The Biggest Mistake Men Make
By David T. Pisarra
24 February 2011
It’s been said many times that men are results-driven and women are process-driven. And in my years as a Family Law attorney I would say this is never more apparent than in the arena of divorce court usually to the disadvantage of the man. Most men are bottom-line creature: They want to get it over with as quickly as possible and move on, whereas most women consider the process and strategize accordingly.
The mistake most men make is they don’t strategize about how to protect themselves in a divorce. And many are shocked to learn that the woman they are divorcing is not the woman they married. In the beginning it was all bliss and Bundt cakes, but in the end it’s a land grab whether the “land” is a home, money or the children.
Men think that if they put any effort into protecting themselves during a marriage with pre-divorce planning that it increases the likelihood of a divorce. Just last week I gave the manager at my gym a free copy of one of my divorce books for men and he refused to read it. His reasoning? “I don’t want to attract a divorce.”
This willful blindness on the man’s part is frequently why they get taken advantage of and make short-sighted decisions during a divorce. For instance, when it comes to property division, some men want out of the marriage so badly they are willing to give up more of the community property in order to buy their freedom. Others think they can buy peace by giving her everything she asks for and that she'll return the favor with the child custody. What men don’t realize is that their spouse probably has a rock-solid strategy for the child custody phase that she won’t deviate from.
I had one client who paid off his wife’s credit card debt before filing for divorce. His thinking was that if he was a “good guy” she wouldn't contest child custody and support. The reality was that his attempt had no bearing on his wife’s strategy at all. What he should have done was to pay off his credit card debt, meet with an attorney, and figure out how he was going to maximize his child custody and visitation time.
Male clients often come to me with what they think is the correct division of the money but haven’t acknowledged how important the step-by-step process is for many women. Frequently they want to make an offer based on assets and debts they’ve listed on the back of an envelope and expect their soon-to-be ex-wife to believe that it is an accurate representation of their assets. Oddly enough, soon-to-be ex-wives don’t trust their soon-to-be ex-husbands that much.
Many men want to avoid the emotions that come with divorce by throwing themselves into figuring out the division of the assets. This is particularly true in cases where there is a family business like a small retail store or a restaurant. In one case, my client handed me a manila folder that detailed all the family’s assets and debts from the restaurant they jointly owned. He expected me to convince his wife that this was true and accurate inventory of all that they owned. That didn't happen even though he was spot on with the numbers. He didn’t understand that the process was important to his wife. She needed to be 100 percent sure about the numbers, which created a mountain of paperwork for him to validate his claim.
The difference in expectations for men and women extends to the children as well. Most of the men I represent care far less about the money, and far more about their children, than their soon-to-be-ex-wives believe. The men come in thinking that they are entitled to 50 percent custody of their children and don’t see why they shouldn't get it. I have to sit them down and explain the realities of joint custody such as school schedules, extra-curricular activities, logistics of transportation and the fact that they, being employed, must continue to earn the same amount of money. In other words, quitting their jobs and becoming the stay at home dad is not in the cards.
While more couples are working towards creating a positive co-parenting framework, that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. I have a client who is on the road 5 days a week and refused to believe that the judge wouldn’t give him 50 percent custody. His solution to spending so much time on the road was that he’d just hire a nanny. I had to drill in to him that no judge is giving him 50 percent custody so that a nanny can raise his children while he’s away.
It is the rare case where a man will walk in to my office prepared to successfully navigate the tumultuous waters of divorce, alimony and custody. And that lack of preparation is why they are at such a disadvantage when they are served the Summons and Petition [USA terminology]. They haven’t been talking to their friends about what to do, when to do it, and how to secure the best relationship with their children. But they can be certain that their wives have, because, again, it’s part of the process.
Until men realize that they are in a situation that demands preparation and strategy, they will continue to be frustrated and end up with less.
The steps to strategize are like the steps to winning a Super Bowl ring. They need to read the playbook to learn about the game, and determine the plays they’ll be calling. They need to know their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and finally they need to prepare, prepare, prepare.
While divorce isn’t a game, it can be a battle. And without the right kind of preparation, what invariably happens is that men enter in to that battle with a pea shooter while their spouse is armed with a bazooka. And all that’s left at that point it to play “Taps.”
David T. Pisarra’s books A Man’s Guide to Divorce Strategy and A Man’s Guide to Child Custody are available on Amazon.com and as an ebook from his website, www.MensFamilyLaw.com