Three Common Mistakes Made by Men in Divorce

Divorce is difficult for all parties involved, including husband, wife and sadly the children. Everyone’s situation is unique but there are some common pitfalls and mistakes that are more commonly encountered by men.  In this post I will explore some of the most common challenging situations and mistakes made by men in divorce cases.

Mistake #1 – Agreeing to Very Bad Financial Divorce Terms

When it is the husband who wants the divorce and wife does, not it is understandable that the husband would feel a sense of guilt over wanting out.  In this situation sole-breadwinner husbands will frequently respond to this sense of guilt by agreeing to extremely bad financial terms.  Sometimes this includes future obligations that severely over extend them for a decade or more in the future.

While this may appease their guilt somewhat in the short term it can also cause long-term problems.  Examples I have seen include men in their late 50’s giving away all of the assets leaving them with no retirement savings as they rapidly approach retirement age.  I have also seen cases where the husband agrees to an alimony payout grossly above the maximum alimony caps and stretching future resources to the breaking point. If you are in this situation remember that you are going to have to permanently live with whatever you agree to in your divorce, so the terms need to reached based on practical considerations not emotion.

Mistake #2 – Fighting for Primary Custody for the Wrong Reasons

There are a lot more contested custody disputes than there should be.  I will probably upset some people by saying this but your spouse having an affair is by itself not enough of a reason to fight for custody.  Being an unfaithful spouse is wrong but it does not automatically make you a bad parent.

In a typical case it is fairly obvious to all involved who has been primarily responsible for taking care of the kids and the best thing that can happen is that a workable access arrangement between the parties gets agreed to.  Fighting for custody for financial reasons or as a way to get back at your spouse is a bad idea and one that can turn your case into a financial and emotional nightmare not just for the parties, but for the children as well.

Mistake #3 – Not Getting a Geographical Residency Restriction

In Texas the presumption is that it is in the children’s best interests that they live within a reasonable distance of both parents.  A lot of moms do not like this as it restricts their right to move, thus potentially hindering their future career or that of a new spouse. This statute dramatically changed the way things worked as compared to 20 years ago.

Before this statute was enacted the primary parent (usually mom) typically had the unfettered right to move the kids anywhere at any time.  It didn’t matter that such a move would dramatically reduce the father’s role in his children’s lives and the effect this would have on the kids, the mother simply had this right.  Well, this is one area where the father’s rights movement has had a significant impact and the law has changed 180 degrees.  Now, most Decrees include a provision restricting the primary parent to a relatively small geographical area (usually the county of divorce plus the contiguous counties) unless the non-primary parent moves out of that area. If you are an involved father you definitely want to make sure that any Final Decree includes this provision.

There are many other pitfalls that are unique to men going through a divorce.  If you have any you would like to add, or questions to ask, just add them in the comment section below.

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Scott Morgan is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He has practiced family law since 1994 and is the founder of the Morgan Law Firm which is dedicated exclusively to representing divorce and family law clients in the Houston and Austin areas.

5 Responses to Three Common Mistakes Made by Men in Divorce

  • Ben says:

    Thank you, I found this information to be very helpful. The alimony part is definitely a pitfall to avoid, guilt over wanting the divorce is a powerful factor to making unwise decisions, so thank you!

  • Charles Koonce says:

    Your articles are very helpful and resonate with my concerns. Here is a question that, not being a legal professional in family law, I would appreciate your perspective on, especially since I probably will use the wrong terminology in asking.
    In our decree, we included verbiage that requires my ex-wife, who kept the house, to refinance within one year. As I have indicated, she agreed to this, yet now over a year has passed since the decree was finalized in court and she has neither refinanced nor has she made any attempts to refi. Her parents are going in with her to refi the house (they have moved in with her).
    The question: Is there something equivalent to a statute of limitations about such violations of the decree? The Year expired Nov 17, 2012, a little over a month ago. I want to take her to court over it. At the moment, I am limited financially and can’t afford legal fees. I guess an attorney could advise me as to the chances of her having to pay the legal fees (chances of her being fined, ets)?
    Many thanks;

  • Scott says:

    Charles there is no specific statutory period of limitations that would prohibit you from bringing that action. However, there is a theory called “laches” that could be used as a defense if enough time has passed, but it would need to be a very significant period of time where you allowed the situation to continue. A few months isn’t enough, she would need several years. As long as you brought the case within a reasonable time she would not have a very good argument that you waived your case by not pursuing it soon enough (assuming there is no specific deadline in your Decree). Definitely one that you should consult with a lawyer about when you have the funds. I hope this helps, best of luck!

  • This article is right on. I wish all divorcing fathers would read it. Thanks. I think the law about geographic restrictions is great for the interests of the child unless there are no jobs for the mother nearby and they are forced to live in poverty.

  • Pashan says:

    Good observation! A Geographical Residency Restriction is a very important consideration. The previous commenter mentioned that he wished all divorcing fathers would read this blog post – I can think of a few attorneys who would benefit from reading it as well…

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