Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re T.H. & Jessica.
Jessica: Thanks for joining us today. Our guests on the podcast are Christina Previte and John Nachlinger, the co-owners of New Jersey Divorce Solutions, a firm in New Jersey that handles divorce and family law exclusively. Thanks for being here, guys.
John: Thank you for having me.
Christina: A pleasure.
Jessica: We wanted to delve into the topic today of some of the most common mistakes that men and women make during divorce. We’re mistakenly or not, assuming that the most common mistakes between men and women may not be the exact same and probably just really useful information for people to hear in terms of what those are and how people can try to avoid them and possibly some alternative solutions to getting around them. In your experience, both of you, do you feel like there is generally a difference between the biggest and most common mistakes made during divorce by men and women?
Christina: I think there might be some. I think it’s often not related to gender, but it has more to do with the person that’ll be called the breadwinner, which as we know in our society, it’s more often it’s the woman who’s maybe a homemaker or is not the breadwinner, that the husband is often the one that was making more money. Those people often have different considerations. But I think a lot of the mistakes that people make are on both sides, so they’re similar. Without rattling all of them off, I think most people should approach it the same way, but there might be some nuances depending on if you’re the breadwinner or not. John, do you agree with that?
John: I think that’s right. Because a lot of men still are making more money, even though that’s changing every day, it’s difficult to see whether or not the mistakes that they’re making is because they’re a man versus they’re making more money or whether one person is taking care of the children and the other ones not. It’s really difficult to ever say why they’re making the mistakes. It could be because it’s a man and a woman, but it could be many other reasons too. But there are definitely things that men do, generally speaking, and we’re stereotyping here of course, guys. Everyone’s different, but there are certain things that men do where I see it over and over again they do the same things, and there are certain things women do over and over again. I think it’s a good conversation. But generally speaking, people make a lot of mistakes in divorce, which I know is what you guys are trying to solve.
Jessica: Yes, so let’s start with what you would say is the most seen mistake that’s coming from men over and over and over again. Let’s start with that.
John: More men make this mistake, but women make it too, and that is not understanding that an attorney is not a therapist. An attorney is not a therapist, all right? Even if you want to pay your attorney to try to be a therapist, we’re not therapists. The little secret is we don’t want to be therapists either. The mistake is not finding another avenue to work through your feelings about what you’re going through. Basically, everyone going through a divorce should have a therapist. I feel like that because it’s a much better outlet to talk to a therapist about what you’re going through, even better than your friends because your friends are more likely to give you their biased opinions about what’s going on in your divorce instead of separating out your feelings about what’s going on, and what led you to this place where you’re getting divorced versus the actual what you’re asking for and fighting. I do think that is a big mistake more men make than women but plenty of women make it too because a lot of men have an aversion to therapy. They have an aversion to therapy for themselves. They have an aversion to therapy for their kids. I think a lot of men see it as a weakness that I’m going to get help. But it’s certainly something I see over and over again.
Jessica: It’s really funny, just really quickly, the idea that men have such an aversion and are so afraid of going to therapy because I’ve had conversations with a number of men and they’ll ask, like if we’re doing random getting to know you questions, and some of the men will ask, have you ever seen a therapist? They think it’s a huge question and a huge reveal. I’m like, yes, and they’re like, wow, thanks for sharing. I’m like, isn’t everyone seeing a therapist? [Laughs] It’s just funny the mentality.
T.H.: I think that people see it as a sign of weakness like you said, but the truth is it’s a sign of strength. The journey Jessica and I have been on since separating and really growing and everything, you recognize that when you take the time to look at yourself and see how you did contribute to the fallout of your marriage because everybody does contribute in one way or another, I allowed my ex-husband to treat me the way I was treated. I allowed that to happen. I didn’t participate in that kind of behavior, but I still played a role in it. The minute you start doing that, it’s like a really amazing learning experience and a sign of strength. These are among the many societal stigmas and assumptions. He’s got to run the money, and she’s got to take care of the kids, and then he has to take care of her, and women need to be taken care of. We have to break all of this. I’m all about therapy. I’m all about picking your friends who aren’t toxic, and learning how it’s fine to be friends with everyone who’s chirping in your ear, you just can’t take it all in. If you’re going to take it all in, then they’ve got to go.
