Let’s put the balance back in divorce.
The typical divorce is actually pretty painful. The standard DEAL is almost an assault to fatherhood, and we need to fight to change it. In the most common arrangement, Mom gets the kids and house, dad gets the child support payment. It’s how things used to work. But today, unfortunately, the courts still go by this structure unless there is a significant fight to something different.
There are a few problems with divorce law today.
The non-custodial parent is assumed to be a deadbeat when they are calling the AG’s office. You are segmented into custodial or non-custodial parent at the beginning. If you are the non-custodial parent the only reason you’d be calling is you are behind on your child support.
When we complain about unavailable dads, or dads that check-out after divorce, here are a few of the reasons why.
- The child support burden is a lot of money.
- Dads might be resentful of the “money only” role they are being put in.
- When dad is asked to leave the marital home they are often forced to move in with family members or friends, this is largely because of the cost of child support.
- In addition to $500+ per kid in child support (estimate), the dad is also asked to pay for health insurance. (Today, in my case this is an additional $1,200 per month with two kids.
So let’s see, I’ve got no home. I’m paying $1,200 a month for child support and $1,200 a month for health care. How can I afford an apartment? If I don’t have a killer job ($2,400 after-tax expenses before I get a dollar for myself or my survival. Well, that’s a pretty steep hill to climb.
IF the playing field were equal, I would guess a lot more divorces would be negotiated in good faith. Today, even if you declare a collaborative divorce, the issue of money is liable to strike the dad in the pocketbook in a way the mom, to start out with, does not even have to consider. RARE is the case where the dad is given full custody and the mom pays child support.
Starting with 50/50 parenting
This is the fight we are fighting in the courts today. I’m considering going back to court to reset the arrangement. I was attempting a collaborative divorce, but in the end, I was handed this lopsided deal. I have to earn over $3,000 per month (taking taxes out BEFORE I pay the mom) before I have a chance at even putting food on the table.
This leaves a lot of dads as deadbeats, not because they are actually trying to shirk their responsibility, but because the mom and the court have saddled them up with so much financial liability that they cannot afford to make the payments each month. At that point, the dad is subject to financial liens, foreclosure, and checking account freezes.
Do you know what happens when the AG freezes your bank accounts?
- The bank charges you $57 – $150 for the freeze.
- The bank processes no further payments (rent, car payments, even your child support payments)
- You bounce checks.
- You’re credit get’s screwed.
- You end up with an additional $200 – $400 in fees.
Do you know what the AG officer will tell you? Read this:
The Humans Of Divorce, Dear AG’s Office Special Cases Officer Mr. McK!
Fair treatment of fathers begins at the beginning of the relationship. BEFORE you have kids, you can agree to parent 50/50. If that’s the deal, you should have the discussion about if things don’t work out. (I’m not talking prenuptial, just an understanding) In my marriage we started out 50/50, but as soon as she decided she wanted a divorce (yes, it was her idea) the arrangement went to the cutting floor and I was handed the dad deal. A bad deal for everyone.
As the dad can’t afford a nice place for the kids to come to visit, they want to come to visit less. As mom’s house maintains some of its status and comfort (important for the kids) the dad is left in the cold to fend for himself AFTER he makes all the payments to help the mom stay in the house and live within the lifestyle the couple achieved TOGETHER. Except now it’s not together. And the cooperation you started with before you had kids, becomes a long-term ground war between “the money you owe me” and the money you can afford to pay without suing your ex.
Dad’s are just as important as moms.
Even with young kids, the loss of either parent (my dad left when I was 5) is one of the most painful aspects of divorce. For the dad it is doubly devastating: the no longer have a house, and the courts and the AG’s office have now put their credit at risk, making employment and ability to pay even more difficult.
Let’s put the balance back in divorce. Give both parents the benefit of the doubt.
Consider the dads. If you’re a dad consider the courts and get an attorney who can show you examples of winning in court for fair arrangements.
The money after divorce should be divided equally. Anything else puts man men at risk for debt issues, credit issues, and put them at risk of suicide and depression. Let’s put the balance back in divorce. Give both parents the benefit of the doubt. And both parents should be advocating for a 50/50 split in the same spirit they entered parenthood, with expectations of a 50/50 partnership. That partnership doesn’t end at divorce. But if we load up the man with all of the financial obligations and punish him for being late on a payment or two, we are hurting all the members of the family. The mom loses when the dad’s account is frozen. Even if the mom didn’t want it to happen. Once you’ve asked the AG’s office into your divorce, they never leave. (Inviting the Dinosaur Into Your Divorce)
We need fair divorce laws. We need courts that will listen to the needs of both parents and consider 50/50 parenting as the desired outcome. Until we stand up and fight for equality AFTER marriage we will continue to be on the losing side of the post-marriage equation.
my new book Fall of the House of Dad is now available from Amazon.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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- What You Can’t Tell Your Kids After Divorce
- The 3 Immutable Laws of Positive Co-Parenting
- Back to School and Summer’s End for the Single Dad
- The Transcendent Single Father
- The Positive Divorce is Up To You: The Two Levels of Healing
- What Am I Doing Here: Ah, Another Divorce Blog
- How Faith and Courage Work Together in Love
- Inviting the Dinosaur Into Your Divorce
Here are a few of my books on Amazon:
- Single Dad Seeks: Dating Again After Divorce: Advice and Strategies on Learning How to be Loved Again
- Fall of the House of Dad: My journey through divorce, from loss to joy, again and again
- A Good Dad’s Guide to Divorce: One father’s quest to stay connected with his children
- The Sex Index: Getting Our Love Languages Right in the Bedroom
- Here Comes the Darkness: Surviving and Thriving After a Mental Illness Diagnosis
- The Third Glass: When Drinking Becomes an Issue
- The Storm Before the Divorce: When One Parent Wants Out, That’s the End
- Dating 2.0: Aiming for the Love of Your Life
This Post Has 5 Comments
This ought to be on the front doorstep of every freaking court room in the world!
Yes, I’m up for that.
In the year I’ve been following your blog(s), I have often wondered why you didn’t pursue a change in the conditions of the financial imbalance. I know you have a lot of pride, and you’ve always said you would pay every penny owed to her under the terms you negotiated (and I’m sure you will honor your agreements). And I totally get feeling royally screwed by a system that somehow devalues the father in the equation of not only child custody, but also in division of financial assets. Taking the emotion out of the equation, you originally negotiated a bad business deal (or were railroaded into it). If there is a mechanism to provide a better equilibrium for you then it seems incumbent upon you to pursue it. Your ex has always treated this as a business deal. Time for you to do the same. Just my 2 cents.
DW, You make a great point. Part of the problem is, I simply don’t have the money to hire an attorney to lower my monthly payments. But I’ve requested the documents from the AG’s office to see what she reported to them. So I’m working it.
Thanks for your comment and support.
Back to the idea of a business deal. I believe you’ve said you have 5 years left of the current arrangement. Pretty easy to do the math here. I get that money is tight at this moment, but if you feel your case is solid, and from my perch it looks like it is, then the scrounging you need to do to find an attorney will have a simple formula for payback, and I’m going to guess it’s better than any wall street investment you would otherwise make if you could. If the payback is anything better than 2.5 years it’s a wise investment. Hell, do a GoFund me campaign. I’m good for a few $ on that score because the system is rotten and it has to be changed one small victory at a time. Good luck my friend!