In late 2014, cable network Bravo launched a new, scripted television series called “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.” The comedy follows the travails of Abby, a self-help book author who turns to her girlfriends for support after splitting from her husband.
Each of the series’ episodes focuses on a different rule such as, Rule No. 21, Leave Childishness to Children and Rule No. 8, Timing Is Everything. Last year we even published a post, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce in Texas, as a nod to the series.
Recently though, we got to thinking, what about the guys? After all, Connatser Family Law represents both men and women during divorce and child custody disputes.
While many of “The Rules” are the same for both men and women, Dallas Divorce Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry says her advice to men can cover different topics. This is especially true when the husband has been the main provider for the family.
So what “Rules” does Christine recommend to male clients during a divorce?
Rule No. 1: Get on Top of Your Finances
“The first thing we advise any client is to track down all financial records, so they know what is at stake,” says Christine. Key financial records to locate and assess include:
- Bank accounts;
- 401ks, IRAs (individual retirement accounts), pensions and other retirement accounts;
- Investment accounts;
- Trust accounts;
- Stock portfolios;
- Safe deposit box;
- Insurance policies (auto, home, health, life, etc.);
- W2s and other tax documents; and
- Logins and passwords for financial accounts.
Rule No. 2: Preplan Your Divorce with a Reputable Texas Divorce Lawyer
According to Christine, “You should consult an attorney as soon as possible for divorce pre-planning. We have many clients come to us several months or even years before they file for divorce, because they want to be prepared. There is no substitute for preparedness.
A reputable divorce attorney can give you guidance regarding what to expect during the process, what information you will need to gather and what you should or should not do in the days leading up to filing for divorce. He or she will also work with you to clarify your goals for the divorce and plan the best strategy for securing the outcome you hope to achieve.”
Rule No. 3: Set the Tone for the Divorce from the Get Go
As Christine explains, “When telling your wife you want to divorce, it’s important to set the tone early. Let her know that it is your goal for the divorce be an amicable and fair process. Emotions run sky high during divorce, so the more you can assure her that you will do your best to be fair, the better your odds will be for avoiding a contentious divorce.”
Rule No. 4: Promise Complete Transparency (and mean it!)
If your spouse finds out you’re holding back information pertaining to the divorce, your finances, the children, infidelity, etc., any trust remaining between the two of you will be lost.
“You should be as open and honest as possible, in part, because the truth helps everyone heal. This transparency can help reduce tension and smooth the divorce process. It’s important to consult an attorney about what and how to share information with your spouse before and during the divorce proceeding. Otherwise, you could jeopardize your legal strategy and goals,” says Christine.
Rule No. 5: Don’t Destroy Evidence of Bad Behavior
While those Facebook photos of you at your buddy’s bachelor party may look incriminating, destroying the photos isn’t only a bad idea – it’s illegal. Such destruction of evidence is referred to as spoliation and can cause you more harm than good.
According to Christine, “If you delete things that could potentially hurt your credibility (such as texts, social media posts, emails, voicemails, etc.), it could very well reflect more negatively upon you than it would otherwise. You should never leave the impression that you are trying to cover something up.
The judge can instruct juries to assume that the destroyed evidence was something that would hurt you and therefore infer that your actions were even worse than they actually were. Don’t destroy evidence, even if you and your lover have been texting nude photos back and forth, just stop sending them and stop the affair.”
Rule No. 6: Want Custody of the Kids? Walk and Talk Like Dad of the Year
More fathers are getting favorable custody arrangements in Texas today, but dads securing primary custody and even 50-50 custody still isn’t the norm.
“My advice to dads is very similar to the advice I give to moms. Don’t prioritize anything over your kids. That includes your job, a new girlfriend or your burgeoning social life. And if you haven’t cheated, don’t do it,” advises Christine.
In addition, Christine advises parents who plan to seek primary custody, but have not filed for divorce yet (even if they have separated), to spend as much time as possible with the children. You should also keep a record of any time spent together (dates, school/daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, extracurricular events, doctors appointments, etc.).
This past post, 5 Crucial Steps Dads Should Take to Get Custody in Texas, offers some great tips and insight from a dad who fought for and won a favorable custody arrangement for his son.
Rule No. 7: Collect Evidence of Your Wife’s Bad Behavior
If you, your friends or your family members see any suspicious comments or photos in your wife’s email account, Twitter feed or Facebook page, print them out right away, before she deletes them.
“Even though your divorce attorney may be able to track down such evidence during the divorce, it may require extra time and a hearing to get that information. If your wife leaves any incriminating or threatening voicemails for you (or your family, kids or friends), save the recordings. Build a file of this evidence and keep it in a safe place she can’t access or give the file to your attorney,” says Christine.
Rule No. 8: Live a Squeaky Clean Life Moving Forward
Christine also tells her clients to “look at everything you say, write and do leading up to your divorce as if it would be held up in front of a judge and/or jury. EVERYTHING. This includes your social life, verbal conversations, text messages, voicemails, emails and any social medial activity. Be extremely cautious regarding what you put out there on social media, because you cannot erase what you share (don’t forget Rule No. 5).
Plus, attorneys can go all the way back to 2004 when Facebook launched and request evidence in the discovery process during a divorce. So, be cautious about pictures you post and what other people post about you or tag you in. Instead, share positive things, such as your daughter at her first piano recital or a fishing trip with your son. You should also refrain from posting anything negative about your spouse. And, above all, don’t air your dirty laundry.”
Check out this earlier post on Social Media Dos and Don’ts for additional insight.
Rule No. 9: Be Supportive if Your Wife Is Reentering the Workforce
In Texas, generally, the wife is expected to support herself following divorce, which means she’ll have to earn a living. This can be especially challenging for women who have been homemakers and haven’t worked for many years.
“In this situation, I encourage my male clients to be empathetic and tell their wives they will be willing to help them get back on their feet as they reenter the workforce. Even if this is a short-term arrangement, it can help ease her worries and reduce tension between the couple,” Christine says.
Rule No. 10: Consider Paying Contractual Alimony
While alimony in Texas isn’t automatic, opting to pay contractual alimony for a limited amount of time may be a better option than dividing all assets during a divorce. As Christine explains, “Some wives prefer the financial stability afforded by alimony over splitting assets. Plus, you may be able to receive a tax break under this scenario, too. Your accountant or tax attorney can apprise you of the details.”