Jessica: Right. Right, Christina, what do you think?
Christina: Yeah, I think we as women are a little more accustomed, because of our cultural training, to talk more. We just talk more. That’s what you do with your girlfriends, right? You talk about everything. You talk about your emotions and your relationships, and you get every detail. We’re just comfortable with that already. And again, we’re generalizing, but I think a lot of men aren’t. They’re sort of trained and raised not to show a lot of emotion, and not to cry, and not to go talk to their friends and talk about all the emotional problems that they may be having. They keep that in. I think it might be a more natural inclination for women to want to go to therapy, or to get some sort of therapy from their girlfriends, but men aren’t really getting that. So who are they talking to? That’s really the problem. I think John and I both have different experiences as divorce lawyers because of our gender. Maybe a male client feels a little more comfortable saying certain things to him that they wouldn’t say to me, or vice versa, and the same with women. It’s funny to hear John say that he feels like the men are in more need of therapy because I feel like the women are more in need of therapy because we do feel the need to talk so much. Men, I feel like will just go watch football and drink a beer and that’s their therapy. Women need to talk about everything all the time.
T.H.: Right away.
Christina: Yes, right away. Don’t do that with your lawyer. They’re too expensive. It’s not that we don’t want to be there for our clients and lend an ear on occasion, but that’s not our job. That’s not our role in your divorce so don’t use us as a therapist. We’re really not qualified to do that for you.
T.H.: I feel like people are just so vulnerable and they just want to tell somebody their story. If they lawyer up right away, and you’re the first person they see, you’re getting it. You are so getting it. If you don’t nip it in the bud right away, and they’re not listening to you to go get a therapist, you’re going to keep getting it because then they don’t want to go and tell their story, start all over again, and tell somebody else. Now I have to broker a new relationship. Those are the excuses.
Jessica: I also think that part of it is because depending on the circumstances of each person’s divorce, there are people who want you or feel like you need to know every single detail so that you can figure out a way to spin it and use it against their soon to be ex. You need to know all of the ways that he did this. Here’s what I said instead, but then he insisted on doing it this way, and that’s why this happened. I have a friend in particular that I’m thinking of when I say that. I would venture to say that there are people who don’t think they’re using you as their therapist but are trying to get you to understand [they want to be validated] where they’re coming from so that you can make sure that the other person is the wronged party.
Christina: There’s a mistake in that thinking though, and I’m so glad that you brought this up because this actually gives me insight into the client’s mind because I’m on the other side of the table, but that’s really where people go wrong.
That is not the purpose of divorce as a legal proceeding, because that’s how people really need to look at it at least when they’re at their lawyer’s office. It’s a legal proceeding, that’s what it is. I think that’s where the ‘disconnect’ is because for you the litigant, that’s not what it is. I mean, the legal part is just a necessary part of the whole thing, but for you guys, it’s such a small part of it. For you, it’s about the emotional and psychological breakup, the breakdown of your family, and the life that you’ve known. And for us, it’s such a small piece. We’re not focusing on all the terrible things that your husband did, or that your wife did. It’s really largely irrelevant for the job that we have. Maybe that’s what we’re really talking about when we’re referring to therapy is you can complain to your attorney, but they can’t do anything about it. There’s no way for this legal proceeding to make you whole. It’s only about custody and parenting time and that related to the children, or strictly about money and property distribution. That’s all it’s about from a legal proceeding.
T.H.: Managing expectations upfront is really critical. I guess it’s like your foot hurts, and you’re not going to the eye doctor for a problem with your foot. You’re going to the foot doctor. You’re going to the lawyer to work out the finances and the business part of your marriage. You’re not going to them to talk about why your childhood emotions have repeated themselves into your marriage and that you’re getting a divorce and you can’t deal with it.
Jessica: No, but I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t necessarily know that either the state that they’re living in or don’t know enough about divorce as a whole to understand that there are no-fault states and there are things where it doesn’t matter what someone’s behavior was. I believe that people come in thinking you need to know that he cheated and it wasn’t just one person. He had affairs with eight different women, and he promised me that he wasn’t going to, and this happened, and this happened. I think that there are people who are thinking I’m going to get more money, or I’m going to get more of this, or I’m going to get more of this because he yelled at the kids all the time, and he thought that it was okay to spank them when they did something wrong, and so I should have full custody. Like, who knows, it runs the gamut. But I do believe that people come in and they’re spewing all of the shit, because they’re thinking that in some way, when it comes to the money, or in some way when it comes to the custody and all of that, however, it plays out, that they’re going to benefit from it in the end and the only way that that will happen they think is by telling you all of the things that theoretically they should be telling their therapist.
