Mens Guide To A Smooth Divorce

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"The Men's Guide to a Smooth Divorce" is a free downloadable book written by a national expert in men's divorce issues. In it you will find divorce advice and tips to help men

"The Men's Guide to a Smooth Divorce" is a free downloadable book written by a national expert in men's divorce issues. In it you will find divorce advice and tips to help men

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  • 1. T eMe ’ G ie h ns ud ta o “ mo t” ioc S oh Dv re H wt sv yu k syu m ny o o ae o r i , o r o e d a dyu sny n o ra it Td R H w r r o d . o ete C p r h 2 1 b Mi Hg Ba d,L o yi t 0 0 y l ih rn sL g e C Alih rsr d l g t eev r s e
  • 2. Contents Forward Chapter 1: The Right Mindset Chapter 2: Divorce Law 101 Chapter 3: Dealing With The Early Part of Divorce Chapter 4: What About The Children? Chapter 5: How To Choose and How To Use A Lawyer Chapter 6: The Power of Mediation Chapter 7: Moving On With Your Life Resources Make a Donation 1
  • 3. Forward I’m sorry that you’re reading this book. I’m sorry because you have reached a point in your life where you have decided, or your wife has decided for you, that it is time to end your marriage. First, know that you are not alone. More than half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. And when you think about it, not a single person who got married ever thought they would get divorced, if they had, they wouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. While divorce is scary for anyone, it is especially scary for men. Our legal system in many ways is biased against the husband. If you are a normal guy, you are probably worried about losing your life savings, a portion of your future income, and most importantly, your kids. That’s where this book comes in. While this book won’t solve all of your problems, it will give you a huge head start. From developing the right mindset, to preparing you for all that you will face, and ending with how to move on with your life, this book is intended to be a resource to help you ultimately move on with your life in the best way possible, which, when you think about it, is what divorce is really about. I’ve invested the time in researching the topic of divorce from a man’s point of view so that you don’t have to, and then summarized that research in this e-book. I’ve also included links to resources that can help you with more specific or detailed information you may need on your journey. While reconciliation with your wife may be something you desire, and is often the best thing to at least try, this book assumes that you are past that possibility and are planning to move forward with a divorce. If you are interested in strategies to reconcile with your wife, I have included some resources at the end of this book that focus on avoiding divorce. 2
  • 4. Chapter 1: The Right Mindset There are very few things that a man can go through in his life that are more emotional than a divorce. Whatever the reason you are getting divorced, it is likely that you are angry at your wife, that you feel she is the cause of your unhappiness, and that you want to make her pay for that. While that attitude is natural, it is the most destructive attitude you can have going into a divorce. As I said earlier, divorce is about moving on with your life, and making it the best life possible after the divorce. That means keeping as much of what is important to you as possible, and setting yourself up to build from there. As difficult as it may sound, the only way to have a successful divorce is to separate your emotions from the process as much as possible. When you use a divorce to get even with your wife, several bad things happen. First, you make her respond in the same way. Given that the system is unfairly biased against men, it is more likely that she will take you to the cleaners financially, and if you have kids, make it difficult for you to spend time with them. After the divorce, she may even poison your kids against you. 3
  • 5. Men are hard wired to approach a divorce like a battle, and the movies and TV certainly love to dramatize that for us. If you treat it that way, you will end up the loser. You will lose when you pay outrageous attorney fees and court costs. You will lose when your wife takes more than her fair share of your joint assets. You may lose your kids, either in the short term, or in the long term emotionally. And you will lose a lot of sleep. The good news for you is that there is a better way. The Horrific Divorce vs. the Smooth Divorce The title of this section is a bit of a misnomer, given that there really is no such thing as a truly “smooth” divorce. Having acknowledged that point though, there is a big difference between a difficult but smooth divorce and a horrific one. Let me illustrate the difference by telling you a little story about Jack and Dianne. After 16 years of marriage, things were starting to fall apart between Jack and Dianne. Together, they had a 13 year old son and a 10 year old daughter who were both doing well in school and happy. Jack worked as a marketing executive, and was promoted to Marketing Director several years ago, earning $141,000 per year with a bonus that usually paid out at almost $40,000 per year. Dianne had been a stay at home mom for most of the years of their marriage, but had recently decided to restart her career as a junior creative designer at a local promotions agency. After so many years out of the work force, she had to start at the bottom, and only earned $34,000 per year. While together they earned a decent living, neither one of them would be considered thrifty, so they spent most of what they earned on a steep mortgage payment, childcare expenses, and frequent trips to visit Dianne’s family in Belgium. Like most couples who decide to marry, Jack and Dianne were deeply in love when they first married, but things cooled off a bit when their first child was born. They prided themselves as being good parents, which meant they spent a lot of time with the kids, but that left little time for themselves and each other. As the kids grew older, that dynamic only seemed to worsen. Most of the discussions and interactions between the two focused on details related to managing their household and, managing their roles as parents. 4
  • 6. Even their sexual relationship suffered, and after 16 years, they rarely made love anymore. Dianne had been unhappy for a long time. She felt that Jack was somewhat emotionally distant, and didn’t really understand her needs for true emotional companionship. Part of the reason she chose to go back to work was to develop some new friendships, as she was lonely, and she didn’t really feel like she had a really good girlfriend that she could confide in, as most of her friends were “couple friends” that also had a relationship with Jack. What she didn’t anticipate was making male friends as well. Her first week back in the workforce was a difficult transition, and only one person even invited her to lunch on her first day. That was Dirk. Dirk was boyishly handsome, and although he was several years younger than Dianne, he seemed to understand her in a way Jack hadn’t in a long time. The two worked on several projects together, and frequently went out to lunch together. Dianne felt a growing attraction to Dirk, and would often fantasize about what it would be like to go to bed with him. One evening, when working late on a project, Dirk told her that he had feelings for her as well, and kissed her. While nothing more happened between Dianne and Dirk, she could not forget that evening. The excitement of Dirk’s attention only magnified her dissatisfaction with Jack. She asked Jack to join her in marriage counseling, and although he agreed, Jack was never able or willing to make time for the appointments. After almost a year of stop and start marriage counseling, Dianne told Jack that she had had enough and wanted a divorce. Jack was shocked and angry. He knew that he and Dianne didn’t have the marriage they once did, but felt that their problems were normal and just part of being busy parents in a dual income family. He told her he wanted to work things out, and felt that they had an obligation to the kids to try. Dianne felt that she had already given Jack that opportunity through the months of marriage counseling, and told him so. She told him that she couldn’t continue in a loveless marriage, and wanted to take a second chance at being happy before she was too old and it was too late. 5
  • 7. The couple didn’t speak for days, and even after they did start to say a few words to each other, they were curt, and there was a definite undertone of hostility between them. Up to this point, the story sounds fairly typical. Notice no single party is wholly to blame or completely innocent in the marriage disintegrating. But as you will see, how the two of them behave from this point forward can lead to two very different endings: Jack and Dianne Continued – The Horrific Ending As the weeks limped along, Jack started to come to terms with the fact that the marriage was actually over. Dianne had asked Jack to move out, but he was reluctant to do so. So, he and Dianne spent as much time as they could apart, with Jack devoting more time than normal to his golf game. Some of Jack’s golf buddies who had gone through difficult divorces themselves liked to play the roles of “divorce mentors” for Jack. They told him that if he didn’t get the toughest, meanest lawyer he could find, Dianne would find a way to “royally screw him over.” Jack made an appointment with one of the lawyers whom his friends recommended as soon as the lawyer was available to meet. Jack’s lawyer advised him not to move out of the house, so as not to put him in a bad negotiating position. He also told Jack to clear out all of the joint accounts, move the funds into an account in his name only, and cancel Dianne’s credit cards, all of which Jack did the next day. The lawyer also told Jack that he would need an $8,000 retainer before he would do any work for Jack. When Dianne found out that Jack had cleared out the accounts, she was beside herself with rage. She immediately made an appointment with a “tough as nails” lawyer that one of her work friends recommended, who told her that she would, “make Jack pay for the way he was treating her.” Dianne’s lawyer also asked for an $8,000 retainer, which Dianne paid for by borrowing from her parents since she did not have access to any of the family funds. Meanwhile, Jack and Dianne’s kids weren’t doing well at all. Both spent most of their time in their own rooms to escape the open hostility between 6
  • 8. their parents. Both kids grades started to slip and their daughter became verbally abusive of both parents. A week after clearing out the bank accounts, Jack was served with divorce papers by the sheriff while he was at work. He had never felt so humiliated to have to go through that experience in such a public forum, and his resentment and anger at Dianne burned within him. The divorce papers accused him of extreme cruelty, and emotional abuse. Dianne was asking for full custody of the children, child support, alimony, and the right to continue living in the family home until both children had turned 18. The complaint also included a letter from Dianne’s lawyer demanding that Jack return the funds to the couple’s joint account. Jack couldn’t believe that Dianne was being so unreasonable. Jack’s lawyer told Jack not to return the funds until the court ordered him to do so. Both spouses lawyers scheduled a meeting, where they spent 1 ½ hours bickering at the combined cost of $1000 per hour. A few weeks later, Dianne went to court to get Jack to return the funds, or to start paying her support payments. The judge ruled that Jack would need to pay Dianne $700 per week in support, and that Jack had to restore one of Dianne’s credit cards. The judge ordered the lawyers to complete discovery in a 9 month period. With both spouses still living in the family home, the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Because of the issues with the children, she took both kids to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed both kids with moderate depression and put both on antidepressants. Additionally, both kids started receiving counseling weekly. Dianne took the psychiatrist’s findings back to court, and a judge ruled that Jack would need to pay for the therapy. The couple continued to rack up extensive legal fees over the next seven months as both lawyers insisted on an extensive and expensive discovery process. After this time, a trial date was set for five months in the future. Both Jack and Dianne were incredulous at the delay, and neither could imagine continuing without resolution for such a long period of time. Jack’s performance at work was suffering. At first his boss seemed to cut him some slack, but eventually the company’s patience started to wear thin. For the first time, Jack received a below target rating at his mid year 7
