my daughter a few years after the divorce

Why Entitlements In Divorce Are Abusive

Get this law of life: you are not entitled to anything in this life. Maybe freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Beyond that, get with the program. You only get what you work for. But that’s not how it works in most states in divorce. Let’s explore women and entitlement in divorce for a minute or two.

Point of Order: Men and Women Are Different

Yes, moms and dads are different. And our interactions with our children often develop along stereotypical lines: mama’s boy and daddy’s girl are the tropes. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

In a divorce with children, the current family law in most states does not take a fair or balanced view. There are a number of reasons this divorce president was set 20 years ago, and even more importantly, reasons it’s so hard to get to 50/50 shared parenting in a divorce. In my state, Texas, 85% of the moms get primary custody, they get to keep the family home, and they get 70% of the time with the kids. Oh, and the more egregious part: they get a standard child support calculation that in my case, with two kids, looked like $1,500 a month, plus health care for both kids. (Another $300 – $800 based on my employment status)

Old Thinking About Divorce with Kids

At the time of my parent’s divorce, the family law bias went toward the mom for some obvious reasons. Dads were often the primary breadwinner. Moms were often the primary care provider. And as for the law, it’s much easier to set a precedent and then stick to it.

In the case of my mom and dad getting a divorce in the 70s, the stereotype held true. My dad happened to add alcoholism to the mix (also very common) so we were all rooting for my mom, including the family court system.

Today, we KNOW that dads and moms are equally important in the development of healthy and well-integrated kids. But the family court system is still stuck in the old idea of MOM: KIDS; DAD: CASH. But the reason might surprise you if you’re not a divorced parent. Here’s the actual reason child support is awarded in 95% of divorces in my state, and why moms take the lion’s share of that windfall.

In Texas, 80% of the AG’s office (Attorney General of your state) budget is allocated for child support enforcement. Listen to that again, most of the budget of our entire AG system in Texas is used in the enforcement of child support. Okay, here’s the kicker. The state does not take a percentage of child support as a management fee. It’s worse. The state of Texas AG’s office is paid by the federal government based on how many millions of dollars they are “managing” for the child support system.

Let me make it even more clear. The state only gets paid if child support is awarded to one of the parents. 50/50 shared parenting shouldn’t require child support. But in our “old divorce law” states, even split and equal parenting are often forced into some form of child support. In my case, I got the classic dad-pays, divorce. But I dated a woman with kids who gave the custodial role to her husband. And while they split the kids 50/50, this woman was required to pay child support to her ex-husband. But here’s the difference. She paid him $125 per month. It was a token payment, only to fulfill the Texas child support preference.

New 50/50 Parenting Data

There is no reason that the state should assume that my wife and I would need their enforcement and assignment of child support. However, my then-wife consulted with a lawyer and learned the hard fact in 2010: if we went to court she would get primary custody and child support.

In our marriage, however, we didn’t match up with the stereotype. Yes, before our two kids could ride the bus to school, my wife worked part-time or not at all. At that time, I had a big job, and supported us financially. The biggest difference, however, was I was the emotional heart of our family. My ex-wife is not so touchy-feely. She prefers spreadsheets and budgets. Her struggle was to get me to pay attention to money and attend our “money meetings.” My struggle was to get her to play with me and the kids, to lighten up, and to explore the essential world of emotions. It’s not that she was emotionless, but I’d say her love language would be “acts of service” and not “touch.”

I was the parent that got us into therapy TWICE to figure out why we weren’t happy. Turns out, I was happy, but she was unhappy. That’s pretty much all you need to know. I’d say that pretty much sums up our current state of affairs as well. She’s just not a very happy person. And if we know one fact, we know that happiness is an inside job.

Unfortunately, my ex-wife still sees me as a scapegoat for her unhappiness. Still. Twelve years later. I’m still the reason she’s not happy. Now, when we were married with children, she had a point. I WAS required to listen to her complaints and try and adjust accordingly. But it was always HER pointing at ME for her unhappiness. Even in therapy, she redirected all of our conversations to my depression, my job, my income power, and my immaturity. But those were not the real issue.

Let’s Reset to 50/50 Shared Parenting

I work with several organizations that are working to change the state laws regarding entitlement and child support. I also work with dads and moms on navigating relationships, parenting, and if necessary, divorce.

Until the state recognizes men and women equally in divorce there will continue to be problems with women’s entitlement and men’s victimization. I am not a victim But when my then-wife switched her mind from 50/50 shared parenting to go for the “divorce package” there was very little I could do. In 2010 I could’ve spent upwards of $100,000 and very likely still lost my case. That’s bonkers.

Men and women are both essential for their kids’ lives. (In non-binary or same-sex parenting relationships, the same rules apply. Both parents should be treated equally under the law. Marriage and parenting start at 50/50. Divorce should start at 50/50 WITHOUT CHILD SUPPORT, and negotiate from there. That’s my dream. What do you think?

Namasté,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @wholeparent*image: a few years after divorce, my daughter at a live music show

How I Can Help

I am a relationship coach and a dating coach. I coach women 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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