Equality Schmality by Cheryl Stein

Men often voice that they feel they get the raw end of the stick during divorce, without a larger understanding of their situation.

Generally, women are perceived as victims and sympathetic characters in divorce, both in the monetary and parenting realms.

People often ask me if I am a female-or male-oriented attorney and which sex I predominantly represent. I represent both equally, and each case is fact specific. At any given moment, I represent mirror image situations-for example, a female client who would like to impose that her ex keep to a very time specific visitation schedule, and a male client lamenting that his wife is overly rigid in demanding that his visitation must take place within very precise time frames.  

Arguably, men are often still considered second fiddle when it comes to parenting, even though there is a whole movement underway in the direction of 50/50 parenting, often titled “50/50 is the new default,” as in a 50/50 joint physical and residential custody arrangement.

When actions are commenced, typically it is the husband who moves out and the wife who remains in the marital residence with the children. Men often have a hard time with the idea of leaving the house and no longer sleeping under the same roof as their children every night. Something they took for granted is suddenly gone.  

There is still the general presumption that women are the natural caretakers. Men often have to fight hard to obtain a more liberal access schedule. They often verbalize finding it offensive that they suddenly have to “visit” with their children during prescribed hours. (Euphemisms have been contrived, such as “parenting time” and “access schedule,” but it doesn’t change the underlying concept.) The emotional trauma that many men experience when this happens is not spoken about. Men are expected to “man up” about things, while women are more touchy-feely, often attending support groups or leaning on their immediate social circle.  

In a more traditional situation, such as with a stay-at-home mom, or if the woman is a teacher, of course maintenance is going to be paid, of course the woman is going to be the primary caretaker. But when it’s the reverse and the man is the one that stays home caring for the children or is a teacher, there’s a presumption that something must be wrong with him. Why isn’t he in a more manly profession?  

When the woman is the higher income earner, the man often feels pressured to give up maintenance or to reduce the amount that he takes. It’s almost expected that the man should come up with faster ways to make money or simply not leech off his wife. In the reverse situation, the pressure would be less, because it’s expected that women leave the workforce when they have children to care for. This dynamic is often most evident in mediation when both parties are in the room together, openly expressing their viewpoints.

An additional noteworthy point is domestic violence and abuse towards men.

Domestic violence towards women is a well-known phenomenon, but we hear little about domestic violence towards men, and not because it isn’t pervasive. It is, in fact, quite commonplace, as many divorce attorneys can tell you.

I have seen situations where men, who are 6’2” and over 200 pounds, are the victims of physical and emotional abuse by their 5’4″ wives. These men may be in high-power positions, dominating during business meetings, but tell me they’re terrified to go home to their wives. This issue is not spoken about and very little sympathy goes towards men. They’re expected to suppress their feelings and don’t really have any forums to talk about or deal with it. A lot of these men feel they can’t reveal what’s going on in their lives because of their high-powered professional positions; for all intents and purposes, they have everything together.

It is not a pity party competition between the sexes-rather an observation. Many of my male clients have expressed that they wish there were more resources available to them, while they are going through separation and divorce, to help them through the process. I have a long list of support groups to dispense to my female clients and often think I need to get all my male clients together to create their own support group, because they are so hard to come by.   

Contact The Law & Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein with any questions if you are preparing for or going through a separation or divorce.

Cheryl Stein, Esq.
The Law and Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein
745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 500
New York, NY 10151
Phone: (646) 884-2324
E-mail: cheryl@cherylsteinesq.com