new bracelet a little snap instead. It should sting just enough to remind you that you are alive, in this body, here and now, and help bring you back into the present. Eventually, just feeling it on your wrist, or even glancing at it will have the same effect.

Think of Pavlov’s famous dog. That’s what we’re doing; we’re tricking our minds into associating a sensation with an action. The sensation is secondary to the act of thinking about your behavior in the moment and learning to take a small moment for reflection, which will allow you to make wiser choices. Eventually the simple thought of snapping the rubber band will replace the action of actually doing it, and the effect will be the same. You will no longer be living inside your mind and taking actions based on past experiences or imagined futures, but you will begin making better decisions based upon what is really happening in the moment. Learning to divert our attention when we start to feel anger (in this case, into the rubber band) gives us a better chance to take another tactic when we are feeling emotionally distressed.

In Neurolinguistic programming this is one of the most basic “pattern interrupters” we can create. Neurolinguistic programming (or NLP) is the science of the study of how language affects the central nervous system. NLP is pretty powerful stuff and if you’re not already familiar with its concepts, I certainly recommend looking into it. The idea behind the rubber band is easy; we get influenced by circumstance and shift into auto-drive and stop responding to the actual threat, instead using a predetermined set of reactions to handle it. Simply put: we get stuck and stop paying attention. The little sting interrupts that thought process and gives us a chance to think anew on the current dilemma and respond in a better way.

Finally, let me add that a rubber band, while certainly effective, is not the only way to create this pattern interrupting behavior we are looking for. Aldous Huxley wrote once of parrots on an island trained to say “Here and now, boys”. You could set a timer every ten minutes (or two hours, or twice a day, etc) to chime and remind you to pay attention. You could pay Kato to come over and attack you whenever you return home. You can be creative in your choices on how to resolve the problem of keeping yourself present when you are feeling angry.   \

Next week, we’ll look at more ideas for keeping your cool.

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I’m Not Locked In Here With You

I’m Not Locked In Here With You

I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me.
— Rorschach in Watchmen, by Alan Moore

Let’s get one thing straight from the start. You’re divorced. You have kids with the Ex. The truth of the matter in dealing with your Ex is this – YOU HAVE TO. It’s a necessary evil. You’re locked in to having to deal with your Ex.  I realize you don’t want to. Neither did I. I get it. But, you’re going to have to deal with her about visitations, child support, alimony, kids activities, and any of a countless number of other things.

Locked In With the Ex

Your kids, like most kids in this nuclear world, are going to be involved in any number of outside activities, science fairs, dance, concerts, sports, plays, graduations. Most of these activities will be reason to run into the Ex, and may involve collaboration with the Ex. No matter how much you wish it NOT to be so, it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable.

Sorry to bring the stark fatalism into this article, but I’m just sayin’. You made babies with this woman, you’re gonna have endure some social functions as her Ex when the kids are involved. So, the best thing to do is swallow your pride, and make the best of what is surely a tough situation.

There are a few ways this can be achieved, of course. One of the easiest is to be on opposite sides of the space, whatever it is. If she sits stage left, sit stage right. At a basketball game, go to the other set of bleachers to cheer your daughter or son on. Just because you are in the same place, doesn’t mean you have to actively engage her. It’s probably going to happen, even if it’s just in passing. But there’s nothing that says you need to be locked in with each other as she or he delivers that Shakespearean soliloquy.

Another way is to come to an agreement beforehand – you want a few minutes to talk to him after the game (or she does, if you are the custodial parent), then you definitely should be allowed to, in peace. But don’t just walk up afterwards and usher your daughter away either without so much as a Hello. Work it out beforehand. Communication, as it turns out, does work wonders, even in the most hateful and contentious of breakups.

In fact, that is probably the best bet for most things regarding your kids – come to agreements. This will inevitably end up involving compromises, whether anyone likes it or not. Not everyone can get their own way all of the time. Not even the most virulent case of “affluenza” will achieve that goal. Sometimes, as much as you can say No, others will be telling you No as well. Learn when to say Yes.

