The damage men do to themselves, their family, and their legal status by leaving the home before they have to.
Seated before me is a man, a father, a provider of love to his children. He has soothed scraped knees, changed wet bedsheets at 3 a.m, and taught his boy to ride a bike. He is fighting back tears. We aren’t close enough yet for him to let me see the hurt that comes from losing his family.
I’m a divorce attorney. I specialize in helping men. Frequently a man comes to my office having already left the family home. “I don’t care about the house,” he’ll tell me. “I just want to see my kids.”
I know the story well enough by now: He and his wife weren’t getting along. They were arguing fighting in front of the kids. She kept telling him to “get out, just leave!” So he did. He thought it was best for everyone. He thought that if he moved out, the fighting would stop.
What he doesn’t know, and what I have to tell him, is that he has already lost the custody war.
Moving out of the house is the single worst move a man can make—financially, emotionally, and strategically—during a divorce. (The only time a man should leave is if there is physical violence, or if his wife is cruel enough to lie about being abused in order to get a restraining order.)
Aside from the financial strain of finding an apartment, the husband now gets blamed for “leaving.” Moving out has created a “status quo” as far as the courts are concerned. Since dad left the kids with mom, the court thinks that he feels they should be with her, and that’s most likely what will happen.
He will get every other weekend and a weeknight dinner. This is the bad news I have to deliver to the man who sits in front of me in tears.
Men are hugely uneducated about what happens in a divorce or a child custody battle. We don’t talk about it with each other. We don’t strategize. This is our undoing.
Good men don’t leave until they have to. Good men talk to each other and get help. If we don’t, we lose our rights—and our kids.