As a divorce professional, I’ve had a front-row seat to countless divorces over the years.
And I can tell you with certainty there are things a man can do - and does do - that significantly improves how his divorce plays out from start to finish.
So in this post, I share some good divorce advice for men.
This is not legal advice, but rather, actionable divorce tips culled from thousands of hours of negotiations conducted over the past few decades, interviews with therapists and coaches, and real-life stories from other divorced men.
It is my hope that if you follow these divorce tips, you’ll increase your ability to keep your divorce amicable, efficient, child focused and cost-effective.
Let’s get to it!
Whether you’re the initiator of the divorce, or on the receiving end of the news, the things you do before your divorce is underway will set the foundation for the entire divorce process.
Pre Divorce Advice for Men Seeking Divorce:
Tell Your Wife You Want a Divorce in a Respectful Way
But this is a situation where patience is a virtue as your wife may be in shock from the news. So don't pressure her into action right away.
Give her space to process and accept/make peace with your decision.
She’ll (hopefully) come around in her own time - even if it’s not on your timetable.
Reassure Your Wife Your Decision to Divorce Was Made Slowly and Carefully
One of the questions your partner might ask during the divorce conversation is, “Can we save our marriage?”
But most individuals contemplate divorce for more than two years before making the decision to proceed. So if that sounds like you, you’ve obviously been scrutinizing over this major decision for a very long time.
If you know for certain the marriage is over, be honest and let her know there’s nothing she can do to change your mind.
But she can choose the way she shows up and participates in the divorce process.
Enlist a Marriage and Family Therapist or Couples Counselor to Help You Break the News
Telling your spouse you want a divorce is not an easy conversation to have. Especially if you’ve never been through one before.
But the good news is, you don’t have to do it alone.
If you've been seeing a therapist, consider inviting your wife to your next session to have this difficult talk.
Or if you’ve been in couples counseling, have the conversation there.
Doing so can provide a safe space to share your feelings, and for both of you get the emotional support you need.
Advice for Men Facing Divorce (on the receiving end):
Don’t Ignore Your Wife’s Desire to Divorce You
Regardless of what transpired in your relationship, the fact is, it takes two people to be married, but only one person to pursue a divorce.
So, if your wife wants a divorce, you’re getting a divorce. It just becomes a matter of how easy or difficult you choose to make it on yourself, her, and your children.
Rather than burying your head in the sand, acknowledge the reality of the situation.
Choose to take part in selecting your divorce professional, and actively take part in your divorce negotiations.
When you do, you can control your future, and what your settlement looks like, rather than having it dictated to you by a judge in family court.
Don’t Try to Talk Your Wife Out of Divorce
When your spouse tells you she wants a divorce, you might try to convince her that it makes no sense.
But there’s never a good time to get a divorce. It’s not cheaper to stay together if you wind up litigating and wiping out your finances in the process.
And just because your kids don’t say anything, they know things aren’t right.
Lower Your Emotional Reactivity
When reacting to the news that your wife wants to divorce you, you might be tempted to let anger guide your decisions, retain a “pitbull” divorce lawyer who promises “aggressive representation,” and send the message “the gloves are off.”
Don’t forget, you’re still going to be co-parents for many years to come.
So you’ll want to do everything you can to preserve your relationship.
Advice for All Men Getting a Divorce:
Do Your Research and Get Educated About The Divorce Process
Whether you’re the initiator or recipient, learn how the divorce process works, and what the available options for divorce are.
Doing so will allow you to make informed choices and select the divorce method best for your situation.
Avoid Trying to Resolve the Issues On Your Own
It’s natural to want to plan for the future, so you may want to start hashing things out now with your soon-to-be-ex on things like alimony, child custody, child support, dividing marital assets, etc.
But be careful, because that can backfire.
Unless you’re a divorce expert, how do you know what a fair divorce settlement looks like? Or how alimony or child support works in your state?
Or what the tax implications of certain decisions might be?
If you read something on the Internet, you can’t be sure it’s accurate or true. Or that it’s even relevant in your situation.
It’s better to wait until you’ve chosen a divorce professional to help and guide you through resolving all the required issues based on your situational complexities.
If Possible, Mediate and Choose a Divorce Mediator Together
If you’ve already explored the options for divorce, then you know mediation allows you to end your marriage in less time, with less stress, and at a lower cost than lawyer led contested divorce proceedings.
