Divorce was the furthest thing from my mind when my ex let it slip in our couple’s therapy session.
In the Wake of Divorce with Kids
My kids were in 3rd and 5th grades when the divorce ripped them out of my orbit for over 70% of their young lives. I don’t think it was what was best for them. Divorce is hard for everyone, but my ex seemed to think the value of her parenting was more important than mine. She was wrong. Kids need BOTH parents.
Sure, there are many parents of either sex who are not interested in being active and positive parents. And also, there are troubled dads and moms with addiction problems or mental health issues. In those cases, perhaps it makes sense to rebalance the parenting plan to minimize the negative impact and damage of the real “off” parent. Ours was not a marriage or divorce with this dynamic. In fact, we had been working through a cooperative divorce for three months before she decided to take the divorce package. Is that her fault? Should she have gone against her lawyer’s advice and supported her agreement with me?
The answer is an emphatic yes. She violated our sacred agreement and trust. We decided to begin having unprotected sex AFTER we’d agreed that our parenting would be 50/50. Can you imagine beginning the quest to have children with a partner who was already convinced that they were the better parent, the more important parent, the MOST important person in their kids’ lives? I can tell you, most of us would never enter that bargain.
Perhaps this is why the birth rate and marriage rate is falling so precipitously these days. Men and women don’t seem to trust each other. We don’t seem to be on the same page about values, relationships, and sacred vows.
What I Promised My Wife
I will stand beside you through thick and then, no takebacks. And after she initiated the divorce process, we agreed that we would ALWAYS put the kids first.
Through it all, I have tried to remain a solid and supportive presence in my kids’ lives. But it’s a challenge. Dads who lose up to or more than 70% of their time with the kids have a hard time maintaining a close relationship. And the burden of a child support payment that nearly requires a second job to clothe and feed yourself, is often too much for new single dads to handle. The incidence of divorced (low contact) dads committing suicide is triple the national average. It’s a tragedy. It’s wrong. And the science supports the value of *both* parents.
Kids with an engaged mom and dad are more balanced, more successful in their own relationships, and have a better chance of success in life. Google it, I don’t have time to convince you of this fact.
So I promised at the outside of our parenting journey to always be there 50/50 for anything. What I got was a lot less than that, once my ex derailed the parenting plan discussions we’d agreed to and simply “went for it.”
I suppose she got what she wanted in the divorce:
- Every other weekend off
- The mortgage in a nice school district was paid for by child support (taxes already paid)
- The house, the better car
- 70% and more of the kids’ time
So, if it was what she wanted, why has she remained so insanely mad at me? This blog, perhaps? Her own guilt? Her unhappy life? The odd and manipulative relationships she has with our two kids? No idea, but it’s not my place to take her inventory of transgressions.
What You Want For Your Kids
Sure, I believe my ex wants our kids to be healthy and happy. And somewhere she got in her mind that being the PRIMARY PARENT after the divorce was *in the best interest of the children.* Isn’t that what all of us want? Healthy kids are the goal.
If that’s the case, please, recognize that the lawyers are working to get your business. They don’t get paid if you don’t fight. When my ex decided to crucify out cooperative agreement I did not file suit to fight for 50/50 custody. She knew that I wouldn’t lawyer up. Her lawyer made 80% of the money in the divorce decree work. Mine simply said, “You can fight for a lot better deal.” And then charged me a minimal fee to read through the decree that was presented.
The time for fighting was over. The time for healing and getting on with our lives was of primary importance. And while I do think my kids would’ve been better served to have both of us equally in their lives, they are doing fine. There are some bumps, but we’re all moving forward. So there is hope either way.
I can’t change the outcome for my kids, I can fight to revise family law to begin at 50/50 shared parenting and 50/50 shared cooperative child support. If you want to learn how you can support balanced divorce laws, reach out to me directly.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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