Historically, in the interest of protecting children in a marriage, the courts have favored women when a couple seeks a divorce. As advocacy for men’s rights has grown, more and more family courts are recognizing that marriage is a partnership and that when that partnership dissolves as a result of divorce, the parties need to be viewed as equals, resulting in a divorce agreement that doesn’t deny the rights of either party.
Regardless of which party initially desires the divorce and files for it, divorce is likely to affect both spouses financially, emotionally and practically. It is important to carefully consider your options and work out as many details as possible with your soon-to-be ex-spouse before the actual divorce. This will save time, money and emotional stress. Involving a therapist or mediator may help both parties deal with the divorce more effectively, save both parties money and reduce hostilities.
Divorce laws vary state by state. Whether the divorce is friendly or hostile, it is important to learn your rights as defined by the laws in the state in which you live and will be divorcing. The American Bar Association (see Resources) maintains a directory of family practice lawyers that can help you learn and understand your rights.
Spousal support and alimony laws vary from state. Depending upon the jurisdiction, each spouse’s income is used to determine spousal support (known as alimony in only some states) and child support. Spousal support is designed to provide a means for nonworking spouses to achieve training and education to sustain them after the divorce. In the case of men, a husband may have stopped attending school short of completing his degree to remain at home with the couple’s children. He may be entitled to support while completing the necessary education in the same way a woman in the same position may be granted support.
Custody and Child Support
It is no longer true that the courts rule in favor of the woman in regard to custody issues. The belief that the mother needs to be the primary caretaker of the child or children is not valid in most courts today. However, each case is determined by an individual judge with his own ideas about what is just and fair regarding custody. It is important to hire a lawyer who will defend your paternal rights in a custody case.
Child support ensures that the primary caregiver (this can be mother or father) is able to provide the children with their basic needs. In most jurisdictions, child support is not necessary when both parents care for the children equally.
Avoiding the Courts
To assure that both the man’s and the woman’s rights are upheld in a divorce settlement, it is wise to consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable about the laws in your state. That said, however, it is often in both parties’ best interest to reach a settlement with a mediator or collaborative divorce attorney. This avoids the courts and allows the parties to determine who will make the final decisions that will protect their best interests.