The Men’s Room: The Career Trap and Divorce
Men Can Get a Break in Court if they Understand the Rules of the Game
“Men always take it in the shorts, in court” “ this is a very common sentiment among the husbands and fathers who are entering into the arena of battle called Family Court. It is an extremely unfamiliar playground for most men because the rules of the game run contrary to what we as young boys are taught.
As a child, a boy is taught to be tough, don’t let your emotions show, and conquer the other side with overwhelming strength. In the adult world of business and careers, those are exactly the skills that one needs to succeed.
As a new husband and father, men are taught to be a good provider, which means to bring home a big paycheck to buy a big home, to pay for daycare and after-school activities like gymnastics, ballet, little league and soccer. This drive for career success provides men with a sense of accomplishment as they become the stereotype of ‘American Dad’.
Then the divorce comes. Custody battles start, and the fight over money to support the child begins. This is where most men lose the battle before they even go into court. Not because the court is inherently against them, but because they don’t know the rules, and more importantly the goal of the game.
The game has a goal of providing the “best interests” of the child. What those are, however, is not defined beyond having a stable home, food, clothing and a regular school schedule.
In the early years of child development, when the kids needed Mom more, Dad went to work, to make it possible for Mom to stay home, his career improved. But now when the kids are older, and Dad can do more with them, the divorce happens.
This is where it gets interesting because Dad has painted himself into a corner by working hard in the previous years and being a good provider. Now, when he wants to have more time with his kids, Mom says he’s only doing it so that he doesn’t have to pay as much child support.
Which is where the career trap bites Dad. If he doesn’t want to change his career obligations and keeps working as much as he did previously, the court won’t give Dad more custody. Because if Mom is working a part-time job, and is providing day to day parenting to the children, Dad is required to pay enough child support to make that happen.
So what’s a Dad to do? The goal of the game is “best interests” of the child, a court will view a father who is willing to take a cut in pay, in order to spend more time with his child, favorably. If Dad comes into court with a sincere desire to parent his kids, then a court will respect that, and is likely to allow more custodial time.
Dads can get an even break, once they know the goal, and the rules, of the game.