Many divorces are a long time coming, while others can seemingly spring from out of nowhere. Either way, the shock of having your spouse announce their intention to file for divorce can be very difficult to process. It doesn’t matter if your marriage had been teetering on the brink of collapse for years, it can be devastating to hear that it is actually over.
This overwhelming feeling often translates to a sense of denial, which can slow down the time it takes to react to the news. It is normal to feel a sense of loss; however, delaying for too long can put you at a disadvantage when it finally comes to negotiating the divorce settlement — not to mention the deadlines that pervade divorce. It is vital that you are proactive in taking the steps to protect your rights once the intent of divorce is known.
Don’t react too slowly
Whether it is wishful thinking that things will go back to normal or being stuck in a state of shock, many people who have this announcement thrust upon them take far too much time gathering themselves. It is important that you begin preparations for the challenges of divorce immediately. Due to the additional challenges they will face in the family court system, men need to be especially alert when it comes to reacting — particularly since wives file for divorce a solid two-thirds of the time.
Take threats of divorce seriously
A good sign of an unhealthy marriage, it is commonplace for some couples to have a spouse threaten the other with divorce during heated arguments. These threats can sometimes continue for years. However, you need to understand the severity behind such threats and clarify that bringing up divorce just to win an argument is not okay. If you simply blow these off because your spouse “always says that when they’re mad,” it can really be a shock to the system when they finally follow through.
Contact an attorney immediately
It doesn’t matter if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of guy, family law is not something anyone should try to navigate on their own — particularly with everything that is at stake. Additionally, do not think that you can simply follow the advice of your spouse’s attorney to save on the costs of hiring your own. Their job is to get your spouse the best deal possible, so you need someone to keep your best interests in mind. And the longer you wait to retain counsel, the less time your attorney has to prepare your position.
Stand up for your rights
Whether it’s from that numb feeling of having the life they knew flipped upside-down, or maybe they’re just trying to keep things civil, many men will simply give in to their spouse’s demands. Do not get taken advantage of, particularly at this early stage of the separation. If you make financial concessions, give in on custody or make a poor property agreement, it can become an uphill battle just to get back to even. Figure out a way to stand up for yourself while still remaining civil.
Watch out for yourself
While you should be open to communication and trying to solve disputed issues amicably, going through divorce puts a whole new dynamic on your relationship. Trust is at a premium, and it is very easy for one spouse to take advantage of the other. You need to be open, but take precautions financially and don’t divulge more information than is necessary. Make sure you clarify with your attorney exactly what should be shared and what should be kept on a need-to-know basis.
It is hard enough to deal with a divorce when you are the one to file the papers, but it is often a total shock when it is your spouse ending the marriage. Even if your marriage had been on shaky ground for a long time, it can still be overwhelming. Do not delude yourself into thinking everything will go back to how it was or let disorientation prevent you from securing your rights.
The rest of your life is at stake, and quickly recovering from the initial blow will keep you from falling too far behind.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”