John: Well, what’s interesting about that, and the reason why therapy is so important early on is you might tell all these things to your attorney at the beginning, and that’s fine.
I like people to tell their stories. But when it becomes toxic for your divorce is when you’re still telling the same story six months into the divorce. I mean, I’ve had certain clients where I can literally put them on mute and go and get coffee and come back and know the entire story because they’ve told it to me six or seven times already. There are a lot of people out there, and I know you all know them, it doesn’t matter what you say to them, they hear what they want to hear. Even if you say listen, the fact that he’s the one that wanted the divorce, or she’s the one that wanted the divorce is irrelevant. The fact that he cheated with every woman on your entire street doesn’t matter. You could say that to them a million times, but if they’re not dealing with those issues in a healthy environment, like in therapy, it’s still going to be a block. The reason a lot of divorces take so long is because those sorts of emotional blocks in people’s minds don’t allow them to compromise. It doesn’t allow them to move forward. So yes, Christina is right. I mean, we need to hear everything because you don’t know what’s important for us, and we don’t know what’s important until we hear the whole story, but once you tell the whole story, you don’t need to repeat it a million times to your attorney. Find a different way to express yourself, otherwise, you’re going to be paying an attorney 20, 30, 40, 50, $100,000, and a lot of that is going to be phone calls, which no one’s happy about, but unfortunately, that is where people end up.
Christina: Yeah, and a mistake that I see a lot is that people when they’re very emotional will use their attorney as the sounding board just to complain, and that’s expensive. And John’s right, they’ll tell the same story a million times.
I remember there was one client, a man, who every single time I talked to him, it didn’t matter what it was about; he started out with the same story. It was astounding to me to just remember that he already told me this. But you don’t want to do that because you’re going to run up a huge bill, and you know when you’re going to be sorry you did that? In the end when it is done. I almost wonder sometimes if people are intentionally subconsciously trying to keep it going because that connection is still there as long as they’re fighting. Because when it’s done, it’s done, and some people are left feeling a little bit empty.
Jessica: You’re probably right. There probably are people who are just sort of hanging on in this weird, toxic way because they’re afraid for it to be really over.
Christina: It happens all the time.
T.H.: I think that people have to remember that when your divorce is over, and you’re done with your lawyer, they go away. So then you still need a therapist. [Laughs]
Christina: But don’t regret the bill at the very end
T.H.: Right, they shouldn’t, but I’m just saying if they’ve put it all on you guys, and then it’s over, like wait, who is going to support me? You have to start getting support early on for yourself. What do you think is another big mistake that people make, if there’s a difference between men and women as far as getting divorced?
John: I was just going to say, and this is kind of related to the therapy part, so we probably don’t need to talk about it for very long, but it’s not having any kind of support community around you. This is primarily a male issue. Of course, there are some women as well. Christina said I use this analogy all the time that men like to go to their man cave in the basement and have a beer and watch football or baseball, and that’s their way of trying to deal with the situation. But that’s so self-destructive, because, at some point, you’re going to be divorced. You’re going to have to move on with your life. People sort of get to the point where they don’t have anyone to talk to, or they don’t feel like they have anyone to talk to because men are really bad about friendships in general. Most men I speak to, I know so many guys who all their friends are people they work with or people they went to college or high school with. There’s not a lot of anything in between. And so one thing I’m always encouraging men to do is to try to join groups, go out and find groups of people that you can be around. It doesn’t have to be other divorcing guys, there are those Meetup groups where you can do dining clubs, golf clubs, and all this other stuff. Go find something because a lot of times people become, and this is related to what we’ve been talking to, they become so self-consumed with the divorce, that it’s like the only thing going on in their life. Those are the people that have the worst divorces and why they’re talking to their attorney so much because that’s their life. That’s all they’re doing. You’ve got to find something else to do and so a mistake people make is forgetting to live their life, even though they’re going through a divorce. This is only one part of your life, go out and find what makes you happy.
