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For the Men

After practicing in the area of family law for almost 20 years there is one thing I have noticed that is a recurring theme, men don’t always get the respect they deserve.  

In the firm I work for we have had just as many men clients as women, however there is a tendency to treat them differently.  Now I am not saying this is a conscious decision, it’s just something that happens.  Most men, not all, but most of the men we see have established careers, finances in order and in general are ready to move on.  It is usually the complete opposite for the women.  Most of the women have been stay at home moms who either did not work or worked part-time.  Most of the finances were handled by the husbands and I believe out of fear more than anything, they were not always ready for things to end.  

Obviously we had plenty of clients where this was not the case, but more often than not it was.  However, it seems recently there has been an upswing in the number of men who are now in what was traditionally the role of the woman.  They are the stay at home parent either not working or working part-time.  The wives are the ones bringing in the money and contributing to the retirement account under her name.  She has become empowered and has taken matters into her own hands.  However, the difference is that when the husband is working and the mom stays home and the parties separate the husband usually leaves the marital home but continues to support the wife and kids.  But when the wife is working and the husband is the stay at home parent and they split, the husband is still the one to leave the home – even though he has been the primary caretaker and the women are not usually willing to support them.  I don’t understand this.  I always thought the reason why the wife stayed and the husband left was because she was the primary caretaker and they did not want to disrupt the lives of the kids. But apparently I was wrong because it doesn’t seem to work the opposite way.  And from what I have seen the courts allow it.  

I had one case where the husband had no job, was excluded from the residence, had to sleep on a friend’s couch for lack of anyplace else, or any money, to go anywhere else and the court would not allow him parenting time with his son because he didn’t have a home.  The wife did not want him at the residence, she worked full-time and therefore had to hire a caretaker for the child that had previously been taken care of by the husband.  And the court’s allowed it.  It was not fair to him or the child.  

It seems lately I have seen one case after another where the wife does not want the husband in the home, restraining orders are filed and voila – no more hubby.  Now I do understand that there are legitimate reasons for restraining orders but it seems like this is occurring way to often to be anything more than a veiled attempt to have your cake and eat it too.  

For the sake of any children caught up in all of this I would love to see both sides play nicely and do what’s in the best interest of their children rather than themselves.  I think for many years women did need a little extra help from the courts because they were caught off guard with no job, no money and now no husband, but that is not the case anymore.  I think it is important to rethink the whole man/woman situation in that women are just not that helpless anymore and children need their father’s just as much as their mother’s.

2 comments on “For the Men

  1. This was an interesting read. With gender roles in flux there are bound to be incongruities. Divorce is still based on 1950s assumptions – women need men’s protection. So today, even if the wife works full-time the man is still expected to pay alimony, and child custody usually goes to the woman. If she wasn’t working then alimony for a while makes sense for the transition, but men are not seen as deserving of similar help even if he was a househusband because men are expected to be self-sufficient. If anything he’ll be blamed for not focusing on his career when he was staying home.

    Changing these social norms is necessary if we’re going to close the pay gap, which isn’t just about women having higher paid jobs, but also is about men having the option of taking lower paid (but often more fulfilling) jobs or staying home with the kids.

    • I agree with you 100%. It is about how women are perceived in our society. We don’t want to be perceived as weak but we sure do know how to play the role when it comes to divorce. Unfortunately, women that do work full-time more often than not still do not earn the same as a man and therefore, maintenance (alimony) will usually come into play. My State has just this year changed the law from a Judge making an arbitrary award to using the same type of formula we use to determine child support and therefore leveling the playing field a bit. But we still have a long way to go. The more we recognize that fathers are just as important as mothers and not stigmatize them for wanting to be a bigger part of their children’s lives the better off we will all be.

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