Even the most-amicable divorce can be an emotionally draining time for both spouses. Dashed dreams, unfulfilled expectations, disappointment, wounded pride, hurt, uncertainty. All of these contribute to a difficult period in anyone’s life.
But a man faces especially unique issues when he and his spouse are splitting up, particularly if children are involved.
Historically, the wife usually prevailed in a divorce proceeding by gaining full custody of the children, winning child and spousal support, and being allowed to remain in the marital home at least until the kids finished school. The father and husband was viewed as the “bad guy” regardless of the circumstances and the court often paid little attention to his needs, desires and goals regardless of why the spouses were divorcing.
Fortunately, this is changing. Slowly, New Jersey courts are beginning to recognize that men have a right to not just be heard but to have their wishes considered when the facts leading to a decree are weighed.
A Husband’s Rights
As a man, you have custody and financial rights during a divorce despite what your ex may say to you or her attorney might argue.
“I love my children and want to take care of them,” one father told me on our first meeting. “But their mother thinks she gets to dictate not only how much I pay but when I get to see the kids.”
There are two important issues at stake.
The fact is that the financial support of your children is a matter of math: Both you and the children’s mother are equally responsible for the well-being of your offspring. How much you pay needs to be based on equations you learned in seventh grade, not on gender or who did what to who while you were still a couple. New Jersey law also specifies guidelines
Even more upsetting was when I heard from a dad that his wife wanted to abandon her successful and well-paying job to become a stay-at-home mom after the divorce “to help the boys.” Funny. This never was a concern of hers during the marriage given that both spouses worked with each contributing to the care and raising of their two sons as well as to the lifestyle the family enjoyed.
Now, she expected to put the entire financial burden of supporting both the children and her on the man. Not too many years ago, a judge would likely agree to such an outrageous demand of a wife. Today, things are heading in a more even-handed direction.
The same is true for custody. Most women assume they’ll automatically be made the custodial parent and many men are willing to acquiesce because they think that’s how it goes. But it’s not how it goes. Not anymore in New Jersey. Unless the children are very young, courts are willing to consider giving joint or sole custody to the father – especially if older children say that’s who they want to live with.
As a result of the shifting sands of how family court judges view custody matters and equitable financial arrangements, it is vitally important for men to use a family law attorney who is closely tracking the developments and knows how to make their case at both settlement conferences and – if it comes to it – in court.
For years, our family law and divorce attorneys in Montclair and Nutley, NJ have focused on being strong advocates for men going through a divorce. It’s also why we sponsor a men’s support group that you are welcome to use during and after your divorce.
As a divorce lawyer for men and fathers, I understand what a tough time you’re going through, even if you and your wife are not always fighting. I’ve been there. If you are considering or facing a divorce, call us at either (973)562-0100 in Nutley or in Montclair at (862)245-4620.