This highlights another mistake men make in divorces that are initiated by their wives: expecting the process to punish their exes. The division of assets and determination of alimony in divorce are not decided according to who behaved badly.
“Family court is not a damage court,” Hennenhoefer says. “There are always wrongs in a divorce, but the system does not compensate you for that.” Of course, this cuts both ways. If you feel bad about the way you behaved during your marriage, there’s no reason to use the settlement as a form of penance.
Financially, at least, divorce is not nearly as dramatic as most people think. The truth is, even without a prenuptial agreement, there isn’t much in a division that’s open to dispute. In some states the couple’s possessions are divided in half, but most states apply a legal notion called “equitable distribution,” which weighs various factors, including the earning power of each party. This can get complicated if you fail to settle amicably, and take things to court.
The good news for men is that with more women working, there’s less of an expectation for an ex-husband to pay his ex-wife alimony for the rest of her life or even bear the full burden of child support. And men can also count on equal footing with women with regard to child custody. Wasser says she even got custody recently for a father of three whose new girlfriend was a porn actress. The bad news is the same as it’s been since before the gender wars: If the man is the primary earner, he’s going to have to stay on the work treadmill to pay child support that will allow his family to maintain the lifestyle they had before the divorce. “How do you spend lots of time with your kids,” Wasser says, “when you are working to pay for everything?”
There’s no easy answer. But it’s worth noting that Rob and Liam are happier now that they’re living apart from their former wives. And they’ve both found new love interests (something studies show men do faster and more easily than women) and are enjoying post-split life. But they agree the divorce itself was much worse than they expected, mostly because they didn’t know what was coming. Rob sums it up this way: “I’m kicked out of my house. I no longer live with my kids. And I have to pay for it.”