T.H.: It’s a blip on the radar. Yeah.
Christina: I spoke to a client one time about that very thing. She had a very high conflict divorce. I talked to her probably a year afterward, and she was like a completely different person. And expounding on what you said, John, she did say to me, friends would sort of avoid me, friends just evaporated, whether it was a couple that we used to hang out with or not. I just felt like people weren’t there for me. We had a really intimate conversation about this and I said, well, I think what happens a lot is when someone’s going through a divorce it’s all they want to talk about. Your friends, or maybe more acquaintances, don’t want to hear it every single time they see you. That’s why you might start getting the, oh god, it’s her, I’ve got to go hide. [Laughs] I’ve got to hide because she’s going to talk about her divorce. Maybe they don’t want to be in the middle, and they don’t know what to say. That is also why I think someone should have a therapist or support group or some outlet like that so that they’re not tainting all of the relationships in their lives about their divorce, because you can alienate people. I try to be understanding about it because this client explained to me, I understand now looking back that I talked about it all the time and it was 100% my life, but people do also have to understand that I was scared. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband was not kind to her during the divorce and she was scared. What’s going to happen to me? How am I going to support myself? I do try to remember that all the time when I’m talking to the client who has to tell me the story five million times. But people out there who are listening, maybe be a little mindful if you’re doing that, because you don’t want to alienate the good relationships that you have.
T.H.: Right. What were you going to say, Christina, before John started about one of the biggest, most common mistakes you keep seeing over and over again?
Christina: Yes. Well, there is something that comes to mind that I see a lot. I think it’s so harmful to women, in particular, well, again, usually not the breadwinners, but I hear this saying all the time: well, I’m not going to go out and get a job because I need to maximize how much alimony I’m going to get.
Christina: I don’t know if you’ve heard that, but I always think, why on earth would you sabotage yourself to try to get money from that guy who may or may not have enough for you, because that’s the reality of most situations, there’s not enough money to go around, and that’s a lot of the fighting. But if you could actually go out and get a job, and do something where you could be completely self-supporting and you don’t need him anymore, and you don’t need his money, and you don’t need to rely on him, why wouldn’t you do that?
Jessica: That’s a fascinating mindset. I haven’t heard of that before. Now that you say it, I don’t know that I’m that surprised. I could see that being the rationale for some people, but I also agree with you. I think I come from a place of more as long as I can support myself and stand on my own two feet, it’s a safer place to be, and I don’t have to be as scared. It’s interesting that someone like you said, would sabotage themselves and stay in a scarier, less secure space by not trying to move on with their lives.
T.H.: But she or that person might think that the other person is responsible. Look, what you know is always safer than what you don’t know, right? What she knows is that he always took care of her and always paid the bills, so I’m going to keep riding this. But I’m surprised that the point of imputed income wouldn’t come up, and she would have to get a job anyway. That definitely came up for me. I was a working woman but still that came up. But I could see people just wanting to–that’s a safe lane because it’s what that person knows. If they don’t know about working, then that’s scary.
Christina: I think they’re doing it strategically though because the client will ask me, do you think it’s better for me to just lay low and not get a job because we want to demonstrate that I really need this alimony, and then I’ll go get a job later? Or should I just go get a job? I always tell them you should go get a job because one of the arguments we’re going to have is what can you do and how much money can you make? If you actually go out and get the job, whatever it is, there’s our evidence: look, she’s at work, and I think you always look better to the judge too. You’re not just sitting around waiting to get your alimony. You went out, you got a job, it might not be much, or maybe you have a doctorate and you could go back to work, go do it. But whatever it is, go do that job or that aspiration or even go back to school. Use that time to do something productive. It’s not helping him; it’s helping you.
Jessica: Right. It makes me question though, if one of the mistakes, I don’t know how quite how to phrase it, that you guys see are people making not necessarily the best decisions in order to try to somehow maintain or sustain the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. What mistakes do you see that focus specifically around that?