  • 9. review. Because he was having so much trouble sleeping, he found it difficult to focus at work. He knew he had to turn things around at work since he couldn’t afford to lose his job, but he didn’t know how. After almost seven more months of hell, Jack and Dianne’s trial date was fast approaching. Neither of their lawyers had made any significant progress in negotiating a settlement. Before the trial, the judge who had been assigned to the case summoned both attorneys to better understand why a settlement hadn’t yet been reached between the two parties. After a closed door session, Jack’s lawyer told him that the judge was inclined to grant joint custody, but with Dianne as the primary caretaker. Jack would get to see the kids on the weekends, and would have to pay child support to Dianne. The judge was also inclined to grant Dianne 8 years of alimony, and to let Dianne continue to live in the house until both children were 18. This meant that Jack would have to wait eight years before getting any money out of the house. Because Jack’s lawyer told him he was unlikely to get a better deal by going to trial, Jack signed the agreement. Without any home equity, he was unable to afford a down payment on a house, and had to move into an apartment. Both of his kids grew distant and resentful of Jack, and hated visiting him in his apartment. Sometimes Dianne would refuse to let the kids see him at all on weekends if he was 5 minutes late to pick them up. Both Jack and Dianne remained extremely resentful of the other for years to come. The both spoke poorly of the other in front of their children, and they found themselves back in court several times when one of them felt the other wasn’t living up to the divorce agreement. Jack was able to start dating again, but none of his relationships amounted to much. It always seemed that the women he dated were turned off by Jack’s bitterness for and drama with his ex wife. Wow, doesn’t that sound like fun! Let’s take a look at the happier ending in the story of Jack and Dianne: 8
  • 10. Jack and Dianne Continued: The “Smooth” Divorce Ending As the weeks limped along, Jack started to come to terms with the fact that the marriage was actually over. Dianne had asked Jack to move out, and he told her that he still needed some time to absorb everything, and would think about it. So, he and Dianne spent as much time as they could apart, with Jack devoting more time than normal to his golf game. Jack also started seeing a divorce counselor, who helped him come to terms with the powerful emotions that were swirling around inside of him. A few weeks later, Jack asked Dianne to meet him for coffee at a café halfway between their two offices. He told her that he wanted to talk to her about the divorce somewhere away from home. Over coffee, Jack told Dianne that he never wanted, and still didn’t want to get divorced, but that he understood that he could not stop her if that is what she really wanted. He asked Dianne to cooperate with him through so that they could maintain control of the process and agree between the two of them on a fair settlement. He asked her to agree to use a divorce mediator to help them come to an agreement, and to use lawyers to give them legal advice, but not to negotiate or to speak for each other. He also promised not to raid the family accounts, and asked that she make a similar promise. And he proposed that they both clear any major withdrawals or expenditures with the other first. Dianne not only agreed, she seemed genuinely relieved. Less than a month later, Jack was able to find an apartment close to the family house that he could afford. When he moved out, Dianne actually helped him pack some of his things. The couple started divorce mediation shortly thereafter. Both had hired lawyers who had experience working with couples who opted for mediation, and both felt that their lawyers gave them solid advice without trying to hijack the process. Mediation was hard, and there were times when each of them got upset, but after 6 sessions, they managed to get through it and come to an agreement on a divorce settlement. Over lunch with a divorced friend, Jack shared what his divorce related expenses had been up to this point, and his friend’s jaw dropped open at what he described as “the deal of the century” that Jack had gotten. 9
  • 11. On the day that Jack and Dianne went to court, the court proceedings were a relative non-event. The judge asked each of them a set of standard questions, asked if they had agreed to a settlement, asked if they agreed to how the kids would be raised, and then declared the marriage to be dissolved. Both Jack and Dianne left that day feeling that the divorce settlement was fair. They had agreed to sell the house within a year and to split the equity. All of their other assets were divided equally as well, and Jack had agreed to pay Dianne alimony for 4 years while she went to business school at night to advance her career. Both partners agreed to find smaller homes close to the kids’ school, and to have the kids alternate between both households based on a schedule they had drawn up. Because the kids shared their time with both parents, neither parent paid child support to the other. The divorce was difficult for the kids, and they did need some family counseling to get through it. But, they ultimately came to accept the new reality and were able to adjust. Jack and Dianne, while not friends, were able to cooperate as parents in the decisions that affected their children. 3 years later, Jack married Jill, an architect that he met on a singles cruise. While the kids were suspicious of her at first, after some time they came to like her and get along with her well. The “smooth” divorce obviously wasn’t smooth, it was still difficult and emotional, and took time for both to get over. But relative to the alternative, it was smooth. Each spouse saved a significant sum in legal fees. They saved their kids some of the emotional turmoil that they would have otherwise faced. The process was much faster, it was less destructive on Jack’s emotions and his career, and most importantly, he was able to successfully move on with his life when it was over. 10
  • 12. Envisioning The Goal No matter what your situation, this should be your goal when you are facing a divorce: My goal is to end my marriage with my wife in the most fair, amicable way possible so that I can best move on with and enjoy the rest of my life. Notice that there are several key words in this goal. The first one is “fair.” You should strive for an agreement that is fair given your circumstances, not the best one some bulldog lawyer can get you. Striving for fair will save you a ton of money in legal fees, and if your wife is also the mother of your children, will make any future dealings with her easier for you to bear. Plus, since the legal cards are already stacked against you, fair is as good as you will likely get. The next is amicable. This is a key point for you to internalize. The only way that you can reach a fair settlement with your wife is if you cooperate with each other to do so. As I said, divorce is not about punishing your spouse. Even if your best friend is a lawyer who is willing to work for free, and he is willing to tirelessly pursue every penny for you, and then gets it, you will live the rest of your life with your wife as a bitter enemy. Even more importantly, that kind of battle will change you and leave you angry and bitter yourself. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for you to move on with your life before you are able to let go of your anger. Finally, notice the word “best” in “best move on.” You will best be able to move on with your life if you start your new life with money in the bank and your earnings intact. If you have kids, being able to see them often and having a healthy relationship with their mother is also part of that best, post divorce scenario. If you paid close attention to the two endings of Jack and Dianne’s divorce, you are probably already getting a picture of the right process to a decent divorce. But, before we dive into that process, it makes sense to first understand something about divorce law. 11
  • 13. Chapter 2: Divorce Law 101 To come to a basic understanding of divorce, it is first important to understand marriage. For the purposes of this book, I will skip the religious and cultural meanings of marriage and just focus on the legal definition. Marriage: The legal union of a man and a woman, granted by the state, where the couple agrees to share property and take an economic responsibility for each other, to share in the responsibilities of raising any children produced by their marriage, and to grant each other the right to demand monogamy from the other. If that is the short and sweet (or not so sweet if you are reading this book) definition of marriage, then divorce is the undoing of all of the elements that make up marriage. Since it is the state that grants the marriage, only the state can grant a divorce. Fortunately, given our mobile society, it is the state in which you reside that is responsible for granting a divorce, not the state the state in which you received your marriage license, assuming you moved after getting married. In fact, this brings us to the first condition that must be satisfied for the state to grant a divorce, and that is jurisdiction. When divorce papers are filed, 12
  • 14. they are filed in the state in which you live, and in most states, you will need to attest that you have lived in that state for a pre-determined period of time to satisfy the state’s requirements for jurisdiction. When you go to court, jurisdiction will be the first thing that the judge will address in the proceedings. There are two other conditions that must be satisfied for the state to grant a divorce. The first is grounds for the divorce and the second is that the issues of the divorce are settled. First let’s talk about grounds. Before the 1970’s, divorces were granted in most states only under unusual circumstances. These could include alcoholism or substance abuse, adultery, physical abuse, mental impairment, or incarceration. Starting in the 1970s, and continuing into the 1980s, the nation’s attitude toward divorce changed as the economic status of women changed. Divorce was no longer seen as the solution to extreme circumstances, but rather the end to a marriage because one or both spouses were no longer happy in the marriage, whatever the reason for that unhappiness. During this time, most states passed statues that allowed for what is called, no fault divorce, which gave judges the ability to grant a divorce without one of the above conditions for an at fault divorce being present. Today, most states are no fault divorce states, and in these states, even if, for example, one of the spouses committed adultery, most judges will not consider that as a factor when deciding a divorce settlement in a fully litigated divorce. Grounds most frequently cited in a no fault divorce are irreconcilable differences, which just means that one or both spouses feels that the differences between them are too great to resolve. Additionally, many states require that the couple live apart for some length of time, which is usually between 6 and 18 months depending on the state. Notice that only one spouse needs to feel that the marriage is over for the judge to grant the divorce, this is an important point. In a no fault divorce, no single spouse can hold the other hostage in a marriage that he / she doesn’t want to be in. So, if you have entertained any thoughts of “forcing” your wife to stay married to you through some legal means, you should let those thoughts go. 13
