Obviously, I’m still suffering from post-divorce PDSD. I can’t see a picture like the one above without feeling sadness. The sadness touches a deep longing. A longing for “home” and “family” and “kids.” A home I was no longer allowed to share.
Falling Out of the Family
I recall a sad moment a few months into the divorce. The kids and I were meeting their mom after work at one of our regular restaurants. When we were married, we’d meet here after work, for “kids eat free” night. When we would leave, my son would announce, “I’m riding home with Dad.” My daughter would then chime in, “Me too.” My son, the consummate pleaser, replied, “Okay, I’ll go with Mom so everyone gets a kid.”
After our divorce, we occasionally did the kid swap at this same restaurant. This is when she was still friendly. The first time I drove away, leaving my kids for the next five days, I nearly cracked up. I was in traffic right behind the Prius we bought after watching Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. And there was my world just out of touch. They were heading home for the post-dinner routine. One of my favorite times of the day. I was not invited back into that house, back into that comfort of tucking your kids into bed. I imagined I’d be tucking them in every single night. Divorce changed all that.
As a typical dad in divorce, I was given 30% of the kid-time, 0% of the house I financed, and 100% of the financial support necessary for my wife to be able to afford the house in the comfy school district. The package in Texas is awarded to 85% of men. And it’s not much better in most other states in the US.
Why is it that moms get BOTH the kids and the money? And, more importantly, why is it that women have become entitled to child support even when their income is equal or better? What is it about moms that cause states to require child support payments?
The truth is, the entitlements are awarded because the Attorney General’s offices in your state, make a significant portion of their budget from federal reimbursement of child support enforcement. The FED pays states based on how much money they have under management. Child support, quite literally, pays for the AG’s office in your state. If they switched to 50/50 shared custody with shared expenses instead, they would lose over half their funding and thus staff.
Dad Is Okay
I was asked to be a bigger man. To grow a pair and deal with the loss like a man. I gave everything to the mother of my children, I did not lawyer up and fight. I did not contest the child support, even though it was based on my income from a job that had vanished a year ago. Even as I was unemployed, I agreed to pay my ex-wife over $2,000 per month.
You do the math.
2,000 child support
1,000 – 2,000 rent (w/ three bedrooms – 2 kids)
That’s 4k to survive. And those numbers are after my taxes were taken out. The ex, however, gets her $2,000 tax-free. Nice deal, right? I immediately needed to find a big job, to afford $48,000 just for expenses. Living happens after you’ve paid rent and child support, I suppose. And if you can’t quite make it one month… Guess what? Fk you.
Dad Is Not Expendable
I was a month late on my child support when my ex-wife threw our decree into the AG’s system for “enforcement.” I told her my work was putting me on NET-30 after the loss of a large client. I told her I was trying to refinance my house. I told her I would catch up. I told her I was going to be late.
Nothing I told her made any difference. She filed with the AG’s office and threw me off a cliff. I lost the house. I lost my credit rating for the next TEN YEARS. And she got what: her pound of flesh. She was angry that I was happy, that I had a house and a place for our kids to stay. This was two years into the divorce, and she needed to double down on her entitlement. No. She did it exclusively to punish me for being happy. She didn’t want to see me enjoying time with our kids. She couldn’t care less what happened to me. She needed the money.
But, this is not the way it has to be.
Can we agree on one thing: Dads are just as important as moms in parenting?
There are exceptions on both sides. Yes, there are men who are terrible fathers before and after divorce. And there are moms who are heartless and vindictive in spite of the damage that may cause their children. My wife didn’t really consider our kids when she threw my life into the grinder or the AG’s office. Within a month, I was a deadbeat dad. I was going to have a hard time even renting a place now.
If my wife had valued my role as a father she would’ve agreed to 50/50 shared parenting as we planned. If my wife believed herself to be the better parent, wouldn’t she take into account the kids’ love of both parents? 50/50 shared parenting is how you agreed to have kids. Don’t you think 50/50 shared parenting should still hold true, even after one of the parents has opted out?
The Unfair Divorce Plan
My wife’s attorney knew that if we went to court, in 2010, she would’ve won with ease. So my wife just “went for it.” I mean, why not? Right?
The healthy parent will see the value in both moms and dads and make the 50/50 shared parenting choice. I can’t imagine doing anything differently. But I was not given that option. Moms who ask for divorce are 80% likely to get the custodial parent role as well as child support. My wife, who was apparently done with me, got everything she already had, plus two weekends off a month to pursue other partners.
I’m just glad we had a six-month rule that prevented her from introducing the kids to a future partner.
Note: in spite of her best efforts, my kids and I remain close. They are 20 and 22.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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- Moving from Parenting To Co-parenting: Joining Together In Divorce
- The Double-edged Sword of Divorce: Happier But Alone
- Dear Ex, We Are Different By Design
- Embracing the Win in My 12-years As a Single Dad
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