If Divorce was a Game I Might Have Played to Win

If Divorce was a Game I Might Have Played to Win

If a divorce was a game would you be so competitive with your spouse to WIN? Are there limits to which you would not stoop? Like damaging their livelihood? Burdening them with so much debt and payments that they can’t afford a place to live and thus a place to have the kids on their alternating weekends? What’s the fair limit between partners who just want to split amicably? Is that even possible?

Let’s look at the game board and the moves you decide on.

First Move: 50/50 parenting or something else?
If something else, why? Is the other parent worse than you at some critical task? Would you feel sadder if you had your kids less time? Is it about you or the kids?

Second Move: Keep the house or sell it?
The kids should be able to stay in their home through this trying time. Sure, that’s a good premise, but if keeping the home pushes the financial picture out of balance, what can we use to make things fair? Retirement savings? Okay, but do you realize those will require a 25% penalty if they are withdrawn early?

Third Move: Joint Custody or Non-Custodial/Custodial Parent Roles?
If not joint, then why? What makes your decisions carry more weight then your former partner’s? Or is this one just about the money?

Fourth Move: Child Support?
Shouldn’t the parent that makes the most money help offset some of the expenses of raising the children when they are with the other parent? Oh, wait, what if the other parent wants 50/50 parenting, what’s the financial split then? Can you base the child support on BOTH incomes and not attach it to the dad every single time? That might be fairer.

But again, this isn’t about fair at this point. Divorce is about winning.

Fifth Move: Insurance for the kids?
Who pays for the kids to be insured? Somebody has got to be the responsible party? How about the parent that already had the child support payments? Why not give them an additional financial burden? And if they lose their job, what’s the plan then? Or, perhaps you can turn the whole thing into the AG’s office for enforcement.

So in the GAME OF DIVORCE, I was unaware of the real consequences of all 5 moves. I was going with the instinct that we had been lovers, parents, and now even in parting, we were going to do what was best for BOTH of us. I did not have the same killer instinct my soon-to-be-ex-wife had.

In 80% of the family court cases, the man loses every single move. Unless you are prepared to go to court and spend some money, get ready for the Game of Divorce to hand you a very lopsided playing card. You don’t even get a say in the outcome. Here’s what you’ve lost:

  1. SPO (Standard Possession Order) works out to about 35% custody. She’s getting them almost twice as many hours as you are.
  2. Custody sets child support and in Texas the fee is pretty much set at around $500+ per kid.
  3. Insurance responsibility settles on the non-custodial parent as well. Just to keep things simple, one party owes money and services, the other party receives money and services.
  4. The home will go with the mom, 80% of the time, because the kids usually go with her, and there is case history that shows the kids should be disturbed as little as possible at this difficult time. What about the dad’s disturbance?
  5. The Attorney General’s Office does not represent you, they represent the Custodial Parent. Listen to their voice-tree navigation system. “If you are the custodial parent, press one.” All others, be prepared to HOLD.

I lost the Game of Divorce in a big way. Not because I didn’t play. And not because I didn’t ask for what I thought was “in the best interest of the kids” and FAIR. I lost because that’s the way the game is stacked against the fathers today. The financial hardships often cause newly divorced dads to live in crappy apartments while struggling to make the money to pay their ex-wives so that they are allowed to see their kids.

I’m not a men’s right’s activist but am a DADS LIVES MATTER advocate. This game is rigged and the courts know it, the wives know it, and the divorce attorney’s who’d rather represent the moms, know it. But that’s not the way it should be.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: man and woman playing chess, creative commons usage

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