Recently, men are being targeted by sophisticated marketing campaigns, “alerting” you to a supposed disadvantage you will suffer in a family law court, scaring you with the notion of a judge who “always favors the woman” and who will take your children and your money away from you. These firms promise that if you only hire them, they will “fight” for your “Men’s rights.”
You are being conned.
Here’s how the con works: these lawyers bring you in, scare you with visions of a corrupt court system that follows laws stacked against men, and take your money. Then, when they lose your case, they blame the corrupt system, so that you are mad at the Judge instead of mad at the real villain here: the lawyer who didn’t do his job.
Don’t be fooled. Here’s a list of myths vs. facts about how the law can work for (or against) men.
MYTH: Courts always favor women in a custody case.
FACT: The law presumes that Husbands and Wives have equal rights to their children. Usually, those equal rights translate to equal time. However, sometimes women DO have an advantage in a contested custody case, at least initially. For example:
- If you aren’t married, then the child is likely going to stay with Mom unless she agrees otherwise or until you can get to court.
- Some (not all) judges will give a stay-at-home Mom an advantage because she has historically been the primary care giver.
- Some (not all) judges will give a mother extra time with a very small child who she is breast feeding.
MYTH: I can never win a custody case against my wife because she was the stay-at-home Mom.
FACT: Yes, you definitely can. While her status as a primary care-giver will work against you, there are 14 other custody considerations to build a case around. The Court is required to consider the quality of your relationship with your child, your efforts to take the child to the doctor and be involved with school and extra curricular activities, the relative mental and physical health of you and the Mother, each parent’s stability, each parent’s willingness to support the relationship of the children and the other parent, what an older child wants, whether the child is doing well at school, and many other details. To just focus on who has been the primary care-giver until now is a mistake. Look to the future you want with your child, not on what it has been until now. And look to your lawyer, for guidance on how to get there.
MYTH: A man who cheats is always going to be ordered to pay alimony, and a woman who cheats never gets alimony.
FACT: Alimony is determined by reference to several factors, including how much money each spouse makes and how much money each spouse needs to get by. Judges are allowed to consider infidelity, but it is NOT a given that alimony will be awarded if a spouse cheats, and it’s NOT a given that a spouse who cheats will never get alimony. Cheating is a relatively small issue for a court considering whether to award alimony.
MYTH: If I made all the mortgage payments, then I get the house.
FACT: If the house was bought during the marriage, then it’s a marital asset, no matter who paid the mortgage. The Court will presume that both parties own the house equally. This is true no matter who paid the mortgage, and no matter whose name the house is in.
While the court presumes an “equal split,” in your case, that might not be fair for some other reason. That’s what your lawyer is for – to identify those specific reasons why you should get more than half. But you being the breadwinner, or your name being on the account, are not among those reasons.
MYTH: It’s my retirement and she doesn’t get any.
FACT: If you accumulated that retirement prior to marriage, then you are right, she doesn’t. But whatever part of your retirement was accumulated after the day you said “I do” is ½ hers.
The bottom line is this: men don’t have special rights in a family law case, but 99% of the time, in 99% of courts, women don’t either. You aren’t going to win or lose your case by hiring a lawyer who talks about “Men’s rights.” In fact, the lawyers who say that are already setting you up to lose and be mad at the court system, not them.
You will win or lose your case by hiring a lawyer who is prepared to address all of the issues in the divorce, research your facts, know the law, know your judge, and who will plan for your future, instead of attempting to scare you out of your money and make excuses when you lose.
Don’t be fooled by scare tactics. Hire a lawyer with a plan. We look forward to meeting you and developing that plan soon.
If you’d like to schedule a case assessment with Margaret Held or another Held Law Firm attorney, call (865) 685-4780.