  • 15. The final condition that must be satisfied for the state to grant a divorce is that all of the issues I described in the definition of marriage, such as property, economic support, and care of the children, are worked out. This is what is referred to as the divorce settlement. In the United States, 99% of all divorces are settled without going to trial, and unless you are extremely wealthy or have a very complicated legal situation, it is very likely that yours will be settled the same way. If you do fall into that unfortunate one percent, the divorce settlement is developed in a trial, and decided upon by a judge. Since the divorce settlement is always the most complicated of the three to resolve, let’s spend more time going over the three primary elements, which are division of property and assets, ongoing economic support, and care of the children. Division of Property and Assets States fall into two categories with regard to how their laws treat the division of assets. As of early 2010, there are nine states which are communal property states, and those are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. A communal property state is one that views marital assets as equally shared by both spouses, without regard to who earned what, who brought what assets into the marriage with them, or really any other past consideration. In these states, the norm is to divide the assets and property equally among both divorcing spouses. The remaining forty one states are equitable distribution state. Sounds fair, right? Don’t confuse the legal term “equitable” with the concept of fairness. In an equitable distribution state, the court considers a host of factors in the marriage in dividing property among the two spouses. If you live in an equitable distribution state, negotiating the division of property becomes important, and takes more time and effort. Economic Support If you guessed that this section was about alimony, you guessed correctly. Given that most households today are dual income households and that in most cases both spouses earn pay that is somewhat equal, alimony is not an issue in most divorce settlements anymore. But, in cases where there is a 14
  • 16. large economic disparity between the two spouses, the court may choose to award alimony. In those cases, it is typically the man who pays alimony to his ex wife, but not always. State laws regarding alimony are always gender neutral, and in some cases, alimony is awarded to the husband. There are four different kinds of alimony that can be granted. The first type is permanent alimony, and like it sounds, this is alimony that gets paid until your ex wife remarries, or until one of you dies. If you do find yourself paying permanent alimony, know that 75% of divorced women re-marry within 5 years of their divorce, so it usually isn’t as permanent as it sounds. Additionally, most states have statutes that allow a man to retire in a reasonable fashion without the burden of paying alimony in his retirement. Finally, if your ex-wife’s economic condition changes for the better while she is collecting alimony, you can go back to the court and request that alimony be reduced or discontinued. The second kind of alimony is called rehabilitative alimony. This is alimony that is paid to a spouse so that she can complete some action that lets her become economically self-sufficient. For example, if your wife decided to start a new career as a radiologist, and needed to go back to school for three years to get her radiology degree, the alimony payments would last for those three years. Alimony for a term of years is the third kind of alimony, and it is similar to rehabilitative alimony in that it is for a fixed duration, but different in that it isn’t tied to some action that will bring your ex wife to a state of self sufficiency. When alimony for a term of years is awarded, what your ex wife does with her time and the money you pay her is up to her, and if she isn’t self sufficient by the end of the term, that is her issue to deal with. The final and most unusual kind of alimony is redistributive alimony. Redistributive alimony is awarded in the rare case where one spouse supported the other for a period of years while he earned a degree that ultimately enhanced his earning potential. So, for example, if your wife worked for years to support you while you got your degree in architecture, and you are now earning gobs of cash designing luxury mansions for rich clients, she may be awarded redistributive alimony. 15
  • 17. Support and Care for Children The final, most emotionally charged, and ultimately the most complicated area of the divorce settlement revolves around your kids. When you boil this down, the questions that must be resolved are where will the kids live, who will take care of the kids and on which days, who will make decisions regarding raising them, and who will pay for the expenses of raising them. The custody arrangement deals with the first three issues, while the child support agreement covers the last. Today, the courts recognize that it is important to the well being of kids to have both parents involved in their lives. Unless you are found to be a negative influence in your kids lives (you are a gang member, a drug addict, a violent felon, etc.) you can feel confident that you won’t “lose your kids”. Having said that, though, courts still favor the wife in custody arrangements, and usually grant her a greater share of responsibility in child custody. Just as there are different forms of alimony, there are several kinds of custody arrangements. The first is sole custody. This means that the kids live full time with one spouse, who is fully responsible for caring for them and making decisions for them. When I talk about making decisions, I’m talking about things such as what kind of health care they would receive if they were sick, what school they would go to, and any legal issues regarding the kid. If your wife were to be granted sole custody, you would most likely receive visitation rights, but would have no legal rights or obligations relating to your kids. The second kind of custody arrangement that has become more common is the joint custody agreement. In this arrangement, both parents agree on a schedule for where the kids live, and who takes care of them. It can be that one spouse gets the kids during the week, while the other sees them on the weekends. I know of some divorced couples who have a joint custody arrangement where the divorced spouses live close enough to each other to allow the kids to alternate weeks living with their mom and their dad. In a joint custody agreement, both former spouses collaborate to make decisions in the raising of their children. Also, since both parents are responsible for raising the children, child support payments are unnecessary in many joint custody arrangements. Given the need to closely collaborate with your ex wife in a joint custody arrangement, the importance of the 16
  • 18. “smooth” divorce path becomes elevated for you if joint custody is something you would desire. Shared parental responsibility is another form of custody arrangement that is similar to joint custody in that both former spouses collaborate on decision making and share the responsibility of caring for the kids. The main difference between shared parental responsibility and joint custody is that, in shared parental responsibility, the residence of the children does not need to be split equally between the parents. The final form of custody arrangement is joint legal custody. This is actually most similar to sole custody, in that the kids live with one spouse who has primary responsibility for raising them. In a joint legal custody agreement, though, the spouse with whom the kids do not live must be consulted on important decision regarding the children. In this way, the legal rights of the non custodial spouse are somewhat maintained. When negotiating custody with your spouse, it is critically important to put the needs of your children first and foremost. Any attempt to use a custody settlement to “punish” your spouse will be seen through easily by any judge. More importantly, your children will ultimately suffer from your petty stance, and in time, will grow to resent you for it. Take my advice and don’t go down that road, instead take the high road, maintain a positive relationship with your kids, and be the better man that you know you should be. As I mentioned earlier, today most courts are inclined to grant the father a portion of the custodial responsibility of the children. Also, very few divorces involve a true “custody battle,” as money seems to be the bigger issue that divorcing spouses fight over. Still, custody laws are complex, and vary from state to state. If you are concerned about gaining custody of your kids, I recommend, “Child Custody Strategies for Men,” which is a very thorough e-book written by the nation’s top authorities on child custody. The Legal Steps To Divorce Now that we have covered the conditions that must be met for a court to grant a divorce, and the issues that must be resolved in a divorce settlement, I will take you through each of the legal steps involved in actually getting divorced. 17
  • 19. In the “smooth” divorce approach that I’m advocating, you and your wife will negotiate a divorce settlement before anybody files any papers with the court. That saves you both a ton of cash that you would have spent in legal fees, and perhaps more importantly, it better allows the two of you to maintain control over the process. When you bring the court into the process prematurely, it is easier to lose control and have a divorce settlement forced on you that neither you nor your wife will ultimately be satisfied with. Still, whether you take my advice and negotiate before filing papers or not, you will ultimately need to follow the following legal steps to get divorced. The first step is called the pleadings. In this step, the divorce initiator (the spouse filing for divorce) files a paper with the state called a complaint for divorce. The person who initially files this paper is the plaintiff, and the other spouse is the defendant. In the complaint for divorce, the plaintiff covers all of the conditions stated earlier for the state to grant a divorce by stating that the two of you are legally married, and that the state has jurisdiction over the divorce because the two of you (or in some cases, just the plaintiff) resides in the state where the complaint for divorce is being filed, and have done so for the statutory period defined by the state. The complaint for divorce closes with a section called the prayer for relief, in which case the plaintiff states what he or she wants the court to do, which is to grant the divorce. If you have been able to take my advice, and at this stage, have a settlement agreed with your wife, then the prayer for relief would also ask the court to adopt the terms of that settlement. If not, then the prayer for relief would ask the court to grant whatever the filing spouse wants with regard to the elements of the settlement. After the plaintiff files the complaint for divorce, the defendant has a fixed amount of time to respond, which is 30 days in most states. The response is called the defendant’s answer, which in the case of a contested divorce, includes the defendants own wish list in the prayer for relief. In most cases where there is an agreed settlement prior to the filing of the complaint for divorce, the defendant doesn’t even bother to file his answer, and the court then implements the agreed settlement. 18