And I know that sometimes, especially with big life-events such as graduations or weddings, it’s not going to be just your former spouse present. Chances are, your former in-laws will be there as well. If you’ve maintained great relationships with them, fantastic! If not… well, best be on your guard there, and then some. You can’t help how others will act. But you can help how you react to others’ poor behavior. Lashing out, especially at a public event centered around your children’s achievements, is always poor form, bar none.

It may be easy to say “take the high road,” but it’s a lot more difficult to actually do it. Fortunately, there’s plenty of time to get used to the idea. That’s why you’re here, right? We all could use a little leg up from time to time. I know I still do to this day.

All that said – whatever you do, don’t panic. Nobody ever died from being locked in the same room as their Ex. At least, not for that reason. Just remember one thing most important of all – the reasons you may be in the same place at the same time is for the kids. It’s their events, it’s their time to shine. Swallow your pride, and realize, ultimately, it’s them what matter during these times. Save the drama for… another time.

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Perfect Strangers After Divorce

Perfect Strangers After Divorce

Kids. You love them. You hate them. But, they’re yours. And, after the divorce, they’re even more important to you than ever before. They become perfect strangers – disengaged, distressed, displaying avoidance at all cost. They’re lonely, upset, feeling left out, feeling unloved.

Time for you to move in on this dilemma. Show them some caring. Some trust. Some emotion. But, most importantly, engage with your kids. They need you more than ever.

Speaking as the rare custodial father, it really irks me to see parents that don’t seem to be involved with their children. Sadly, I’ve been dealing with that a bit myself today – my son’s been blowing up my phone with texts all day.

He’s clearly bored, and not being engaged whilst on his visitation with his mother. He even asked my partner (not me, strangely enough) to come pick him up.

Now, this is admittedly something that hasn’t happened in a good while. But it’s not the only time. And I see it with my own partner’s daughter, too, and her relationship with her own father.

Sure, parents and children shouldn’t necessarily be best of friends 24/7. And there’s always going to be some conflict of personality. It’s all part of them growing up.

But, speaking as a custodial parent, it does hurt me to see the kids feel like there’s no connection between the kids and their mother.

Therefore, here’s a few simple pieces of advice that would hopefully prevent some of the alienation that might occur between kids and their non-custodial parents. Hell, custodial parents may even get something out of these.

Perfect Strangers – Three Ways to Keep Your Kids Engaged

Talk to Them

No, seriously!

It really is as simple as that. Talk to them, regularly. About anything — that they might want to talk about, preferably  — at first. And don’t do it in a condescending way, either, even unintentionally. Children like to know that they’re being listened to. They want their opinions and thoughts validated.

“Parents just don’t understand,” remember that song?

Well, show them you do. They don’t need to be perfect strangers. They’ll start paying attention to you as well. And it doesn’t even have to end when their mother (or father) picks them up.

Heck, get them a cheap cellphone, one that doesn’t even need a plan that can be joined to WiFi (assuming they have it at their home), just so you can text with them. Trust me, they’ll appreciate that, even if you have to compete with Angry Birds for their attention.

Engage Kids in Activities

Boredom happens because, often, there’s nothing to do. They may be bored, because you’re being boring.

Now, yes, sometimes grown-ups have things to do. But, especially if you’re the non-custodial parent, your time with them is limited, and going back home reporting that “We just sat around and watched TV” isn’t going to inspire confidence. Nor is it really going to get you to connect with your children that you’ve already had a fair amount of disconnection from by virtue of the divorce.

So, sure, if they want to watch TV, why not watch it with them for a bit? You might not be totally up on Adventure Time or Regular Show, but that’s OK. You don’t have to be.

All that said, watching TV might not be the greatest activity to engage in. But, by the same token, don’t be perfect strangers either. Take them out. Head to the park and walk the trails a bit. Anything you can do together with your kids is good for the bonding experience. It’s one thing to say you’re there for them, another to put it into tangible actions.