John: I was going to say what’s interesting about alimony is it’s never enough money to maintain the lifestyle. It just never is because of simple math, but–
Jessica: Mackenzie Bezos may disagree. An average middle class–
John: Well, an average family. I see this all the time too, Jessica and T.H. It actually is more common than probably most people believe, but there are a lot of people out there, mostly women, but there are some men who almost look at alimony as an entitlement. Like, I’m entitled to this alimony, when the purpose of alimony is to allow somebody a smooth transition into post-divorce life and let them get to the point where they’re self-sustaining. That’s supposed to be what alimony is about. What really is interesting is the people that Christina is talking about that have been married for 25 or 30 years, that’s one thing, because the employability may be very difficult after not working for that long. It’s the people that have been married for five to 10 years that I sometimes want to strangle and be like, you weren’t married that long. Why in the world do you think that you shouldn’t have to go out and get a job? Then I have to have that other conversation because I have the same conversation Christina has with them. I say, what if he gets hit by a car tomorrow?
Jessica: Oh god.
John: What are you going to do? Let’s say he gets hit by a car, the life insurance wasn’t being paid, because he stopped paying it. What are you going to do then? I mean, Jessica, you and T.H. are very independent women, but why would you not want to depend on yourself and use alimony to transition yourself to whatever you’re going to do next? It’s an entitlement issue. And it’s interesting because a lot of states in the country don’t have alimony. I mean, we’re living up in the northeast where alimony is very common. The entire south, alimony is very rare. And so it’s very interesting, not just how geographically in the United States how everyone perceives alimony so differently. But yeah, I see this all the time.
Jessica: Well, I’ll tell you–sorry, Christina, I was just going to say I consider myself a pretty well-educated, smart person. Again, when you go into divorce for the first time, you really don’t know what you don’t know. But I walked in and I remember just asking, what are you entitled to? –For lack of a better word. I remember we had one meeting, my first husband and I had one meeting with the two of us and our lawyers at the same time. His lawyer was like, at most, you’ll get–and it was like a pittance, for up to five years. I remember thinking the movies that I saw growing up were getting paid out for life. It didn’t really matter at the time because I did have a job and I was self-supporting. I ended up waiving the maintenance anyway, but I was like, what do you mean up to five years? I’m going to get $1,000 a month for three years, and that’s going to be the end of it? I think that there are a lot of people, John, to your point, of feeling entitled. I think it’s what we think based on things that we’ve read, or movies we’ve seen, or TV shows that we’ve seen, or the stories that we read in the paper about not just the standard middle-class families but these uber-wealthy families and what you expect, because that’s what you think is actually happening, and it’s not happening.
T.H.: I’m going to tell you my experience quick and then I want you guys both to comment on what we both have to say because it’s very, very different. My alimony was very generous. I had alimony and child support, and I had three kids. I was currently unemployed because the company imploded, but I had a home business. I was always scrappy, so I had the potential to make money. My alimony just ended after 10 years. I got 10 years of alimony, which now I understand is like, virtually impossible. That’s just not what happens anymore. It’s like half the number of years that you’re married, and we were married 13 years, so I should have gotten not 10 years. So anyway, it just ended. I will just say that you should listen to what John said about it being a float. Use the time, because I went back to work, and that’s what I always did, but if I hadn’t and I waited, I would have been like, holy shit, because it was a lot of money. It was a lot of money. It ended it all at once. And even now, I mean, I can still support myself, but still, I was like, god, I really enjoyed that money. Wow, I was like I could do so much more. I could keep my Rue La La account open. I could just buy something and not think about it. And so you should wean yourself away from it if you’re getting alimony and really use that time. Fortunately, I’m in a position where, as I said, I can support myself. But if you haven’t been in the working world for a really long time or ever, take classes, learn the computer. If you love to sew, go be the sewing king or queen. You love cars, go fix cars and build cars or do whatever your passion’s at because even in the privileged position that I was in, I’m still missing my alimony. But it’s done. It’s time to move on. I’m a grown girl. Okay, so those are our separate positions.
Christina: I have to disagree with John. We often disagree.
