what dads can do in divorce

Always Being the Better Man: Dads In Divorce Leading with Love

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Even as I was being asked to leave my family, to give my wife the divorce she was determined was going to make her happier, I was challenged to love them all through the dark times. My constant love, my unrelenting optimism, and hope kept all of us protected from the harsh potential of a contentious divorce. I did not want the divorce. I was also aware that I could not keep our family together with a woman that was so unhappy.

Dads Can Lead Even In Divorce

Yes, I was losing 70% of my time with my kids. Yes, I was leaving the house my salary and inheritance had paid for. And yes, I was going to be paying a significant monthly payment to help keep them happily together in the family home. And I was leaving the house to leave them as undisturbed as possible. It seems all consideration in the divorce was for the support and care of my kids and my ex-wife. Very little concern was given to my wellbeing, to my financial future, and to my crash landing as I exited the family support system.

And still, I refused to fight. I asked for 50/50 shared parenting and was denied. I could’ve lawyered up and fought. I could’ve attacked my still-wife’s parenting skills as she was attacking mine. I could’ve caused a huge war. I could’ve but I didn’t. I knew how my parent’s divorce had been so damaging to all of us. I knew that I was going to do it differently. I was going to rise above the anger and sadness and be the best dad I could be, with the time and resources I was given. It’s been a hard road. But it’s been the right road.

Even 10 Years In the Divorce I Am Asked to Lead

My ex-wife is now remarried and still living in our old family home. She now has 100% parenting as my teenaged kids decided the “weekend switches” were becoming inconvenient. I could’ve fought for my time with the kids. I could still demand my 17-year-old daughter come live with me on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends. Of course, I won’t. But the loss is real. The imbalance of the divorce is ever-more present. And the child support, even with a wealthy new husband, is still required for another year. And my wife still feels the need to keep the Attorney General’s Office involved. “In the best interest of the children” has been used to beat up a lot of men. My path has not been easy.

My ex-wife has shut our communications down with a vitriolic streak that has gotten worse, not better, over the years. I think she wants nothing to do with me, so she makes any communication difficult and punitive. In August, I was asking if we might settle the child support payments ahead of time, to get the AG’s office out of my credit report. She responded with a paragraphs long text of reasons she was too busy to talk to me, and how we’d need to get attorneys involved, and her husband, and blah blah blah, and really she couldn’t even discuss it with me until October. It was a virtual fk you response.

I just stopped asking her for anything. Zero communication with my ex-wife must’ve been her goal. I guess she can have that victory too. But it’s a karmic cluster fk for all of us. When my daughter is suffering from a migraine headache and I cannot reach her my choices are to do nothing and pray, or to reach out to my ex-wife for information on how I could support either of them. Today, it’s better if I just keep reaching out to my daughter until she surfaces from the pain. But it’s not “in the best interest” of my daughter. She needs both of us. She doesn’t reach out to the new husband. “He’s odd,” she says.

I Could Get Mad, Or Rise Above It

Clearly, from this post, I’m not OVER IT. But, I am certain that my ex-wife does not read this blog. Nor does my daughter. This is my rant. And I am trying to stay in my lane here, and make things easier for my ex-wife and her husband while finding ways to reach out and support my daughter. Yes, my ex-wife won the divorce. She got what she wanted, despite knowing that I was a good and responsible father. And my task is still to respond with kindness and care. Sure, I can bitch here on this blog, but my ex-wife and my family get none of it.

I am rising above my pain by taking action that I hope will help support dads and moms in future co-parenting discussions. It is a result of my imbalanced divorce that I have been able to work through the pain by celebrating even the small victories. And in the past month, I have written and published The Pre-Natal Agreement.

50/50 Parenting Forever

Let’s talk about 50/50 parenting even before we have kids. This is the deal my wife and I agreed to. In the divorce, however, she got greedy and took the “deal” the state of Texas and her divorce attorney offered her. But had she honored our 50/50 agreement, she would’ve taken responsibility for half of the bills, half of the parenting, and half of the guidance and caring of our kids. I was not given the ability to do my half of the parenting. So I parented the best I could in the 30% of the time I was given.

My hope is that you may be able to work out the 50/50 parenting agreement at some point along your parenting journey. And barring some unforeseen tragedy (alcoholism, mental illness, abuse, cheating) that you both agree to parent 50/50 even if the marriage doesn’t work out. I believe both parents are equally important to their children’s health and wellbeing. And I believe dads and moms should share parenting responsibilities for the rest of their kids lives.

Men Can Still Lead the Charge

And when things don’t go in our favor, even when we are not given 50/50 parenting, it is still our responsibility as men, to lead from a position of love and strength. I gave my ex-wife the money, the house, and the kids. And I parented as best I could from the sidelines. I hope you have a different approach. But even if you don’t, I assure you, it’s going to be okay. Your kids are going to survive. And if you do it right (even at 30%) they are going to grow into healthy and happy young people. Let’s lead the charge into the future of 50/50 parenting. And, let’s parent together the best we can, forever.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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How I Can Help

I am a relationship coach and a dating coach. I coach women and men in small groups as well as individual 1 x 1 zoom calls. If you have questions about life coaching I am happy to talk to you. Please schedule a phone call HERE.

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You can find all of my books on AMAZON.

Here’s a little video I made to show the disparity of typical 70/30 custody agreements.


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