  • 20. In the case of a contested divorce, which is when there is no agreed settlement at the time of the filing of the complaint for divorce and the answer, the next step is called discovery. Informal discovery is essentially the sharing of bank account information, pay stubs, getting the house appraised, and so on. Informal discovery can happen when both spouses collaborate and agree to share information. Formal discovery takes place in a contested and litigated divorce. This involves each lawyer making formal written requests for every bit of information that could possibly be relevant to the case if it were to go to trial. This includes every financial document from the last five years, down to a copy of every check that you or she wrote in that time. But, it doesn’t stop there. Each lawyer will also submit a written list of questions that the other spouse must answer, which is called an interrogatory. These questions can be very personal in nature, and can be about just about anything, such as when you met female friends and what you did with them, how much alcohol you drink, anything. After that process is done, each lawyer will then conduct depositions, where they sit with each spouse for up to several days asking them questions in person, while a court appointed recorder records the entire conversation. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, in some divorces, expert witnesses are also hired and deposed. Expert witnesses could be accountants or psychologists hired to testify that you are crazy or a fraud. Your lawyer would then need to hire other expert witnesses to counter the testimony of your wife’s expert witnesses. Leading up to the trial date, as you and your wife continue to disagree on any number of issues, lawyers can file motions with the court to ask the court to resolve those. This just adds to your lawyers bank accounts and detracts from yours. If this all sounds drawn out and expensive, it is. When dealing with lawyers, time literally is money. With many lawyers charging $500 per hour, the legal fees can add up quickly. It is not uncommon for a contested divorce to cost the couples more than $100,000. Additionally, this process can take years to complete, which just further delays the process of getting over your divorce and moving on with your life. 19
  • 21. Ultimately, if you and your wife are stubborn enough to hang in this long, your case will go to trial. In the trial, the judge will decide on a divorce settlement and then implement his decision, and what ever that decision is, you and your ex have to live with it. 20
  • 22. Chapter 3: Dealing With the Early Stages of Divorce Now that you have the right mindset to approach your divorce, and a basic understanding of the main issues that need to be resolved in a divorce, I’m going to start you on your path to a “smooth” divorce by suggesting what I believe is the right way to start things off. You may be the one who is seeking a divorce, or you may have found this book after your wife told you that she wants one. The way you need to approach things differs depending on which role you are playing, so I will cover both. If You Are Seeking a Divorce If you are the one who wants a divorce, you have spent time, possibly years, coming to this conclusion and accepting that the marriage you have had with your wife is over. While it is likely that she knows that things aren’t peachy between the two of you, and may be thinking along the same lines, it is unlikely that she has fully reached the same conclusion. When you tell her, she is likely to be surprised, and she will certainly be upset and hurt. Remember, if your goal is to ultimately be able to collaborate with your wife to have a “smooth” divorce, handling how you break this news to her is of the utmost importance. You should handle this discussion the way you 21
  • 23. would handle the need to share devastating news to anybody that you care about. Find a time and place where you can be alone, and when she will have time to be upset for a while. For example, don’t tell her right before a job interview or an important exam. When you break the news to her, it is important that you don’t blame her for any of the problems that you have together, instead you should state the problems as facts that just are, and tell her that you believe the marriage is broken and that you would both be better off if it were over. When she reacts, and she will, and accuses or blames you, now is the time to take it, not the time to get defensive. If she asks that you give things another try, stay firm without getting emotional, and tell her no if you aren’t willing to do so. Now is also not the time to talk about splitting your assets or any of the other details around a divorce settlement. She will need time to emotionally process this, and you need to give her that time. You should tell her so when you break it to her, and tell her that she can take as much time as she needs. You should also tell her that you are committed to working with her to resolve this in a way that both of you think are fair. You should tell her that you aren’t going to clean out the accounts or do anything else underhanded, and ask that she behave the same way. If She Is Seeking a Divorce If you are in this position, she has already dropped the bomb on you, and you have already shown her your initial reaction. Maybe you got raving angry, maybe you called her names, made accusations against her, threatened her, whatever. Hopefully you didn’t do any of those things, but I’m a man myself, and so I’m being realistic and acknowledging that you may have. If you reacted to her news in anything less than a gentlemanly way, you should apologize to her immediately. Tell her how sorry you are for the way you behaved, and that you were so emotionally overwhelmed by her news that you behaved very badly. Now would also be a good time to apologize for the role you played in the marriage falling apart, although I wouldn’t suggest apologizing for specific things, but just make a general acknowledgement of your role in the mess. And if you think you had no 22
  • 24. role, think harder. If you still can’t come up with anything, now is a good time to pretend. Even if your wife screwed every guy in town, while you were busy earning all of the money, doing all of the chores, taking care of the kids, and giving her your full emotional attention at all times, she doesn’t see things that way. Again, the goal here is to get her to work with you, not to make her your enemy. When the apologies are done, you should tell her that you will need some more time to come to terms with her news, but that you won’t stand in her way if she really wants a divorce (you can’t anyway). Tell her that after you have taken some time, you want to work with her to come to an agreement that you both think is fair. Tell her that you will not clean out the bank accounts or cancel the credit cards, and ask her not to as well. In Either Case Whichever role you are in, there are a few other things that you need to discuss with your wife. If you have kids, now would be a good time to agree that you both want what is best for them, and, unless your wife is a drug addict or a criminal, that it will continue to be important that both of you work together as parents. You should agree when, where, and how you tell the kids that you are getting divorced, and you should tell them together. You should also agree on how you plan to tell your friends and your parents. This will be an emotional time for both of you, and maintaining control over how friends and family find out will be helpful for both of you in dealing with your emotions. After your initial discussion with your wife, I would strongly suggest that you seek out a qualified counselor that can help you come to terms with this change. Our country is one of the most stressful places on earth to live even when you aren’t going through a divorce, yet many Americans hold a stigma against counseling that just doesn’t exist in other countries. I can tell you that I have my own set of issues, and I have found a great counselor that is invaluable in helping me sort through those issues. You should find one too. Moving Out Some of the more aggressive divorce attorneys will counsel men not to move out of the house, because they believe that it will give them a 23
  • 25. disadvantage in court. As I said earlier, only 1% of divorces even go to court, so even if that were true, it is very unlikely to affect you. The simple fact is, once the marriage is over, it is impossibly stressful to live in the same house as your wife. It adds stress to you, it adds stress to her, and it adds stress for your kids. The more stress, the more likely it will be that one of you explodes when the other does some minor irritating thing. When that happens, you are on your road to a horrific divorce, not a “smooth” one. After a reasonable, but short time, you should move out. Tell your wife that you plan to do so, and talk to her about what your shared finances can afford (remember, they are still shared since you didn’t clean out the bank accounts). If you have kids, find a place that is close to the family home to make it easier to work out a visitation schedule with your wife. Other Women You will find that different experts give different advice on this topic. In my humble opinion, now is not the time to start dating again. Dating is emotionally complicated and taxing, and you already have significant demands on your emotions. Also, even if your wife is the one who wants the divorce, she will be upset and hurt if she finds out that it was so easy for you to move on to another woman. It is best to wait to see other women, remember, you have your whole life ahead of you. If you find that you aren’t willing to take that advice, at a minimum be very discreet with your dating. It may be that the above advice is too late in coming and that you are already involved with someone. Maybe you even got involved with someone before the topic of divorce came up. If you have been having an affair, and your wife doesn’t know, there is very little that can be gained for anyone involved by telling her. Keep that secret to yourself, and make sure that your girlfriend keeps it too. Six months after the divorce is over, you can introduce her to your kids as your “new” girlfriend. If you have had an affair, and your wife knows, it will be very difficult for you to follow my “smooth” divorce plan, because she just doesn’t trust you anymore. It is still worth trying, though. Apologize to her as many times as it takes. 24
  • 26. Asking Her to Work With You After you have each taken some time to come to terms with the fact that you are going to get divorced, it is time to agree to a plan on how you are going to approach the divorce. When you talk to her about this, again, you should choose an appropriate time and place so that the two of you are able to give the time and attention necessary to the discussion. There are several points that you should ideally gain her agreement on:  You both want to work together to negotiate a settlement that is fair. – if either one of you leaves the marriage with an agreement you don’t think is fair, you are likely to end up back in court again one day, and you are unlikely to be able to work together as effective parents.  You both agree to try mediation to negotiate a fair settlement – this is an important point, and I devote an entire chapter to mediation later in this book. Mediation saves you huge dollars in legal fees, and is an essential part of a “smooth” divorce.  You both agree to be civil to each other through the process, and to not use the kids against each other.  You both agree that you will choose your own lawyers, but that you will use the lawyers to give each of you legal advice, not to speak or negotiate on your behalf.  You both acknowledge that the process will be hard, and that there are times when each of you will get angry, but that you will keep trying even when it is hard. If you are able to come to an agreement like this with your wife, you will have made huge strides toward attaining the kind of divorce that you want. If you tried to gain her agreement on the above points but were unable to do so, she may need a little bit more time to come to terms with the pending divorce. If that is the case, you should consider divorce counseling for the two of you. Divorce counseling is an excellent way for both you and your wife to come to terms with your intense feelings during this time. If either one of you is having trouble accepting that the marriage is over, divorce counseling can be very beneficial in this regard as well. 25
