Divorce can take a toll on men. Here’s what you need to know to avoid common mistakes.
The negative effect of divorce on women is well-researched and documented. The fact that divorce can be just as tough on men is often overlooked. Perhaps it’s the expectation that men must bear the weight, disappointment, and financial consequences of a divorce without complaint?
In my experience, the process of divorce can catch both women and men off-guard. Many men come into my office with wrong expectations and preconceived notions that can hurt them in the long run. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that can help.
Don’t expect to know all the answers
Divorce can raise questions and issues that are technically complex. Don’t feel like you must have all the answers. It is perfectly normal to ask for clarification, assistance, and time to think. In the same vein, don’t look down on “homework” that may get assigned by your financial planner or attorney. By completing checklists, gathering bank statements, and locating old documents, you can be sure that the divorce agreement is grounded in factual information. Your efforts can also help keep professional billings lower than they would be otherwise.
Do come to peace with paying (and receiving) alimony
Men can have a lot of resistance when it comes to alimony. For those on the “paying” end, it’s easy to feel that your ex-wife does not deserve access to your hard-earned money. For those on the “receiving” end, there can be reluctance and a sense of insecurity about taking money from the ex-wife.
No matter what your situation looks like, think of alimony as a way of leveling the playing field for the spouse that chose to stay at home (or as a runway for him or her to build up their earning capacity over a period of a few years, as opposed to when the divorce agreement is signed). There is no shame in it, and men should make an effort to view alimony as a component of the overall financial package of divorce – no as an affront.
Don’t demand too much documentation for child support
The purpose of child support (or child expense payments in the case of collaborative divorce) is to help cover the expenses associated with raising your child. The “core” package of needs usually includes shelter, food, and clothing. However, depending on your situation and lifestyle, it may also include private school tuition, sports equipment, tutoring, art supplies, medical expenses, etc. As you might imagine, the numbers can run the gamut.
Many men can feel apprehensive about remitting a specified amount to their ex-wife and just trusting that the money will be used for the benefit of the child. As a result, they can build up elaborate documentation requirements, demanding that the ex-wife retain, catalog, and remit every receipt, check copy, and invoice. This can become a sticking point during divorce negotiations and lead you to burn a lot of time and money.
If you find yourself in this situation, my recommendation is to look at the child’s expenses in terms of size and consider paying the larger components of the overall cost directly to the provider. Whether it’s the monthly fee for the soccer club or a contribution to the Healthcare Savings Account (HSA) to cover medical expenses, making a direct payment can give you a sense of control in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the progress of the divorce.
Do dive into the financials
No matter how familiar you are with your family’s financial situation right now, you must remember that it will change after the divorce. Men are often tempted to skip the budgeting exercise, but that is a mistake. Their monthly expenses will change after the divorce becomes final, and we aren’t just talking about taking family expenses and dividing them in half. From having to buy a second set of clothes and toys for the kids to adjusting the way you handle groceries, make sure that you compile a thoughtful post-divorce budget and monitor your spending for a few months until you get into the new groove.
Don’t try to push through the divorce solo
Finally, don’t buy into the stereotype that you must keep the pain and challenge of the divorce to yourself. There is nothing wrong about wanting your privacy but do keep in mind that your friends and family want an opportunity to help. I also encourage you to rely on your professional divorce team. Between your attorney, financial planner, and other specialists, you have a wealth of technical expertise and experience. Lean on them as you go through this major life change and build the foundation for your future.
Image credit: https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/psychological-effects-divorce-fathers-men-suicide/