Time is limited; make the most of it.

Stay Involved, Even When They’re Not There 

This might be the trickiest part. If your kids aren’t around, you might not be as inclined to try to keep up with the day to day activities of raising them. Out of sight, out of mind, even if you don’t mean it to be that way. Therefore, try to keep tabs on what’s going on with the activities they may not tell you about.

As non-custodial parents, you do have a right to know their teachers names and numbers, and be in contact with them to discuss their schoolwork and grades. Also, you have a right to know who their doctors are, and consult with them as well.

This is more background dealings, that the kids may not even be aware of until you say something. But it still shows you care, and try to engage them on that level. Believe me, even if they can’t consciously put it into words, they will appreciate the gestures.

In Closing

These are just a few ways that being connected, and being actively involved with your children, can be accomplished. The point here, is that just because you might be the non-custodial parent, doesn’t mean you have to be an absentee parent as well. Be involved. Talk to them. Do things with them. Just be an active part of their lives, like they really want you to be.

How do you stay connected with your kids when you’re not around? What do you do to keep your kids engaged when they’re with you? Let us know in the comments!

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A Gentleman’s Guide To Attending Your First Public Function Together…But Apart

A Gentleman’s Guide To Attending Your First Public Function Together…But Apart

Congratulations. You made it through your divorce. But at some point, you’re inevitably going to need the “Gentleman’s Guide” to attending your first function together post divorce. Sure, you show up to a function and discover – your Ex. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. You don’t want to be there with her but then again, your attending this function to see old friends and acquaintances or maybe your own child at one of their functions.

While it’s perfectly normal to feel weird and uncomfortable, you need to suck it up and get through it.  Here are four easy tips to make the process as painless as possible.

The Gentleman’s Guide for the Divorced Man

Stay Classy. Plain and simple: stay classy. What does that mean? Keep it clean, keep it elegant. Look and feel your best, carry yourself in the best way possible.

Classy also means your demeanor. Even if you hate your ex or the person she may have brought along, staying classy means that no one should be able to read your mind based on your body language or the look on your face. Pull one from the politician playbook: you’re walking around shaking hands and kissing babies, being so very gracious. How will you know if you’ve succeeded? When you hear people sincerely say with a bit of amazement in their voice, “Wow, you look really good.”

Be The Bigger Man. Unless you lived in a cave prior to this outing, it’s highly likely that the rest of your social circle are also aware that this is your first venture out in public, together yet apart. It’s also highly likely that they feel tension and are dreading the possible negative outcomes. While some may root for a cat fight, others would rather avoid any and all drama. You have the ability to play to the second group by being the bigger man.

The Gentleman’s Guide would suggest this is a public function and neither of you are the focus of the attention. Any and all tension will be diffused by your taking the initiative, and approaching her with a greeting, a polite hello, a firm handshake to her guest perhaps, and then moving on. Then, wham, it’s over.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded? When you hear people, maybe even her companion, sincerely say with a bit of amazement in their voice, “Wow, he is a really cool guy.”

Stay Distant. Now that you’ve diffused any tension and gotten over the hump of the first greeting, you are going to keep things civil by simply keeping your distance. Find something else to do. Find other people to talk to you. The greetings have been made and that’s enough, this time. Maybe next time you can make small talk, but for now just leave well enough alone. Maintain a healthy distance. Don’t spend the duration rubbernecking to find out exactly where she is, simply trust your instincts. You were married to her, you can sense her whereabouts. Stay out of her force field and carry on as your usual, wonderful self. Keep in mind the reason you came to this function in the first place and make that your focus.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded? When you hear people sincerely say, “I’m so glad you came, I know this had to be awkward. Thank you for making the effort.”  Then, you’ll know the Gentleman’s Guide was right.

