Men are not automatically prejudiced by the legal system on divorce. However, most men will have heard horror stories about women getting the lion share of the money and children’s time. This is often where men have accepted the role of main breadwinner within the household. For most men, the steps they take immediately after the decision to separate is crucial in determining how much time they will spend with their children and the financial cost to them.
In recent years the Court system has taken giant leaps forward in recognising that fathers play as important a role as mothers in children’s lives. This is reflected in The Children Act, the Act that deals with all-things children. This now states that it is presumed, unless the contrary is shown, that the involvement of both parents in the life of their child will further the child’s welfare. If you are separating the Act assumes that you as parents are best placed to make decisions about your children because you know them and care about them the most. You are encouraged to try to agree on these issues using a mediation service where necessary. However, if parents are simply unable to reach agreement, then the Court can make decisions about how much time the children spends with each parent. The Court must always prioritise the best interests of the children and consider a number of factors including the effect of change on the children’s lives. The thinking is that children will manage their parents’ divorce best if they have as much continuity as possible. Therefore, if you as the father have assumed the role of working long hours and being a part-time dad, this may continue after divorce. The best thing you can do is ensure you spend as much time as possible with your children before the household divides into two. This means not just being the fun weekend dad, but doing your fair share of the chivvying and routine appointments.
There are a number of factors that must be considered when resolving financial issues on divorce. Firstly the legal system questions whether an equal division of assets would be fair. It then cross-references this against a list of factors. First priority is given to children whilst minor. It also considers earning capacities, housing needs and mortgage raising capacities. If, as the husband you have been the main earner, your wife will have a lower mortgage raising capacity and therefore could require a greater deposit towards her house or be unable to move because she is unable to raise a large enough mortgage. If she is unable to make ends meet and is the main carer of the children she could also look for maintenance. Therefore, the best thing you can do is encourage your wife and facilitate her in working/her career. It is also vital you take legal advice before you move out of the family home. This is because quite often I see husbands who have tried to do the right thing. However, in maintaining their wife and children in the family home they are dis-incentivising their wife from doing anything to change their home, or to start working towards financial independence. Husbands can get a fair deal, but you will make it much easier on yourself if you consider your role within the family at an early stage, and do not move out of the family home before obtaining legal advice.