  • 27. Insurance In this section, I am talking about insurance in the figurative sense. Your goal in the beginning of the divorce is to foster trust with your wife so that she is more willing to work with you in mediation to resolve your issues in a fair way and with the least amount of pain necessary. But, every person and every situation is different. Even if your wife tends to be irrational, this process is still worth attempting, but you should take some basic steps to protect yourself just in case. The following are some things that you can do that should not upset her or get her to lower her trust of you, but could save you lots of problems if she opts for the horrific version of divorce. First, if you have granted her power of attorney, you should reverse that immediately. If she has power of attorney, she could draft up whatever divorce settlement meets her fancy, and then sign it for you on your behalf. Go to the courthouse immediately, ask for the records department where your power of attorney is on file, and deliver a signed and dated note that rescinds that power of attorney. In most states, you will need to give her a copy as well. When you do, reinforce that you want to cooperate with her, but felt this step was necessary. If she had power of attorney over you, it is likely that you have the same. You should build her trust further by encouraging her to also revoke your power of attorney. The other thing I would encourage you to do is to make copies of all of your legal documents, tax returns, financial statements, and important computer files. If you have items of sentimental value that you can’t imagine being without, put those in storage. Again, if things go well, all of these steps will prove to be unnecessary, but there is no harm in taking these basic precautionary steps just in case. 26
  • 28. Chapter 4: What About The Children? Remember, part of our goal in pursuing the “smooth” divorce revolves around the ability for you to successfully move on with your life when the divorce is over. To do so, you need to maintain the relationships that are most important to you through this difficult process, and if you have kids, I’m sure you would agree that maintaining your relationship with them is of the utmost importance. It is important to remember as you are in the middle of your divorce that every word you speak and everything you do will ultimately impact your kids emotional well being and your ability to have a healthy relationship with them in the future. Your kids will need your adult leadership and support now more than ever, which means that it is important that you act like an adult when dealing with your wife. Love vs. Respect There is an old saying that the best way for a man to show love to his children is for him to show love to his wife. I don’t subscribe to this point of view myself, and in fact, I think that it can be twisted into something destructive. If you genuinely love your wife, this is a good thing for the 27
  • 29. kids. If you don’t, you will never be a good enough actor to convince them otherwise, day in and day out. Couples who “stay together for the kids” are making a mistake, because they are modeling the wrong behavior for their kids. Respect is a different thing than love. Even if you are unable to love your wife, you need to show her respect. As the mother of your children, she will always be an important, loved person in their lives. Do you remember how you felt as a kid on the playground when somebody insulted your mother? If you were like me, you ended up with bruised knuckles and a black eye. Your kids will feel the same way if you don’t show respect to their mother. Showing her respect means being cordial to her at all times. When you interact with her, you may choose to treat her the way you would treat someone at work, with cordial, even friendly respect, but minus the level of emotion that you would reserve for a close friend or family member. When you are with your kids, you should never say anything negative about your wife, and that should continue well after the divorce until the end of your days on earth. If they are old enough, they may ask you why you don’t love her anymore. They may even ask you to try to get back together with her. Never shift the blame for the divorce to her, instead, tell them that she is a great woman and a great mother, but that you both made mistakes in your marriage, and even though neither one of you ever wanted to divorce, you both agree that it would be the best thing to do now so that everyone can be happy again. Change Change is a difficult thing to cope with for all human beings, but it is especially difficult for children who may not yet have the emotional maturity and coping skills that comes with more life experience. You will need to invest time with them and talk with them so you know what they are thinking and how they are dealing. Pay close attention to changes in their sleep habits or appetite for clues as to how they are coping. Keeping with the theme of cooperating with your wife to settle your divorce smoothly, I urge you to talk to her about how you are approaching the kids, and ask her to model your behavior for their benefit. In the short and long run, you will both be happy that you did. 28
  • 30. Even if your kids seem to be handling the situation well, I would suggest you invest in professional counseling for them early in the process. Giving them a safe environment to talk about how they are feeling can be cathartic and healing for them. Unless the counselor suggests otherwise, you should plan on taking your kids to the sessions, but not sitting in on them yourself. It has probably never even crossed your mind to blame your kids for the marriage dissolving, but it is natural for them to think that way. They need to hear from you that it isn’t their fault, and that they didn’t do anything wrong. Again, your wife should be telling them the same thing. Finally, as much as you are able to, try to keep the other elements in your kids’ lives as constant as possible. Encourage them to continue in their sports and extracurricular activities. Facilitate time for them with friends and extended members of the family, if that is the norm for them. If you go to church, continue to take them. Minimizing the things that are in flux in their lives will make it easier for them to deal with the divorce. 29
  • 31. Chapter 5: How to Choose and Use a Lawyer One of the first things that the average person does when facing a divorce is hire a lawyer. While I think that most men and women over use and incorrectly use their lawyers through the divorce process, the simple fact is that you will need to hire a lawyer. A lawyer plays several important roles for you, most of which you should not do without. 1. First, it is the lawyer’s job to understand your situation and what your goals are in the divorce process, and then educate you on your legal options and make recommendation to you based on a solid understanding of the law. 2. Second, it is your lawyer’s responsibility to ensure that all necessary legal paperwork is filed with the courts correctly and on time. 3. Finally, on the day that you go to court to finalize your divorce, your lawyer should speak on your behalf to the judge. And that is it. That isn’t to say that your lawyer won’t want to do more, or that most people don’t use lawyers to do more. But, if you want to have a 30
  • 32. “smooth” divorce, you will use your lawyer for the above three things, and nothing else, and your wife will do the same. When you add up the expenses of getting a divorce, and exclude the intangible emotional expenses that you and your family will pay, the single largest expense is legal fees. Remember, lawyers are smart, well educated people who can demand fees in excess of $500 per hour. They don’t sell a tangible good, they sell their expertise, and the system they use to charge for that expertise is to charge you for the hours of time they devote to your case. The more time they spend, the more money they make, and the more money you lose. And every lawyer is trained to be very creative in producing billable hours. When you sign an agreement with a lawyer, it will most likely include a provision that says that any time they spend will be rounded up to the next 10 minutes. So, if your lawyer charges $500 per hour, and he talks to you on the phone for 2 minutes to arrange a meeting time, that phone call just cost you $83. Same thing if he sends you an email. If he spends a few minutes talking to an associate attorney at his firm about your case, you get charged for both of their time. Just think how fast the bills skyrocket when they are spending days doing depositions of everyone you ever said more than two words to. If you are especially frugal, and are willing to do some of the legwork yourself, you can save even more in legal fees. For example, while it is the lawyer’s job to ensure papers are filed correctly and on time, you can save some money if you are willing to complete them yourself, at least to a point. Here is a resource that provides all of the divorce forms you will need for your state. Beyond saving money on legal fees, there is a more important reason to limit the scope of your lawyer’s role. Many men who hire a lawyer don’t have the right mindset we discussed in chapter 1. What they are really doing is hiring a general in preparation for a war with their wife. The lawyer then uses all of his skill and persuasive power to fight against your wife and her lawyer not to arrive at a fair settlement, but rather to get you the most money, property, time with your kids, or whatever that he can. He does this because that is what lawyers are trained to do. He doesn’t consider the impact of his approach on your kids, or on your ability to communicate with your wife in the future, because he doesn’t know anything about those things and considers them to be beyond his role. And, he certainly doesn’t try to 31
  • 33. get through the process quickly and efficiently, because again, the more time he takes on your case, the more money he makes. While your lawyer is paid to represent you the best that he can, he will also look out for his best interests. Even though divorce cases almost never go to trial, he will uncover every possible stone in the discovery process to prepare for a trial that won’t happen and to protect himself against a possible malpractice suit. When you truly understand this dynamic, you will understand why you should never use your lawyer for any of the following tasks, if you are able to follow the “smooth” divorce plan:  Negotiate the settlement – your lawyer should tell you what your legal rights are, and give you some idea of what you might expect to get if you did go to court (although it will really just be a guess, as judges are unpredictable). But you need to do the hard work of negotiating a settlement with your wife. The good news is that you will have a professional mediator to help, and we talk about this in the next chapter.  Speak for you or act as your proxy– you are an adult and the outcome of your divorce is extremely important to you and your family. There are very few legal issues in the divorce, most of them are practical matters that are easy for anyone to understand and speak about. You should speak for yourself.  Make decisions for you – again, you need to take control and accountability for your own destiny.  Give you emotional advice – a lawyer is no more qualified to give emotional advice than any random stranger off the street. In fact, among all professions in the US, lawyers have the highest rate of depression, divorce rate, and suicide rate by far. Take emotional advice from your counselor, not your lawyer. How to Find the Right Lawyer Now that you are clear as to how you plan to use your lawyer, you are in a better position to choose someone who fits well with your expectations. Some things that some people put a lot of stock in just aren’t important at all when choosing a lawyer, such as your lawyer’s gender or age. But there are some things that you should actively seek out, and some things that you should avoid like the plague. 32
