losing your kids in divorce

Dear Custodial Parent: We Are All Still Together After Divorce

Non-custodial parents have a hard road
to maintain solid connections to their kids
after divorce.

Today, men and women are being assigned the non-custodial role, but in most states, it’s still 80% of the dads getting this diminished role in their kids’ lives. In my case, I fought for 50/50 shared parenting, and my then-wife took the divorce package that was offered by the State of Texas and her attorney: she is the custodial parent, I have a $1,250 a month child support payment, and she gets the house and 70% of the time with the kids. That’s the divorce package for the custodial parent. Why wouldn’t she want the money, the time with the kids, and two weekends off per month? Sounds like a great deal for her.

Who Loses In Unbalanced Parenting After Divorce

Sounds like a great deal for my ex-wife. And I suppose, for her, she made the right decision for HER. But, her decision did not take into account my request (let’s rebuild, let’s work on it, let’s both go back to work so neither of us has to sacrifice our health to live this middle-class lifestyle.) Her decision did not take into account the impact it would have on our kids, 5 (daughter) and 7 (son), as they lost most of the time and influence of their father. She made this unilateral decision to divorce me and in doing so, divorced all of us. We were all thrown into the hurt that is divorce and separation.

[Personal aside: please look at the photograph above. Is there ANY reason the mom should get more of the time with these amazing children than the dad? I mean, all things equal, no abuse, no infidelity, no bad intentions. Should the mom get the 70% custodial parent role and the dad be given the non-custodial 30% parenting role?]

AND… She Got What She Asked For

  • She got the kids 70-80% of the time
  • She got a nice child support paycheck regardless of my employment status or hardships
  • She didn’t have to move from her house in her cozy neighborhood
  • She didn’t have to restart 100% of her living necessities
  • She got to be the MAJOR parent with 2 weekends a month off

AND The Kids and I Suffered Under the Duress

  • I was instantly homeless (I moved in with an older sister)
  • I was unemployed (a contract position evaporated just as the divorce was put in motion)
  • I had a $1,250 payment due, every month before I could start looking for shelter or food for myself
  • The kids got her parenting without the temperance or buffer of mine
  • The kids lost me almost completely (depression, work struggles, and very little time together)
  • She started “dating” almost immediately as if there were some pent up demand for love in her life (putting a divorced parenting plan together is a good idea)

The Logistics

When I coach divorcing parents, the first thing I try to reinforce is this:

You are the most important person in this equation (if you fail, everyone loses). Let’s take care of you, and your health, the rest will follow.

Your kids need some extra support and flexibility from you, even as you are hurting, even as they only see you every other weekend, they need MORE of your love and encouragement

Your ex-partner is no longer part of your emotional ecosystem. Your ex is now more like a convenience store clerk: you need to get in and get your ice cream, and pay, and leave. You don’t need to know all about the clerk’s day, or what they are working on in their personal lives.

  1. Work on yourself
  2. Work on your relationship to your kids
  3. Put boundaries up between you and your ex

Here’s Where There Is Work To Be Done

I believe that parents should start at 50/50 shared parenting after divorce. If the court or the process defines a different arrangement is “in the best interest of the children” then great. But today, when the mom gets 70% of the time with the kids, 100% of the financial support, and the custodial role, it makes the DIVORCE DECISION more of a slam dunk. Who’s to blame my ex for taking the divorce package?

Who’s To Blame?

If my then-wife had been given the stark reality of a 50/50 parenting schedule, and NO CHILD SUPPORT, it would’ve changed the attractiveness of the attorney’s offer. If we agree to equal parenting, we don’t need to pay each other for support. WE BOTH SUPPORT EACH OTHER IN EVERYTHING.

As it worked out in my divorce, my wife took her custodial parent role and ripped up any co-parenting ideas I might’ve had. You can see the documentation of this on this blog, and in my book, The Fall of the House of Dad. She didn’t care for anything but herself. Sure, you can say, she did what she thought was best for the kids. But that’s not the case. She did what was best for her and her alone. She didn’t consider the fallout or breakdown that was going to occur for all of us when the MOSTLY POSITIVE PERSON left the family. She didn’t consider how hard she was going to have to work, at a new full-time job, to continue the dual-income lifestyle we had grown to enjoy.

Who’s to blame for the egregious way our divorce went down? 100% I put that responsibility on my ex-wife. AND, I believe if the state of Texas had made us start at 50/50 with ZERO child support, my then-wife, might have joined our couple’s therapy sessions with a bit more vigor and enthusiasm. She might have still made the same decision. But I would’ve had equal time with my two kids. I wouldn’t have suffered under the need to find a second income to pay for her house first and then mine. And she would’ve worked a bit harder in therapy to keep our relationship together.

But That’s Not What Happened

Today, I thank my ex-wife for releasing me from an unhappy marriage. Perhaps there are parts of our DNA, part of our family history, part of our mental makeup, that made it impossible for her to stay married to me. This entire Whole Parent journey (waves hands in the air toward this blog and these books) wouldn’t have happened had we continued to suffer the ravages of a shitty sexless marriage. We were not a match made in heaven. We are better off seeing our loving partnership elsewhere.

AND, I wish she had taken me or the kids into consideration before going full-force for the custodial divorce deal. It was not good for any of us, her included.

[Final personal aside: Now look in those kids’ eyes, mom or dad, and say goodbye to them. Tell them that you’re not going to be there to tuck them in at night. Tell them the divorce was a joint decision (even when it was not), tell them you love them but you are leaving their house and their mom for a new life. A life you don’t want. A life you are fighting against. A life that their mom has determined would be best for her.]


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

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image: my son and daughter before divorce

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