Divorce Mediators of New Jersey
Guidelines for the noninitiating man

Guidelines for the noninitiating man.

1. Don’t try to keep the kids and the house. In over 90% of divorces with children, it is the father who moves out of the home. Unless your wife has already left for California or is a hopeless alcoholic/child abuser, trying to keep the kids only leads to massive scenes and a custody fight (budget $25,000 - $100,000+ for expert and legal fees). In general, saying she can’t have the kids is really just a threat, a way to force her to stay in the marriage. It won’t work and may well badly damage your kids in the process.

2. Another bad idea: “I won’t give her a dime. I’ll give her a few hundred a month for the kids, but she gets nothing. She wants a divorce, she should pay for it.” New Jersey has just adopted child support guidelines that dictate, to the dollar, how much gets paid to the primary residential parent for child support given her income, your income, and your parenting plan. Unusual circumstances (e.g., a handicapped child) may revise the guidelines upward, but not downward. So, in general, plan to pay what the guidelines say you should and not to fight it. Moreover, marital property, by law, is equitably divided. Unless one of you had or inherited substantial property that was kept separate form other marital assets, the division of assets and debts will almost certainly be close to 50/50. Hiring a shark of an attorney to avoid these basic legal realities will simply enrich the lawyers and impoverish you both. As for alimony, that’s a whole different ball game; there is a separate sheet on it.

3. Express your emotions, don’t act them out. You will feel angry. Talk about your feelings, perhaps to a professional. Brief counseling costs far less than a single bad move.

4. Don’t think of yourself as a victim. There really is life beyond divorce. Thinking of yourself as a victim is just a way of feeling sorry for yourself. This is a disaster like other disasters you could run into: a fire, flood, or catastrophic illness. You would cope with those crises rationally and with courage. This is no different.

5. Give yourself time to come to terms with the divorce. Your wife has already come terms with it. It took her awhile. Now it is your turn. Tell her you need a little while to think. Wait until you are settled down before you try to settle anything else.

6. Don’t get too involved with a new lady too fast. If you move out, as you probably should, you will feel lonely and rejected. Presentable, single middle aged males are in demand. The average time to remarriage after divorce for men is about 12 months. That’s much too fast, for you and for your kids. Give yourself time to be sure; don’t “rebound.”

7. Keep any new romance away from your kids for a year or more. If you don’t, you practically guarantee they won’t like or accept her, no matter who she is. Your kids will be very insecure about your affection for awhile. Until some time goes by, they wouldn’t warm up to Mary Poppins. Let them come to terms with their new life and your changed role as a father. A woman who can’t understand that and wait is probably wrong for you.

8. Remember, the law doesn’t care who wants the divorce and who does not. Even fault is rarely relevant. It cares only that the marriage is over. Negotiate with that in mind.

Initiating women »