We have playful debates all the time, but I do think alimony is an entitlement. I don’t know if this is a gender issue or not, but it always bothers me when people fail to really appreciate that when people are married, they plan their lives together as though they’re always going to be together, right? When you’re in the thick of it, and you’re not thinking about divorce, like, oh, well, what if we get divorced later? No one’s thinking that. A lot of situations, a lot of families have the dad who goes–we’re generalizing with heterosexual couples, but dad goes to work, he gets to focus on work, he gets to climb the corporate ladder, make his money, he brings home the bacon, that’s the traditional arrangement, right? Mom’s at home, she’s taking care of the kids, she’s keeping the husband’s underwear clean, doing his laundry, picking up his dry cleaning, cooking dinner, taking the kids to school and soccer and the doctor’s appointments and their little birthday parties. You guys know all the stuff that you have to do. Then there comes a time when maybe they have a discussion, well, it just makes more sense for me to go to work and make the money, and I can make a lot of money. You can stay home and our kids can be cared for and not be in daycare all day. Then fast forward when somebody decides oh, this isn’t working out anymore, we need to get divorced. Oh, by the way, lady, you know how you’ve been making a home for us? Well, that’s got to stop, so go get a job. I know that you haven’t been out in the workforce for 10 or 15 years, but sorry, go find a job and go make money because the gravy train is over. I think I’m expressing how I feel about it, but it is an entitlement because you can’t convince me that that woman who gave up working years, and that this was a decision that you both made together to benefit both of you and benefit your children, that woman should get alimony. The question is really how long and how much. We can get into a philosophical debate about what it’s really for. We’ll end at some point in time. So I do think that it’s an entitlement, and I think women in those situations, should have alimony. They should be more strategic about what they do with the money and what they do to rehabilitate themselves if you will so that they can be marketable and have skills and go out because you don’t get those years back. Those years that you give up, your 20s or your 30s, where you could have been establishing yourself in a profession, you don’t get those years back.
Jessica: You’re right.
Christina: I would tell people, probably the people who should be listening to this are the ones who are married, happily married, or getting married, I always tell women this, don’t give that part of your life up. I know that your kids are important and you don’t want a nanny raising them, but don’t just completely give everything up to be a stay-at-home mom, because you don’t know if your marriage is going to last.
T.H.: I’d say as far as traditional roles you’re describing of men and women in a marriage, it is still is on the women. Like for me, he worked and I worked, but I still did the doctor’s visits. I still did the parties. I still did everything. So I actually had two jobs. I did have a nanny part-time just for picking them up because of logistic purposes, but I still did juggle. I actually thought it was, well, now that it’s all done so it is fine and I can say, but it was all much easier when we divorced and he actually had to take on some of those responsibilities.
T.H.: Guess what’s for the weekend? You’re taking them to practice. You’ve got birthday parties. We’ve got a family dinner. Here’s their agenda. Have a nice weekend. It’s easier. But when you’re going through it and when you’re married and you are working, and also taking care of the kids, it’s still traditionally is the woman’s responsibility.
John: It’s a lot of work.
Jessica: I feel like and maybe this is what goes into–I never had a prenup in either of my marriages, but I wonder if this is part of what goes into it, but I feel like there should be some sort of a legal strategy, document, procedure, whatever, where when a couple who’s married makes the decision, Christina, that you’re talking about. Like, listen, does it make more sense for us now we’re going to start a family? You stay home and you’re going to be more taking care of the kids and taking care of the house, which as we all know is a full-time job plus for everyone. At that point, it should be like, okay, we’re making this agreement. We’re going to go to the lawyer’s office, and we’re going to say, this is the decision that we’re making and in exchange for this decision, if we ever get divorced, you the breadwinner will be responsible for paying me X amount per year from now that I quit my job. No, it is genius, you guys. This is fucking genius.
Christina: I always advocate for prenups, but people don’t want to do them because they think they’re in love.
Jessica: A prenup doesn’t even always cover it because I might sign a prenup, and I may have a job, and seven years later is when I may decide to leave my job and create a family. I am now the owner of this genius idea that there should be a legal document if you’re deciding that someone’s going to quit their job and deciding your alimony payout, your spousal maintenance in advance, so that when it comes down to getting divorced, you’re like, oh, no, this is our agreement. You’re going to pay me X amount per year now for the next 17 years.
T.H.: But that’s going to be based on him or her not making any money when you first get married, as opposed to all the money they’re going to be making 10 years into your marriage.
Jessica: Whatever. Nowadays, it’s all based on an income of up to 85 or 100,000 anyway, and so whatever.