If your wife is willing to mediate, involve her in choosing the mediator since one professional will be working for both of you, and you both need to feel comfortable.
And if for some reason you can’t (or she won’t) mediate, consider an attorney experienced in collaborative divorce to try to reduce the chances of getting to full blown litigation.
Divorce Advice for Men Once the Divorce is Underway:
Once your divorce has begun, it can be tempting to throw all kindness out the window.
Follow my divorce advice below, and you’ll be surprised at how well your proceeding can go, and how amicable your divorce can be.
Engage in a "Good Faith" Divorce Negotiation
Some men view divorce as a battle.
Withholding documents, changing passwords, and being as uncooperative as possible.
Those divorces cost a fortune, take years to complete, destroy relationships, and ruin children’s lives.
My advice to men is to engage in a good faith divorce negotiation. One in which you share information, answer questions honestly and put your kids first.
When negotiating a business deal, you don’t let your emotions get in the way.
You simply come to the best agreement you can, based on the data as well as the circumstances you find yourself in.
You may not like the people you do business with (or the woman who will soon be your ex) but the goal in business and divorce can be the same depending on how you look at it.
Make a deal so you can move forward.
Don’t Hide Assets or Move Money
If you were the primary breadwinner, you might be tempted to hide assets or move money to “protect what’s yours” or ensure you get your “fair share.”
That would be a tremendously bad idea.
Sure, you might think you’re being clever, but lawyers and judges are clever, too. If they think something fishy is going on, they’ll subpoena documents, or bring in a forensic accountant to audit you.
The bottom line is: all will be revealed in the end. It’s just a matter of how long it will take and how much it will ultimately cost you.
So don’t hide assets or move money.
Don’t Cut Your Wife Off Financially
Some men believe when their divorce begins, they and their wives are now two separate financial entities.
So they close their wives’ credit cards, remove them from their health insurance, and take whatever steps they believe are necessary to separate their lives.
The truth is, you’re not divorced at this point. You’re still married. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many men don’t understand this.
So don’t make any moves, financial or otherwise, until you’ve reached the final terms of your settlement.
Don’t Quit Your Job Just to Try to Avoid Having to Pay Support
No one likes paying it.
But quitting your job to avoid support payments is not only a bad idea, it’s just plain selfish.
If you do quit your job to avoid paying support, you’re sending a very strong message to your ex-wife and children that a man doesn’t have to follow through with his responsibilities. That he can bend the rules to his liking even if it’s unethical, immoral, or illegal.
And that he doesn’t have to consider how his actions will negatively impact others despite the consequences.
Nobody likes that guy, so don’t be him. Instead, do the right thing and pay support if you’re obligated to do so.
Avoid DIY Divorce
Despite the low price, a do it yourself divorce is difficult.
And those mistakes can wind up costing you a lot more in the end.
Some men try and do their own divorce because they don’t want to go broke in litigation or a protracted custody battle - which makes perfect sense.
But there are more peaceful options for divorce (like mediation), that are less costly and can deliver the help and guidance you need to ensure your divorce case is handled properly.
Don’t Make Financial Commitments Before Your Divorce Begins
As problem solvers who don’t like uncertainty, some men want to come to agreements on child support payments, spousal support, and property division before their divorce negotiations begin.
They do this without fully understanding what the financial ramifications of those decisions will be for everyone involved.
Only later, after a full exchange of information, the completion of budgets and balance sheets, and extensive negotiations, do they realize they want to change their mind.
My advice is to wait until all cards are on the table to come to an agreement.
If you make agreements beforehand that aren’t in your best interest, and you want to renegotiate, your wife will feel betrayed, and things will take longer (and cost more) than had you waited in the first place.
Don’t Punish Your Wife if You Both Agreed She Would Be a Stay-at-Home-Mom
There’s a tendency for some husbands of stay-at-home moms to have a “my money” mentality.
Even though both spouses decided together that she would give up her career to raise the kids.
What these men fail to realize is, they likely couldn’t have gotten to where they are in their career without their wife taking care of the house and family.
Smart men understand that both partners played an important role in the marriage. One worked outside the home, while the other worked inside the home.
My advice is to do everything you can to ensure your agreement is fair, and you both have enough to live.