  • 34. Look For:  An experienced lawyer. Divorce law, while not overly complicated, does have some nuances that takes some time at the helm to master. The lawyer you choose should be someone who has been practicing divorce law for at least 5 years, with more years being an added bonus.  Someone who is confident without being cocky or abrasive. If you follow my plan, you will be limiting your lawyer’s contact with your wife, but you still don’t want to sign with someone who could derail your “smooth” divorce plan.  Someone who is focused on settling out of court. Remember, almost no cases go to court anyway, and when they do, the only ones who win are the lawyers.  A lawyer with reasonable hourly rates. This doesn’t mean going with the cheapest lawyer, but you also don’t want a high priced, “celebrity” lawyer either. It will take some time on the phone and in lawyers offices determining what reasonable is in your town, but it will save you money in the long term. Avoid  A lawyer who doesn’t support your desire to use a divorce mediator  A lawyer who encourages you to engage in underhanded strategies when dealing with your wife. If a lawyer tells you, for example, to cancel her credit cards or raid the bank accounts, she isn’t the right lawyer for you.  A lawyer from a big law firm, or who has a lot of cases pending that may not be able to give you the service you deserve. When you hire a lawyer, you want to make sure that he or she will be there for you when you need them, and not pass you off to a less experienced associate. Given how much you have on your plate, one easy free way to save a little time is to ask lawyers to call you. I have put a short form on my website that, once you fill it out, will connect you with divorce lawyers in the area where you live. It is easy and free, and powered by a national service called Total Divorce. If you prefer talking to someone live instead of submitting your personal information on the web, you can also call them toll free at 33
  • 35. (877) 412-0717. You will still need to ask the lawyers who contact you the tough questions, but this service makes it just a little bit easier. While the above can give you a nice head start, it still can be a long and arduous process to find the right person. Don’t be afraid to ask them every question on your list, and even to get them to tell you about themselves personally. For example, if you have kids, it doesn’t hurt if your lawyer also has kids, and if they are close in age to yours, all the better. Invest the time to find the right fit, and you will save yourself a lot of money, a lot of headaches, and possibly a lot of time on the back end as “smooth” divorces are typically resolved relatively quickly. 34
  • 36. Chapter 6: The Power of Mediation Professional divorce mediation is the cornerstone to your “smooth” divorce plan. When you bring a mediator into the picture, you are bringing in a neutral, third party who is responsible for keeping a constructive, civil dialogue going between you and your wife, and helping the two of you negotiate a fair divorce settlement. Many lawyers discourage their clients from using mediation. The reason they usually give is that they feel that they are not able to represent their client’s best interests without taking an active role in negotiating the divorce settlement. While they may genuinely believe that to be true, the reason they won’t share with you is that when you use a mediator, the fees that your lawyer will be able to charge you will be dramatically cut. The divorce mediation movement was started in the 1970s by a lawyer and a psychologist who were appalled by the emotional carnage they were seeing that resulted from “traditional” divorce managed by lawyers. As you would expect, the legal community was initially extremely hostile toward mediation, and to this day, many lawyers are skeptical for obvious reasons. But it has continued to grow, and now you can find lawyers in every city who have some experience working with clients who opt for mediation. 35
  • 37. One great thing about mediation is that it truly is a risk free proposition. Mediators don’t charge up front retainer fees the way lawyers do, and most also won’t ask you to commit up front to a fixed number of sessions. While you and your wife should do some upfront work to identify the right mediator before getting started, if you make a mistake, you can walk away from that person and find someone else who is a better fit. Mediation is not the same as arbitration, and it is important to understand the difference. An arbiter takes on a role that is similar to the role a judge plays, although with less formality. When you use an arbiter to settle a disagreement, you and the other party agree to abide by the decision of the arbiter before any discussions start. I am not suggesting you choose to resolve your divorce settlement through arbitration. A mediator, like an arbiter, is an impartial, third party that you and your wife hire together. Unlike an arbiter, though, a mediator has no power over the outcome or the negotiation. The mediator will help the two of you to frame your positions in a positive way, so, “If you think I’m paying you alimony for the next 10 years, you are nuts,” turns into something like, “I’m not comfortable agreeing to pay alimony for ten years.” But, the mediator doesn’t take any position on whether you should or should not pay the alimony. A mediator also provides a safe, neutral setting for you and your wife to work out your issues. Just as it is important to choose the right lawyer, there is a big difference between an experienced, qualified divorce mediator and someone who “just decided to try it out.” Unfortunately, choosing a good mediator is in many ways more difficult than choosing the right lawyer. As in any field, there are many inexperienced and ineffective divorce mediators out there, and unfortunately, formal certifications in this field don’t mean a whole lot. I recommend you adopt the following two pronged approach to find the right mediator. First, start with the internet, and search for “divorce mediation in YOUR CITY”. When you are able to develop a list in this way, call the mediators on the list, and ask them the following questions to weed out the bad ones: 36
  • 38.  How long have you been practicing divorce mediation, and how many cases have you completed. – weed out the ones that have completed less than 50 cases and have been mediating for less than 5 years.  Ask them if they have any experience as a counselor or psychologist. If they haven’t, this isn’t a reason to eliminate them, but having this experience is a huge benefit.  Can you provide references from former clients and attorneys you have worked with – if not, eliminate them immediately. If they will provide references, and they pass the other questions on this list, call all of the references before hiring the mediator.  Can they give you confidence that they understand the economic and tax issues of divorce – On this question, you have to feel confident in the answer that they give you, otherwise you should eliminate them. At the same time you look for a mediator through the cold call interview approach, I would also suggest that you ask your psychologist or counselor for references. Odds are, they know someone in town that they trust to refer. When you get their reference, you still need to call that person and ask them the same questions that you asked on your cold calls. Once you have weeded your list down to a manageable list, you should schedule time to interview each mediator in person, and ideally, you should do so with your wife present for each interview. Remember, this is your first joint decision in your divorce negotiation, so you both need go be there. Look for someone who seems assertive but not aggressive, who seems reasonable, who seems like someone you could both get along with, and who provides a physical setting that makes you both feel comfortable. Your First Mediation Session Your first mediation session will likely be primarily about your mediator getting to know you, and the two of you getting to know her. She will likely ask you each what issues you are most concerned about resolving, and ask you each to paint for her a picture of what you would see to be success through the process. She will also set ground rules for the two of you to ensure that your conversations are productive and not destructive. One of those rules will likely be that there will be no attacks against the other spouse, and in the case that one spouse is attacked, he or she will not defend, but let the mediator stop the attack. Another ground rule will likely be that neither spouse will attempt to control the process. 37
  • 39. You can also expect in your first session for the mediator to steer the two of you toward the issues that need immediate resolution. How the two of you manage your money prior to the divorce will be one of them, especially if one of you has taken some step with the family finances that has eroded trust in the other spouse. Unless one of you is in an immediate financial dilemma, it will probably be best if you agree to keep things as they are until the divorce is settled. Another immediate issue that is usually discussed is access to children. Hopefully, you and your wife have already worked out a visitation or residence schedule that works for your kids and for each of you. If not, this is usually one of the first things that couples want resolved. Getting the Most Out of Mediation You and your wife will get the most value out of mediation if you listen carefully to the mediator’s advice on how to frame up your concerns to each other, and if you let her do her job and control the sessions. Acting like adults during the sessions is always a helpful thing too. It will be hard, but try to avoid emotional statements or accusations, and instead focus on neutral language and talk about your own feelings. For example, “There is no way I’m letting you have one red cent of my pension,” would be better framed as, “I’m concerned about my ability to retire if I have to share my pension.” When you manage your language and your own anger, you can have a big influence over lowering your wife’s anger. Your mediator will encourage you to focus your discussion and energy on solutions instead of problems. Take her advice. The problems are right there in front of you and your wife, and there is usually very little to be gained by re-hashing them. Instead, focus on solving those problems. Just as importantly, don’t try to solve problems that have nothing to do with your divorce settlement in divorce mediation. After years of marriage and pent up emotion, it will be tempting for one of you to talk about some past slight or wrong. Don’t. Actually, don’t talk about the past at all, because the past is over. Your job now is to focus on creating a future that you and your wife can both live with. 38
  • 40. In mediation, it is ok to share your feelings, if you do so in a dispassionate way, which I know seems oxymoronic, but is possible. Better yet though, instead on focusing on your feelings, you should focus on your behavior. You may feel angry, betrayed, and bitter. Acting angry, betrayed and bitter, or conveying that tone in your voice, will push your wife away from the process and end you up on the horrific path to divorce. Managing your tone and your behavior will be that much more difficult if your wife isn’t managing hers. So, what are you supposed to do if she makes personal attacks, rolls her eyes, talks down to you, and generally acts like a total bitch? As hard as it may be, the right answer is to not respond and to continue to take the high road. Taking a little verbal abuse from your wife is a small thing compared to losing a ton of money in legal fees, being forced into an unfair divorce settlement, and having your kids grow up to hate you. One final thought I want to share with you on making your mediation work out is, don’t quit. Believe me, while this is a much better approach than the typical legal nightmare divorce, it isn’t easy. There will be times when you are so angry that you think you will explode. In those times, ask your mediator and your wife for a break so that you can cool off a little bit. If you feel she is being unreasonable and you are at an impasse, don’t threaten to end mediation if she doesn’t agree to your demand. That is paramount to putting a gun to your head and threatening to shoot yourself in the head if you don’t get your way. Prepare for Negotiation Be prepared is the Boy Scout motto, and that should be your motto when you attend mediation sessions. If you are going to be negotiating division of assets, support for your wife, child support, and custody issues, your case will be largely improved if you are armed with facts. For example, put together a budget of what you and your wife have been spending on the kids. Take a stab at budgets for living expenses for both you and your wife in the post divorce world. She may disagree with your assumptions on her budget, but that’s ok. If that happens, just ask her to develop her own budget. Also, another tip that most men overlook, is to document as much as possible how you have been a “good dad” to your kids if you are seeking a fair custody 39