Stay Sober. This is easily the most important of all four points from the Gentleman’s Guide. Even if you ignore the other three final boarding calls, you will miss your flight entirely if you disregard this advice. A drink might very well help your nerves…but anything beyond that will not. Instead, it will demolish all of the other stuff we’ve talked about: instead of keeping it classy, you will be the drunk hot mess stumbling around with his clothes disheveled, spilling on yourself and quite likely on someone else; instead of being the bigger man and making a good impression, you will overstay, overplay and overspeak; instead of staying distant, you will hover, invade her space with either your person or your comments. You will decide that you have very important, very personal things to say and you will tell them to everyone who will listen and you will repeat them at greater volumes to those who won’t.

Just stay sober. This is the only time you will ever have to handle your first public function apart; do it like the  Gentleman’s Guide suggests and all future functions will be that much more enjoyable.

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Divorce: For All The Right Reasons

Divorce: For All The Right Reasons

Well, it’s that time of year when we all celebrate the coming of a new year and new opportunities. It’s also the time of year where we reflect on the past, and think about what has gone well, and what has not. And, then the dreaded thoughts start – Why can’t I have a partner who cares about me? And, if I divorce, will I divorce for all the right reasons.

These thoughts may lead to disenchantment with the marriage they forged with their partner many years ago. And, if the thought process continues unabated, thoughts of real divorce are not far behind. The thoughts of ending a marriage are devastating, for both parties. No one escapes the tragedy of divorce once the process starts.

Ending a marriage is one of the most devastating emotional hits a person takes in life. Truthfully, I think it’s worse than death. Death is a natural part of life and marriage; we make a vow to love each other ‘until death do us part’. Happily married couples will avoid even thinking about it except to draw up wills or buy life insurance. Divorce, on the other hand, isn’t natural. What person, genuinely in love, marries another human being with expectations of anything other than building a long and happy life together?

Down in the southern Bible Belt where I was raised, the bedrock belief that marriage is a sacred, forever thing was strongly instilled. D-i-v-o-r-c-e was not even spoken above a shameful whisper. If there were problems between a husband and wife, the solution was that you did whatever was necessary, working together to work it out. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that with the majority of relationships this kind of ‘stick with it’ approach still works. I’ve known couples who value their marriage and buckle down to do whatever needs to be done to restore the happy state of the union. Sometimes in today’s fast and disposable lifestyle it can just seems easier to toss out things that are less than perfect. I’ve seen love thrown away like this and it’s always sad, especially when children are involved. And then there are times when no amount of effort or determination can fix things.

So when do you divorce for all the right reasons?

As an immature 19 year-old, I and my infant son endured horrific abuse at the hands of my first husband. Why did I stay as long as I did? Because I was brought up to believe that a divorce was a straight ticket to hell and damnation. I was afraid I wasn’t up to the responsibility of raising myself and a child. I literally believed him when he said no man would ever want me again. And no one believed me when I tried to tell them what was going on. Not even the police.

Later I married again, this time to a man who, on the surface, appeared to be genuine, loving and kind. It took seven years to uncover that his sole motivation for the courtship and marriage was to gain for himself a manly, ‘good old boy’ veneer in order to survive and prosper in the homophobic atmosphere that was Texas in the last century. He wasn’t gay but transgendered. By marrying me and adopting my son, he could hide and protect his secret. No, he didn’t beat me but the scars he inflicted were just as deep and real.

I may be a woman but we certainly don’t own exclusive rights to victimhood. Statics are revealing a marked increase in the number of reported domestic violence cases against men. Women are finally achieving notorious equality as the perpetrators they’ve always been capable of being.

Male or female, physical, emotional and sexual abuse are the top reasons to run – not walk – away. These are issues that lead to divorce for all the right reasons. It may sound logical and obvious but where the heart is involved, it becomes incredibly easy to ignore wisdom and reason ourselves right into denial. You tell yourself that there’s no way that this person with whom you have shared so much would actually, intentionally hurt you in any way, shape, form or fashion. As a former crime reporter, I can tell you I heard this a lot. Unfortunately in many cases it was too late to hear it first hand.

When in doubt, walk out, and divorce for all the right reasons..

HelpGuide.Org is a non-profit resource guide.

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