John: You know what? Christina, the situation you just outlined, is absolutely what alimony is for. I’m going to sort of [inaudible] by my statement. What I’m really talking about are the people, Christina, that have been married for six or seven years, and the wife makes 70,000 and the husband makes 95,000. They don’t have kids, and just because she makes less, I get alimony, and I should get alimony for seven years. That’s really what I was talking about. We’ve gotten to the point at least in New Jersey, and New Jersey is a very–I don’t know how to describe it, but alimony is almost automatic in New Jersey if there’s a disparity in income, if you’re married for what, what do you think? Two or three years, and now we’re talking about alimony. It’s getting really–
Jessica: It’s egregious.
Christina: Not that the judge will award it, it’s just that you get almost forced into it if you want to settle.
John: Yeah, you do. It’s bad, and that makes alimony a bad name for everybody is that everyone’s using it in a different way. Because really, it’s for the reason that Christina just said, you’ve altered your life, and in that alteration, you financially suffered. You would financially suffer if you weren’t married.
And that’s what alimony is for, is to make sure that you’re not just thrown out on the street whenever you get a divorce, and you can still maintain the standard of living that you helped build because you were staying at home raising the children. There are so many things in between those two extremes, but yeah, I don’t–what was the mistake we were talking about? Is it just–
Jessica: You were saying the mistake was the fact that some people feel entitled to alimony, [Oh yeah. Okay] which stemmed from Christina saying that some people will say I’m not going to get a job right now because then it shows I need the alimony and I can get more. So it all came back around full circle.
John: I want to torture guys for a second because I feel like we were talking about women making this mistake, so let’s talk about custody and men. A big mistake that I see men make is all of the sudden they start going through a divorce, and now all of a sudden they’re father the year.
Christina: And the fun fund dad too.
John: Yeah, the fun fund–
T.H.: Oh, the best place ever.
Christina: it’s Disneyland at their house.
John: I know, and not recognizing that they have to accept the reality of the way they’ve been acting during the marriage. Now, even if they’ve been working, and they haven’t been home all the time, that doesn’t mean that when you come home at night you can’t be an active father and on the weekend you can’t be an active father. But a lot of guys seem to think that they’re just entitled to have equal time with the kids even if that’s not what the kids have been used to, even if that’s not appropriate for their schedules, even if the father doesn’t really know the friends and the parents of all the friends, and even if it’s not great for the kids. A lot of guys in this day and age just feel like they’re entitled to it. I think that’s a mistake to not really reflect on what’s really best for your kids. I see that over and over again. I have to have so many conversations with men about stop thinking about math. I don’t want to hear about math anymore. This 50/50 crap, I don’t hear about it. What is best for your kids? What schedule is best for your kids? Look at your schedule, look at your ex-wife’s schedule, and look at the kids’ schedules. What is best for the kids? People make this mistake all the time.
T.H.: And also, what’s doable? My ex-husband was never home before all the infidelity started. That was just the nature of his job. He left the house at six in the morning, came home at eight o’clock at night, sat in traffic for hours, and then he was fighting for 50/50 custody. I’m like, how are you even doing this? And you go to the Philippines for three weeks, what are you going to do then? He was in such a mindset of I want shared custody, I want shared custody. I’m like, you’ve been nowhere for many years, and now you’re showing up as father of the year? You don’t know anything that’s going on here, and you’re disrupting their lives. To do every other night was bonkers. That’s not in their best interest at all.
Jessica: But T.H., I think to that point, some of it is guys wanting to stick it to the ex-wives. They feel like they’re going to be taken advantage of in some way financially, and so they’re going to fight back by trying to maybe make the woman settle for less over here by giving the woman–
T.H.: Right, if I can have it I’ll give you more time.
Jessica: And I also think that a lot of guys who probably were pseudo absentee fathers while they were married, because they knew that their wives were taking care of everything all the time, I don’t think that men fully understand what their weekends are going to be like when they have kids. It’s a little bit of karma. You want 50/50? I’ll show you 50/50.
Christina: I tried to do that as a strategy once in a divorce because the husband kept insisting he wanted 50/50 and they have four kids. I’m like, you know what? Let’s do a temporary arrangement where he gets 50/50 because I promise you he will not keep that up for long. She wouldn’t do it, so I’ll never know how it would have turned out.