Recognize it will take your wife time to get back into the workforce. And, she may never earn as much as you do and need financial support for quite some time.
Make Your Children Your Number One Priority
It takes more than just saying you’ll put your kids first in a divorce.
It takes spending quality time with your children. Creating a comfortable home for them to visit and sleepover at.
Prioritizing their needs and making decisions that are in their best interests.
And ensuring they don’t become the economic victims of your divorce, even if it means paying more child support than the minimum required.
Divorce Advice for Men to Manage Their Emotions:
Allow Yourself to Grieve the Loss of Your Marriage
For some men, the only divorce advice they get is “man up and move on.”
With friends and family never considering how sad, lonely, angry, or depressed they might be.
Regardless of who initiated divorce, it’s a tremendous loss, and it’s OK to grieve that loss - just as you would do for the death of a loved one.
Acknowledge that things are not OK right now, but recognize these feelings are temporary. Appreciate what you had and not what you lost. Enlist the help of a professional to work through your feelings, and get back on your feet.
Whether you take baby steps or rush full-tilt forward, realize every divorced man has his own timeline for healing - and that’s normal.
You Can’t Control Others, But You Can Control Yourself
Given the intense emotions that accompany it, divorce can easily cause a man to react to every question, comment, or criticism directed toward him.
Instead of engaging in this damaging, lose-lose cycle of behavior, try the following tips to rise above the drama:
Learn to lower your emotional reactivity. “Diaphragmatic breathing” is what the cool kids call it today, but counting to 10 like we did when we were young, works, too.
Do your best to deflect invasive comments from others about your divorce. Instead, say “I’d rather talk about something else.”
Fight the urge to defend your position. Instead, say “Well that’s the way I see things, so I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
Don’t disparage your wife on social media. Avoid commenting on her posts, and posting pictures of your new life until the dust has settled.
You can’t control how others will react to you and the news of your divorce.
But you can choose how you react to them – and that’s all you need to worry about.
Take Good Care of Yourself During Divorce
Some men have never taken care of themselves in a holistic way.
Instead, they power through the current task at hand and ignore the things they simply don’t have time for.
Support yourself emotionally by asking for and accepting help. Build a support system of trusted family and friends. Consider joining a divorce support group.
And find a good therapist.
Take care of yourself physically by maintaining healthy eating habits. Exercise or engage in other physical activities. And avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
Take care of your mental health.
Try meditating. Learn a new skill or pursue a new hobby. And socialize!
It’s OK to let yourself have fun, despite mourning the loss of your relationship.
Take Care of Your Children, Too
When my mother and father were going through their divorce, they broke every rule about what not to do.
Epic arguments, giving each other the silent treatment for months and putting me in the middle by asking me to take sides.
And while my father didn’t have the benefit of this blog post, you do, so let me make it easy for you.
Don't badmouth your wife in front of your kids.
Don’t put them in the middle by asking them to take sides. And keep the conflict away from them.
I know it sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how many people fail to realize the damage that failing to follow these things can do.
Don’t Jump Into a New Relationship Too Quickly
In an effort to avoid the loneliness a man can feel during a divorce (and that is normal,) you may be tempted to jump into a new relationship quickly.
But there will be plenty of time for that.
Instead, my advice is to slow yourself down and take this time to heal and recover from your divorce.
Work with a professional to get to the root of why your marriage failed, so you can make sure it won’t happen again in your next relationship.
There You Have It! Some Actionable Divorce Tips for Men.
I hope your main takeaway from this advice for men going through divorce is that your choices will truly make all the difference in the impact this significant life event will have on you, your finances and your child or children.
And now you can make some smart ones!
The way a man prepares for divorce is critical.
Regardless of how long you've been married, whether you want the divorce, your wife does or you're both on the same page, the way you prepare for your divorce will likely determine how peaceful, fair, child-focused and cost-effective your divorce will (or won't) be.
That's exactly why we created a downloadable kit for smart men like you - to help you prepare for your divorce!
Joe Dillon, MBA is a professional divorce mediator and founder of Equitable Mediation Services. Joe is passionate about helping couples avoid the destruction of attorney-driven litigation and specializes in helping couples resolve the issues required for divorce -peacefully, fairly and cost-effectively. When he’s not mediating, you can find him exercising, cooking, and watching Cubs baseball.