From the start of your marriage, you should prepare for your divorce. This is truly the case when you plan on having kids. You need to protect your ability to live on and live well after divorce before you get married. This might sound a bit crazy, but its true. Its sad that the world has come to this, but it has. Men are not treated fairly in court, and so they need to limit their damages the best they can. Traditional marriage with children should be forgotten, because if that is the route you take, then you will be punished for it later.
Prenuptial agreements are worthless if there are children. The court and clever lawyers can eliminate most parts of this agreement in the “best interest of the child.” Understand that this principle applies to all decisions the court makes. From who gets the house to how property is divided. The only time a prenuptial agreement holds real weight is when she wants it to, and when there are no kids involved. The one value that they have is that it may set the tone for where you start negotiating. They won’t save you in court, but they might help you stay out of court and get a fair deal through mediation and negotiation.
You must be an equal partner in every way with the kids duties. Not just doing half the work or care for the kids, but half of each type of work. Make sure you have a flexible job, and slow down the promotions. They won’t do you any good anyway after divorce, because she will just get a bigger chunk. Try and have a job that pays around the same as the job she has, and yes she must have a job too. Take as much time as she does doing things with the kids alone. Discourage breast feeding. Yes it might be better for the kids, but it takes you out of the duties of feeding the kids when they are infants. It will be argued that this creates a bond that you can’t have. Take the kids to school half the time, and pick them up and do the homework with them at least half the time. Making breakfast and dinner anytime you can, and make sure you are doing it regularly half the time. Go clothes shopping and school shopping. Nothing that involves your kids should be done without your active involvement. You should probably only have one child as well. Child support in the future is far less with one child, and makes tearing the family apart less appealing.
Be alert to the possibility of divorce pending. A year or two off, stop looking for raises. Start taking more time off, and if you are hourly, then work fewer hours. Use this time with your kids. This lowers your pay while you are married, so you are held to a lower standard for any child support and maintenance. Understand that I am advocate of equal parenting time, and I believe that men and women should care for their kids. I don’t believe that court ordered child support is the correct mechanism to do this. Not only does lessening your hours set a lower bar for future earnings when calculating child support, but it also prepares you for the truth of what is to come. You can increase your hours to help with the economic burdens of divorce, and it not be used against you in most states. You will also need more time off to deal with things that used to be divided duties when you were together. Including tagging the cars and other mundane tasks you don’t think about when you are married, because usually one of you is more able to take care of that issue on any given day. If you are working to your best potential at the time of divorce you are likely to not only suffer from having to share your income with your ex, but also having less income coming in do to your new time constraints. Divorce courts don’t deal with the realities of the economics of divorce. They tend to go with a “greater good” philosophy in their decisions. These are masked in other terms, but generally men are more likely to get along without assistance after divorce, even when monies are taken from them. If they shift the kids to one parent in a legal context, and the other parent pays them, then it is likely that the greatest number of people in the case are going to be okay. The kids and mother are taken care of and the men are likely to get along, even if not so well.
You need to have a go bag. You should have all the things you need in a bag that you have access to, even if you don’t have access to your home. This should have the basis you need to survive. Clothes and money should be in the bag. Anything you use daily should be in the bag. It could be doubly helpful in other situations, but think that you might be out of your house for a few weeks and not have access to things you use everyday during that time. If she pulls the trigger and gets a restraining order, its going to take some time to sort things out. You should have enough immediate cash to allow for you to live during that time, including getting some shelter. Think hard about this and put the bag together. Having the cash is important. Make sure to include having enough cash to meet with a lawyer for some advice as well.
Start putting money aside early. Have a bank account that you stash a certain amount in every paycheck. This is handy when things are good for buying presents without snooping, but let it grow. This is your nest egg. It will get you started when you are looking for new housing, furniture, and all other things when you start over. This should not be a shared bank account. This is yours and only yours. The more you have, the better off you are when divorce is eminent. This can also give you the balls to lay down the law when you need to lay down the law in your relationship. This can be some alpha boost, and may help you in your relationship long term, and avoid the very thing you are preparing for. Insurance so to speak.
Have a family law attorney on retainer. As soon as you have the money to put an attorney on retainer, do so. Give them a mailing address that your spouse doesn’t have access to. You don’t need to have anything for them to do. Just find a good law firm, and put them on retainer. If things go south fast, you don’t have to worry about getting this money together or spending your safety net money for this. You just have to make a phone call and go in and meet with them. Given this advantage, you can go ahead and file for divorce and set the initial rules of engagement if her opening isn’t to file then tell you. This will keep you from being caught flat footed legally. This can be the difference between months of panic, and quickly resolving things in a favorable way.
These are all hindsight is 20/20 types of observations. I am sure there are more, but the point is that you should plan for the likely end of the relationship before it hits you. Once you have the law firm on retainer and money automatically going to an account as a safety net, you don’t have to think about these things again until you need them. They will comfort you rather than hinder you while you go forward and try to beat the odds. They may be the difference in you divorcing and not. It may be counter intuitive to you, but not fearing divorce may very well prevent it. It wouldn’t have for me, but I would be in better shape if I had these things in place. I wouldn’t have needed the go bag, but having the money and the attorney would have stopped me from making certain decisions I felt I had to in the heat of the moment.