  • 41. arrangement. Did you take them to the doctor, attend a PTA meeting, or set up a play date? Write it down and take it with you. Do It Yourself Mediation If you have read this far, I’m sure you have figured out that I am about as cheap as they come. If there is an approach that I believe in that saves money, I’m going to tell you about it. Toward that end, many couples who have learned about the benefits of mediation decide to do it themselves and avoid paying the mediator. This is a very bad idea. I’m sorry for being so brutally honest, but my guess is that if you and your wife were good at communicating, were attentive and empathetic to each other’s needs, and were used to being flexible to accommodate those needs, you probably wouldn’t be getting divorced. Don’t underestimate the value that a trained, competent, experienced mediator brings to the table. To further reinforce this point, I would encourage the two of you to not only use a professional mediator, but to then not discuss your divorce settlement at all outside of the mediator’s office. It is too easy to fall into old habits and undo the great progress that the two of you have made with your mediator. What if Mediation Fails While the approach I’ve laid out in this book is the approach you should strive for, there are some circumstances where it just won’t work. If your wife is an irrational person, has drug or mental health issues, or is just incapable of temporarily putting her emotions aside, mediation probably won’t work. She may agree to go to a session or two with you and then sabotage the process when there. Or, she may simply refuse to go. I’m sorry to say that if you find yourself in this situation, you are probably destined to go through the traditional, adversarial divorce process. In this case, I recommend you read “Insider Secrets and Strategies That Men Must Know to Win Their Divorce!” or, if you are a Dad, “Divorced Dad Survival Guide”. I like, the second book a little better as it is a bit more comprehensive than the first. 40
  • 42. Chapter 7: Moving On With Your Life The prospect of going through a divorce is daunting and intimidating. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and focus on negotiating the best settlement you can. Honestly, that is where your focus should be for the time being. But, what happens when the dust settles, the papers are signed, and your mediator and lawyer go home? Remember in chapter one, we defined our goal as follows: My goal is to end my marriage with my wife in the most fair, amicable way possible so that I can best move on with and enjoy the rest of my life. This chapter addresses the final part of that goal. Getting Your Head Screwed On Straight Any kind of change is difficult. Many men who enter retirement find that they struggle with boredom and depression. Some people commit suicide several months after winning the lottery. If positive change like that can 41
  • 43. bring people to their knees, think how hard it can be to recover from a divorce. It is natural that you will go through a personal grieving period after your divorce is final. You will be living in a new home (most likely), and living alone for the first time in a long time. You may be feeling insecure and depressed. You may find it difficult to maintain important relationships, and even to be the supportive father that you know your kids need during this difficult time. I encourage you to grieve, but I would suggest you make that grieving time as productive and efficient as possible, so that you can come out the other side quickly and in a happy place. To do that, I suggest you do two things. The first is conducting what I call a marriage post mortem analysis. This is when you spend some introspective time thinking through your past marriage. Write down on a piece of paper a list of things that you did well in the marriage. This should be anything that comes to mind, from, “I was very supportive of my ex-wife’s decision to go back to school,” to, “I always did the dishes whenever she asked me.” Make the list as long as you like, then do the same for the things that you didn’t do so well. Put the list away for a couple of weeks, then take it out and brainstorm a list of things you learned from the experience of being married to your ex-wife. The marriage post mortem analysis is a powerful tool for putting a lot of your emotions to rest. We men are not very good at sharing our feelings with friends, and this is a way for you to get everything out in a private setting that is comfortable for many men. Just as importantly, the list of things you learned can help you make better relationship and lifestyle decisions moving forward. The second, and more important thing I suggest you do to get your head screwed on straight is to make an appointment with a counselor, if you didn’t already started seeing one during the divorce process. A trained counselor can be extremely helpful in guiding you through the post divorce grieving process. I have used a counselor for some time now to help me work through my own issues, and I find that every meeting with her is very helpful and constructive. 42
  • 44. What Does Your Happy Look Like? The US Declaration of Independence is one of the only documents of its kind to reference happiness as a worthy goal. As Americans, we have come to see happiness almost as a birthright, and so when we fail to achieve it, we feel as if we are being cheated. Happiness doesn’t just happen, it is something you have to make happen. And since the circumstances that lead to happiness are unique to each person, you have to decide what a happy life looks like for you. Even though change is hard, one upside to going through something as difficult as a divorce is that it puts you in a perfect position to truly re-invent your life for the better. Once again, it is time for more introspection. Take the time to think through, and write down answers to the following question, “If I were able to earn my current income without doing any work, how would I spend my time each week?” Write down as many things as come to mind, even the crazy ideas. Once you have run out of ideas, take a break and come back to it and write down a few more. Then, ask yourself the next question, “What changes would I need to make to my life so that I could double the amount of time I spend doing the things on my list?” Again, write down your ideas, and then choose the ones that are the most practical and transformative. And finally and most importantly, make a commitment to yourself to start implementing those ideas. Another exercise that I recommend to everyone, no matter what their circumstances, is to create a life list. A life list (also called a bucket list by some) is a list of all of the things that you would like to experience before you die. You may have always wanted to climb a mountain, or do stand up comedy in front of a live audience, or see the Northern Lights. Put it all on the list. You will find that it just making the list is a lot of fun, and checking things off is even more fun. At the beginning of every year, revisit your list, and choose 3 things on your list that you will plan to check off before the end of the year. I have found that keeping a life list leads me to create some fantastic, unique experiences for myself that I would have never tried before. For example, a few years ago I took a dog sledding trip in Denali National Park in Alaska 43
  • 45. that was one of the highlights of my life. Now, I’m busy taking Ninjutsu classes working toward my black belt, which is another life list item for me. Now that your ex is gone, and your kids are likely splitting their time between your two households, you have a lot more time to invest in yourself. Make the most of it. Dealing With Your Ex Contrary to what I said in the paragraph above, if you are a Dad, your ex- wife isn’t really altogether gone. You and she still share the responsibility of co-parenting your kids, which means that she will continue to be tied to you in some way at least until your kids are old enough to take care of themselves. Ideally, you should find a home that is close to (but not too close to) your ex-wife’s home and your kids’ school. Juggling schedules is hard enough without having to drive across town or the state to do it. And, physical proximity makes it easier for both of you to be flexible with one another as parents, which is a norm you should cultivate with your ex-wife from day one. To create the expectation of flexibility with her, you should offer her flexibility early on in your post divorce relationship by saying something like, “Stephanie, I know we are both figuring out how hard it is to be good parents to the kids while juggling all of the other demands in our lives. If you ever need short notice baby sitting, or need to switch up our visitation schedule, please don’t hesitate to ask. I promise I’ll do whatever I can to be flexible with you.” If you make this offer in this way, there is no need to ask her to be flexible, it is implied. Then, the first few time she asks you for some flexibility, bend over backwards to give it to her, even if it means canceling dates, moving business trips, or whatever. If you make early deposits of this kind into the relationship bank with your ex wife, you can expect to make future withdrawals with interest when you need her to be flexible with you. 44
  • 46. Keeping Your Friends A lot of guys who go through a divorce assume that their old “drinking buddies” are all going to come crawling out of the woodwork once they become a swinging single again. While that might actually happen, the fact of the matter, though, is that if you aren’t careful, you may actually lose some friends as a result of your divorce. If you were married for any length of time, it is likely that the friends that you have been spending the majority of your time with are also friends with your wife. Now that you two are apart, your friends may be feeling a bit awkward about the situation. They may be wondering which of you they will be able to continue to see. They might think that you want them to give you space, or may be reluctant to reach out thinking that you may ask them to take a side. As soon as you feel like you are emotionally ready to re-engage with your friends, I suggest you reach out to the friends you most want to keep, but haven’t heard from in a while. Give them a call, and tell them you miss them and would like to see them again. Propose meeting for a drink or some other casual get together. When you see them, you should be straightforward about your divorce without assigning any blame to your ex wife or asking them to take any emotional side. To accomplish that, here should be your talking points. 1. My ex and I are divorced now, and I’m finally at a place where I’m at peace with the situation. My understanding is that she is much happier too. 2. You have been a good friend through the years to both of us, and I hope that will continue. 3. I don’t want my divorce to affect our friendship. I would understand, and even encourage you to keep your friendship with my ex, as I know she cares very much for you too. 4. I will never ask you to take sides in our divorce, it is over and behind us anyway. I know that sometimes it is uncomfortable to have such straightforward discussions, but it truly is better to get these things out in the open than to leave them unsaid. Your friends will likely breathe a huge sigh of relief when you do. And, if your ex chooses to take the low road and bad mouth 45
