Women initiate two out of every three divorces, according to Divorce Lawyer Source, quoting the National Center for Health Statistics. The statistics are even higher for no-fault divorces and for spouses with college educations. When wives want to end a marriage, their husbands experience many of the same issues women do when the shoe is on the other foot. But they might have some added concerns as well.
Saving Your Marriage
There’s a big difference between your wife saying she wants a divorce and handing you a divorce petition. If she has not actually filed yet, find out if there is anything you can do to change her mind. Ask yourself honestly if you might have done anything to bring this decision about, then ask her as well. Find out why she's unhappy. If you’ve been neglectful or disparaging or have had an affair, ask her for a second chance, then make that second chance work. Seek counseling, if necessary, either with your wife or on your own.
Holding Your Ground
If your marriage isn’t savable, you should probably turn your mind to moving ahead. It might be tempting to move out and put the source of your pain behind you, but divorce lawyers will usually warn you against abandoning home field advantage. Most state laws do not permit you to take your children with you, so if you leave, you’re essentially demonstrating to an eventual judge in a custody dispute that you think your children are just fine staying with their mother. You can also protect your interest in your home better if you’re in residence. If selling is the best option and your wife doesn’t want to let the home go, she can easily sabotage a sale every time a Realtor knocks at the door, either with a listing agreement or a potential buyer, if you’re not there to prevent it.
Protecting Your Turf
Your wife might not be happy if you refuse to move out. Consider buying a small recording device that you can keep unobtrusively in your pocket in the event she takes steps to force you to go. In most states, she can get at least a temporary restraining order by claiming you threatened her with domestic violence. This will remove you from the home for a couple of weeks until a judge can decide whether or not to make the order permanent, and it can have nasty ramifications on your divorce as well. If your wife picks a fight and tries to provoke you, hold your temper. Turn on the recorder so you have proof of who started the altercation and your own behavior while it was taking place. Check with your attorney first to find out the laws in your state; in some jurisdictions, you might have to let her know you’re recording the spat. However, this provides you with protection as well. She’ll know she can’t manufacture a scene because you’re recording proof that it didn’t happen.
When you’re home alone, begin documenting proof of everything the two of you own. Make copies of all your financial documents, creating your own separate file. As soon as your wife retains an attorney, he’ll ask her to provide these documents and they may begin disappearing from the house. Make your own copies as quickly as possible, because your lawyer will want the same documentation. If you can’t give it to him, he’ll have to get the paperwork from your wife’s attorney through the discovery process, which will involve his putting in more time on your case and running up your legal fees.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.