Inappropriate expectations are part of everyday life. Consumers buy products that are too small to do the job. Businesses hire employees that lack relevant experience. Travelers book bargain hotels expecting a four-star room. In short, people frequently fail to understand what they should reasonably expect.
Expectations also run rampant in relationships. Some men expect their wife to work full-time, look pretty, stay in shape, maintain the house, take care of the kids, do the laundry, have a nice dinner ready when he gets home, and then have enough energy left to wow him in the bedroom. Some women expect men to earn lots of money, work extremely hard, be romantic, remind her of how beautiful she is, defer to her on all parenting and decorating decisions, never lose his temper, discard his friends, ignore his hobbies and interests, and enjoy watching Sweet November. These expectations are at the root of many failed relationships.
My experience as a Tampa divorce attorney and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator has revealed that expectations are especially unrealistic in divorce. These expectations are often built from consulting a network of family, friends, and co-workers who offer advice based on tall tales. Women sometimes seek out and consult “divorce mavens” who they perceive were “successful” in their divorce. The divorce maven is almost always willing to share her personal “success story,” which necessarily came at the expense of someone that she once loved. In the “success story,” the stereotype is that the wife won full custody of the kids, she got the marital home, she was awarded long-term or permanent alimony, and the father was allowed to visit the kids every other weekend, except when she needed child care and allowed him additional time (but no Sunday nights, ever). In some cases, the wife also received a domestic violence injunction or obtained an order subjecting the father to supervised visitation.
This paradigm of “success” in divorce creates unrealistic expectations in much the same way that photo-shopped pictures of skinny models with perfect skin create unrealistic expectations about how a woman should look. And, the results of these expectations are similarly disappointing and destructive. Unrealistic expectations in divorce create unnecessary conflict, increased attorneys’ fees, longer and more drawn-out cases, and risk.
Even in marriages with nearly equal income, some mothers will ask about their alimony rights, which they perceive are biologically-determined rather than based on the Florida alimony factors set forth in section 61.08, Florida Statutes. Similarly, some women in short-term marriages have an expectation of alimony, even where the marriage was temporally equivalent to a serious high school relationship.
With respect to child custody disputes, many women still feel an absolute right to have “full custody” of the child, regardless of the father’s parenting skills, track record, kindness, or ability. Today, with lawmakers and judges recognizing father’s rights, this sort of blind expectation is akin to expecting minorities to sit at the back of the bus. Additionally, some mothers feel that child support is an absolute right, even where the parties’ incomes are equal, the father has substantial time-sharing with the children, and the father pays out-of-pocket expenses such as daycare and health insurance.
There are also predatory divorce lawyers who feed on these expectations. This may come as a surprise to some attorneys, but married people – even those going through a divorce – frequently talk about the advise they receive from their lawyers. And, if a party says, there is no way your lawyer told you that you will get everything in the divorce, the Wife might forward on the email from her attorney saying just that. These attorneys perpetuate unrealistic expectations. They also disappoint expectations in most of their cases. But, they typically make a lot of money for both lawyers along the way.
If you couldn’t meet her expectations during the marriage, you probably won’t be able to meet them in the divorce. You need an experienced advocate who will protect your legal rights. You need a Tampa fathers rights attorney who will fight for you. Please contact us at (813) 331-5699 to schedule a consultation.
By Richard J. Mockler