Jessica: I believe that’s actually a brilliant strategy because I would tell people–I was one of the first, other than T.H. and I, mine was actually technically done before hers. But I remember telling people in the beginning, the best part of divorce is not having your kids all the time and being able to not feel guilty about it. This is what was decided in the divorce. I can’t harbor mom guilt about the fact that every other weekend I have off. But let me tell you something, every other weekend I have off. And now I look at families who have their kids all the time and I’m like, god, how do they do that?
T.H.: I had lots of married friends that were like, wait, you get Wednesdays and every other weekend and every other holiday off? That’s a pretty good gig.
Jessica: Yes, it is.
T.H.: Yeah, there can certainly be an agenda. There could also be an ego like, I am the best father and I know everything, and yeah, it’s the entitlement. And in the end, it really does come down to what’s best for your kids. I think also the parent that’s not at home, like Jessica said, certainly doesn’t recognize what’s involved. It’s just in the end–
Christina: They’ll get there. I think sometimes though the dads in some cases are honestly sincerely fearful that they’re going to lose their kids because they were working all the time and mom always had the kids. What am I now? How am I going to keep and maintain that bond with my children? So I do think there is some of that.
T.H.: I do too. I do too, but in the end, for my situation, it was nowhere near 50/50. He dropped the ball left and right. And so just make sure what you’re asking for is what you can really do for your kids.
John: People don’t recognize that you can transition into something too.
I mean, it doesn’t have to be sudden for the kids. I settle a lot of cases by coming up with a six to 12 months transition schedule, so we can see how the kids are doing. A lot of people go through a divorce and it’s a win or lose proposition. It’s rough. It’s rough. But just keep your kids front and center. Because a lot of guys that are looking for joint custody, it’s because that’s what society is telling them they should be asking for. And I will tell you guys there is a movement afoot to pass laws, including in New Jersey that would create this presumption of 50/50 custody. At first, I thought that was a great idea, but now that I’ve thought about it more, I just think that would cause more harm than good in a lot of different circumstances. But this is not going away anytime soon.
Jessica: I actually–side note but unrelated but on that, I’d love to us to do another conversation in the near future about that specifically why sometimes 50/50 custody is not the best idea. That would be a really interesting conversation to have because when you first brought it up, I would think 50/50 would be great. I would be curious to dig a little deeper on it sometime.
John: Ask your kids if they would like to flip flop between two houses.
Jessica: My kids have been flip-flopping between two houses–
John: Well, no, like every two days, or a week here or a week there. It’s just some parents’ parenting styles are so different, it causes so much trouble, particularly when they’re of school age, younger kids that need stability and a structure and a schedule.
Jessica: Yeah. I’d love to have that conversation for sure.
Christina: Yeah, that would be a good one.
Jessica: Totally. Any last-minute thoughts on–I mean, listen, there are obviously many more mistakes, because I feel in the grand scheme of things, we probably really only covered four, so we’ll have to have a part two, for sure. Do you have any last-minute thoughts?
Christina: No, just get yourself into the right mindset with some of the things we’ve already talked about. Get yourself into the mindset to try to resolve things as best you can. Have a therapist or a coach that you can complain to a little bit and help guide you a little bit. But just be prepared.
John: Yeah, I would say mindset, remember that you are in this partnership with somebody, and the money’s not yours, and the children aren’t yours. You’ve got to go into it with the right mindset that you should be fair. I mean, you built this life together, so you’re going to have to divide it up in a reasonable fair way.
If you go into it with that mindset and have reasonable expectations, which means don’t go to an attorney that promises you everything, as long as you go into it with that kind of mindset and you’re trying to be amicable, it’s going to end okay. It really will. You’ll move on with your life, and you’ll find someone new. But if you go for nuclear missiles flying at the other side thinking that your wife or your husband’s not entitled to anything, it’s not going to end well. You’re going to spend a ton of money, you’re going to be miserable, and it’s going to take you a while to recover.
Jessica: Okay. You guys, as always, amazing conversation and so much to think about. Thank you both so much for your time. We went extra long today but really appreciate it, tons of great information. For everybody listening, you will find all of this on our exEXPERTS website: www.exexperts.com, including bio pages for both John and Christina, so you can reach out to them directly to find out about their podcasts and their law firm. Thank you again. We’ll see you next time.
Christina: Thank you.
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