Welcome to the Ayo & Iken legal roundtable. We tackle the toughest legal issues with down-to-earth commentary you can use from our expert panel of attorneys from Tampa Bay to Orlando.
In this edition, we discuss gender issues when it comes to family law, specifically if there are things men commonly do to sabotage their chances of reaching a satisfactory outcome to their cases. As you will see from our attorneys’ commentary below, the common belief is that both men and women can make some of the same mistakes when it comes to putting their best foot forward in front of a judge. There are, however, some trends our attorneys touch on when it comes to men and how they sometimes handle their cases. One thing they all agreed upon is that in today’s legal climate the rights of both men and women are considered equally in Florida courts.
We talked about the issue with New Port Richey Attorneys Bruce Przepis and Allison Belcher; Orlando Attorneys Jason Ponder, Jennifer Schulte, and Beth Clause; Tampa Attorneys Alberto Ayo, Jeana Vogel, and Kristal Knox; and St. Petersburg/Clearwater Attorney Claudia Blackwell. Here is what they had to say:
Are there mistakes men tend to make in a divorce?
I think it is most constructive to point out that both men and woman can make the same mistakes when it comes to their cases. But I do have a lot of men who come in for a consult about a divorce and let’s say they have been separated for six months, maybe even longer. And I ask them: Have you provided money to your spouse and children? It is always a concern to me when the answer is no. At that point I try to explain to them: Well you had expenses before you separated to keep the house going such as buying groceries, paying the power bill, or taking care of the children’s needs; then why haven’t you given any money to your wife to continue to help with those expenses? This becomes important when a father is before a judge who will be making a custodial decision. The father may tell the judge things to present himself in a positive light, but all of the positives they gain are lost when the other lawyer asks a very simple question: How much money have you given your wife during a separation? If they are forced to answer none, you can imagine what a mistake that turns out to be when a judge looks at their actions as opposed to what they are saying.
I think some of the common mistakes men make in a divorce are letting the assets go to the wife that appreciate, while they fight over the things that are going to depreciate. Things like their boats, ATVs, cars, their toys. Then you will see the wife get the marital home, an asset that is more than likely going to appreciate.
I believe that men need to take positive steps to avoid hostile situations when divorce and children are involved. Men in the process of getting a divorce – and women too – need to make sure they remove themselves from any type of argument or situation that may seem like it is escalating into violence. My advice is if any argument ensues to leave that area. Confrontations many times lead to situations that both the man and woman regret. If you allow these arguments to escalate, they can have serious repercussions both in a divorce and criminally. So my advice is to be disciplined and not get into any arguments, period.
Many times I find my gentlemen clients equate the word alimony as a negative connotation. In fact, alimony can have many tax benefits that will provide a better financial outcome in the end, as opposed to wording it as child support or equitable distribution. So it is important to keep an open mind and discuss all avenues with your attorney.
One thing I often notice in divorce cases with men is they are not aware of the rights they have. For some reason, when it comes to parents and raising the children, they often make the mistake of believing they are not entitled to the same amount of time and rights as a woman, which simply is not the case in today’s court system.
How much of a role do you believe gender plays in a judge’s decision when a client makes a mistake?
I think in general both men and women do things to mess up their cases. A major thing people do, where the breadwinner is a man or woman, is cutting off all access to funds for the other person. That is a big mistake. Another major mistake is preventing access to the children. Those are the biggest mistakes I see people make on either side. A judge is not going to look favorably on those kinds of actions.
I believe both parties can make mistakes. I think whether it is a man or woman involved the things judges do not want to see are unilateral decisions made by either side in raising the children. Even though a divorce is going forward and eventually the parents will be divorced, the courts just want to make sure one party is not making all the decisions. An example of this would be one person putting a child in counseling without making the other party aware of that. The courts frown on that behavior. You still need to co-parent unless the court advises otherwise. For example, if there is a doctor’s appointment, inform the other party so they can attend if they wish. Simple things like that go a long way.
I think it works both ways. I think both men and women make decisions based on emotions sometimes instead of doing what is best thing for their children or resolving their case. I do see a lot of men in divorces try to lock up or move around assets in an effort to make it more difficult for the other party to fight them.
One of the things I tell people whether they are a man or woman is they need to keep good records and document what is happening, especially when it comes to your children. You need to show that you are interested and you are present. You can do so by keeping a journal or a calendar so you can clearly testify as to exactly what happened. These divorces can sometimes last years and you need those records.
Hmmm. My quick guess was that men make lots of mistakes when they get divorced. But it is also apparent that both sexes make mistakes. This was really great advice! Thank you for gathering around to discuss this very important issue. As usual, I would like to wrap up by expressing a big thank you for giving all of your opinions. Meanwhile we hope to see our readers come back to the Ayo and Iken roundtable. See you then !
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