  • 47. you to your same friends, that will be her loss. If they are truly your friends, the will see right through that. Sex Wow! How could I be so far into the chapter on moving on with your life and just now start on this topic! If you are like most men in this situation, you and your wife haven’t had sex in quite a while, and you miss it. But, if you are like most men, you are also scared stiff about the prospect of re-entering the dating scene. Unless you have been cheating, you haven’t been with another woman for a long time, and the thought can be intimidating. First, know that there is absolutely no hurry. In fact, if you still haven’t come to terms with your divorce, it may be too early to focus your energy on women. You may be better served by swearing off women for a while. If that isn’t the case, and you are ready to enjoy the company of a woman again, you should first understand what it is you are really looking for. Are you looking for a companion, or are you looking for sex. Be honest with yourself and decide which it is you want. As crass as it may sound, I would suggest that when you are ready to “date” again, you start by focusing on having a no strings attached physical relationship. Think of it as committing to not commit. Have some fun, enjoy some sex, get it out of your system, and then figure out what happens next. Sounds easy right? Well, if you were like me in my single days, you spent a lot of time, well, single, so why would things be different now? Fortunately, things have changed a little bit. Social conventions have loosened up, and it is actually more socially acceptable for women to want and seek out sex just for the sake of sex, which means you have more potential partners out there. The internet adds fuel to that fire, and makes it possible for you to connect with those women more efficiently and quickly than was ever possible before. 46
  • 48. Check out Adult Friend Finder and Passion.com, which are two adult dating sites that specialize in connecting people who want casual sex. There is also the personal section on Craig’s List, which is free, although beware of scammers trying to pry your personal data or credit card information from you. If you are going to use Craig’s List, I suggest you open a separate gmail or yahoo email account that you use only for online dating, so that you can dump that email if the spam comes pouring in. If you focus your efforts on sites like Adult Friend Finder or Passion.com, you shouldn’t have that problem, though. There is another much more straightforward way to have your sex fling. It is certainly less conventional, and I apologize in advance if I offend your sensibilities, but you may consider a trip to Nevada to visit a legal brothel. This approach isn’t for everyone, and I’ll be honest, it wouldn’t be right for me, but for some of you it may be a fun, affordable weekend getaway that could be the perfect cure. However you approach it, just make sure that you set expectations with any woman that you are interested in having a casual relationship with. It isn’t fair to mislead her to get her into bed, and it will create problems for you that you don’t need right now. Also know that there really is no such thing as free love, or free sex for that matter. When you engage in sexual behavior that is risky, the risk of experiencing that possible downside is the cost of the act. Don’t underestimate the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, some of which will stay with you for the rest of your life if you contract them. In the case of AIDS, the rest of your life may be shorter than you planned on. Another risk includes the risk of introducing an emotionally unstable woman into the rest of your life (especially your life with your kids). The bottom line is to know what you want, take it slow, and if things don’t feel right, don’t be afraid to put the situation into reverse. Dating When you get past your “commit to not commit” phase, and you reach a point where you would consider a more serious relationship, it is time to change your strategy, and leave the casual sex dating sites behind. I suggest 47
  • 49. you adopt a strategy that combines traditional dating methods with online methods. If you have taken my advice, and re-invented your life to spend more time doing the things you enjoy, it is likely that you have taken up some new pastimes and possibly joined some groups. Focusing your efforts on the women in those groups could result in a new girlfriend that you already have things in common with. Beyond the face to face dating techniques that you used before you met your wife, you should consider using a reputable online dating site. Sites like match.com and perfectmatch.com are both very popular, and can really help you find someone you will be compatible. Unlike Passion.com, for example, these sites focus on matching you with someone with similar interests and goals, not sexual appetites. If you are looking for more information on how to successfully dive back into the dating world, check out the Pure Personality online course. It is one of the few courses of its kind that really works. Deciding to Re-marry Unless you got divorced because you happened to meet your one true love while you were married, this should be the furthest thing from your mind right now. It is natural and healthy to be open to the option of re-marriage one day. It is unhealthy to make re-marriage your goal. Even if you did leave your wife to enter a new serious relationship, I would still urge you to take your time before diving back into marriage. Most men re-marry within 3 years of their divorce. Not surprisingly, more than half of those re-marriages also end in divorce. Many men want to get married again because they think it will be an easy way to solve some of their own problems or insecurities. Maybe you are lonely, maybe you don’t like living along, or maybe you just don’t like doing your own laundry. Before you take another wife, it is important that you get comfortable with yourself and confident in your ability to be self sufficient. You will have so much more to offer to a future wife, and you will improve your chances in avoiding another mistake. 48
  • 50. Resources I hope you found my book useful, and I genuinely wish you the absolute best luck and success in negotiating the right divorce settlement and moving on with your life after your divorce is final. To give you a further head start beyond what I’ve already given you in this book, I’ve included a list of resources that can give you more specific and in depth help. Click on the links I’ve included to go right to the referenced resources. Divorce Guides For Men “Insider Secrets and Strategies That Men Must Know to Win Their Divorce!” Even though I disagree with the adversarial approach that this author seems to advocate, it is full of a lot of comprehensive information that can save you from making a lot of mistakes. The section that tells how to keep your wife from hiring the worst, bulldog lawyers is especially good. Reasonably priced e-book. “Divorced Dad’s Survival Guide” If you are a Dad, this is your guide. This is a very comprehensive book that covers everything you need to know when navigating your divorce. The author includes a free audio course that you can listen to on your commute, as well as some bonus material, such as “Top 10 ways to save money on your divorce” which is probably worth the price alone. Reasonably priced e- book with a money back guarantee. Child Custody Strategies For Men Most divorces do not involve a custody battle, but if you are in that unfortunate situation, or think you will be, you need this guide. This book is co-authored by the two of the top authorities on child custody issues, and is packed with the information you need to keep your kids. I really like the bonus, state specific download that really completes your personal knowledge arsenal for a custody battle. At $129 for the e-book, it isn’t cheap, but you won’t find better advice of its kind anywhere else. 49
  • 51. Avoiding Divorce Transform Your Marriage This is actually an online course that you complete at your own pace. Fixing a marriage is hard work, but if you are willing to put in the effort, this resource provides excellent guidance along the way. “Saving Your Marriage and Stopping Your Divorce” This e-book gives some useful tips on saving your marriage, and while it isn’t as powerful as Transform Your Marriage, it may be worth a read for some. “The Secrets of the Perfect Married Sex Life” This resource isn’t about avoiding divorce, but it is about solving a very specific, common problem that married men have, which often leads to divorce. If you are in a situation where fixing your sex life would fix your marriage, this one is worth buying. If your situation is more complicated, you can skip this one. Budgeting Spreadsheet Click here to download a free excel spreadsheet from my site to help you prepare a budget for two separate households. This should help you create a good starting point for your support negotiations. Finding the Right Lawyer I’ve included a free lawyer referral service on my website that will save you time and hassle. Lawyers in your area will receive your contact information, and reach out to you. If you would rather talk to a live person, you can call the toll free number (877) 412-0717. Be sure to still ask them all of the questions I outline in chapter 5. 50
  • 52. State Specific Divorce Papers Papers for Divorce This service offers up-to-date, state specific divorce papers for $19.99 if you don’t have kids or $24.99 if you do. Preparing your own divorce papers can save you costly legal fees vs. letting your lawyer do it for you. I would still advise having your lawyer review them for accuracy, though. Rocket Lawyer Rocket Lawyer is a top quality service that provides downloadable legal forms to meet any need. In their family and personal section, you can find downloadable divorce settlement agreements and divorce worksheets. The first form you download is free, which is a plus. Sex Adult Friend Finder I like this service because it has a huge user base at 32 million registered users, and it does a good job of protecting your privacy. Passion.com Very similar to Adult Friend Finder, this service also has a huge member base. Passion.com has a very favorable male to female ratio, and includes lots of explicit photos of potential “dates”. Dating Pure Personality You will find a lot of “how to pick up women” e-books on the internet, and most of them are junk. This one is the exception. If the thought of re- entering the dating scene scares you to death, buy this e-book. It is pricy, but comes with a no questions asked money back guarantee. 51
  • 53. Match.com This online dating service has been in business for more than 35 years, and has a huge member base. Their patented Duet Compatibility System is reported to be highly accurate in creating successful matches. They offer a free trial period, so you can try before you buy. PerfectMatch.com This is another very popular dating site with a lot of registered users. Very easy to use and intuitive, PerfectMatch.com offers a visual chart system that shows you quickly how compatible you are with other users. Best of all, it offers a “speed match” program, where you are paired with other compatible members for 4 minute live phone calls. 52
  • 54. Please Make a Donation I’ve reached a point in my life where I can afford to make my primary motivation helping other people. I’ve had so many friends go through hell in their divorces, I just felt like there had to be a better way to go about it that was less heart wrenching and delivered better results. So, I did the research, and wrote this book. I hope it helps you through your divorce, and I hope you feel like it was worth your time to read. I do make my living through writing, but I decided to try something new with this book. Since the system I laid out for you to approach your divorce is based on trust, I decided to trust you. If you think this book is valuable, please click on the link below put $10 dollars in my paypal account, which is: todd@smoothdivorces.com Or, if you prefer, you can mail a check to: Mile High Brands, LLC 10249 W. Fremont Ave. Littleton, CO 80127 If you think the book is worth less than $10, that’s fine, in that case just pay what you think it is worth. If you know other men who you think would benefit from this book, you should feel free to pass it on to them as well. 53