In cases of divorce, both sides have substantial rights and protections under California law. However, ways exist that those rights and protections can be forfeited or at least lessened by the actions of one or both parties. Here, we discuss what men, in particular, should avoid.
Many of these are the types of decisions that a good attorney will not allow a client to make, hence a large portion of the actions typically taken when a man represents himself or before he eventually finds legal representation.
“Good Guy” Actions
In an effort to appear fairer and generous, men often offer to pay more than the law requires of them or than they can sustain in the long-term. Formulas and guidelines exist to create fair and reasonable terms for alimony and other forms of spousal support based on a variety of factors. By coming up with an overly generous number, you may not only be spending more than is reasonable, you may also give your spouse very little incentive to become financially independent. This will result in paying alimony for a longer period of time.
When children are involved, men often surrender their paternal rights on custody issues, thinking the mother will make an amicable agreement privately. Remember that emotion can drive divorces and that after the fact, even amicable divorcees may have a change of heart. Make sure to clearly define what your parental rights are during these proceedings and act on the assumption that the other party will not do anything more than what a court order demands.
“Bad Guy” Actions
While nobody feels that they are the “bad guy” in certain situations, certain actions during a divorce can give that perception. For instance, intentionally outspending the other party to exhaust that financially is a common tactic used as it would appear to give more leverage in the negotiations. However, this can work against you in a few ways.
Firstly, California Family Code Section 271 punishes that behavior by making the offending party pay for the additional legal fees of the second party if the fees rose as a result of that sort of tactic. In reality, this is a self-defeating plan since it will only end up costing you more money and not hurting them. Also, it may end up making you lose credibility in the eyes of the courts.
A second action that will end up working against you is not paying for child or spousal support without notice. Someone might have a legitimate reason for not paying, such as losing their job or some other financial hardship. However, parties can make modifications to either reduce the payment or eliminate it altogether in extreme cases.
Simply ceasing payment without any effort to make reasonable arrangements makes one look like the stereotypical deadbeat dad or ex-husband and can result not only in wage garnishment but can also affect child custody agreements. Very few actions look worse in family court than not paying child support, whether or not a valid reason is present.
As mentioned earlier, these are all easily avoidable issues that can be under the advisement of a competent attorney experienced in divorce and family law. Divorces are already one of the most difficult and stressful situations imaginable. The last thing you’d want to do is to add additional burdens on yourself when nothing can be gained by it.