first summer trip after divorce

Single Parents Suffer a Different Loss: Let’s Balance Divorce in the US!

For the 13 years since my divorce, my ex-wife saw our two children well over TWICE as much as I did. 2X! How is that fair?

No-Fault Divorce

There was no cheating. No big event. No alcoholism. No abuse. Still, my wife asked for a divorce after about 10 years of marriage. Our kids were 9 and 7. And SHE KNEW she was going to get SEVENTY PERCENT of their time? Her lawyer told her so. And in Texas, he was correct.

US states parenting after divorce

So, when most single moms complain about how hard it is doing all the “work” themselves, there’s a bit gaping bit of pain that’s being left out. Yes, you got 70% of the kids’ time. What could you possibly be complaining about? Want to go to 50/50 shared parenting like we negotiated?

Many of the tropes go on to belittle the former “husband” who was a deadbeat anyway. Single moms seem to take on the weight of the world. There’s a reason Divorced Moms is their brand and soap box. I guess complaining about how hard you have it, and what an ass your former husband was, is a form of retribution. For what? Wait. She asked for the divorce, and now she’s bitching about it? I’m confused.

Walk A Mile with a Single Dad

Dads typically lose EVERYTHING. In Texas, 85% of all divorces end with moms getting the custodial role and a generous child support payment to keep her family home in tact. “We’re trying to disrupt the children as little as possible,” the attorney tells his client. “It’s for the benefit of the children,” my ex-wife tells me. But IS IT? Is this what’s best for our children?


The science, if you seek it, will show that kids to better with both parents involved. Should a marriage end in divorce, the BEST outcome for the kids is for the parents to have 50/50 custody and an amicable relationship. That was my goal. If you scroll back on this historical document (blog) you will see my optimism and enthusiasm for being a GREAT CO-PARENT. My ex was not impressed. And after several years she simply quit including me in *any* parenting decisions. My daughter said, “I dropped Advanced English, and I’m going to be in the normal English class.” “What?” “Yeah, mom met with my teacher.”

BS. Vindictive. “Tired of your shit.” BS.

Then, a year later, she turned our decree over to the Texas AG’s office for “enforcement.” In the definition of a deadbeat mom, my upper-middle-class mom files on me as if I’m going to run out on my responsibilities. As if, I’m not going to pay her EVERY PENNY. It was not about the money. It was not about “if” she was going to get her money. It was about ANGER and PAIN.

Somehow, my ex-wife believed that my happiness was contributing to her unhappiness. That’s not how it works. At least not for most of us. If your response to your kids and the other parent having a good time is to attack, well, the issue is with you. There are zero reasons for a cooperative and supportive co-parent to be turned over to the AG’s office as a deadbeat dad. It was to hurt me.

Hurting Everyone

But, here’s the rub. Her strikes at me, clearly had collateral damage. My kids and I were enjoying my new “starter” home. We were finding our way to peace with the staggered routine, the lack of time, and the odd behavior of their mother. I never told my kids how their mom’s actions actually forced me to sell my house. Her actions caused my mortgage company to back out of a refi deal I was negotiating.

Did my ex-wife think that hurting me was going to make her look like the better parent? Was she simply striking the piñata to see what candy would fall out? We all rolled along. I did my best to recover my dignity and my self-worth, and she refused to co-parent with me or discuss taking the AG back out of our lives. “I’m not seeing the benefit for the kids.”

I’ve howled about this injustice over and over on this blog. Dads and Moms are equally important in their kids’ lives, even after divorce. Perhaps, more importantly, after divorce. I don’t want moms to have less. I don’t think moms are bad. I think moms are essential. I could not conceive of a situation where I would take ANY action to damage my co-parent. None.

Reframing Divorce

I wrote The PreNatal Agreement a few years ago to make my point. When you start up a partnership, both people agree to 50/50. Having kids. 50/50. Why, when the mom (often) asks for a divorce, is she the one who gets the money, the house, and the kids?

Plenty of women agree with me. Science agrees with me. The only people who don’t agree are the women who benefit from the imbalance. When a woman files for divorce a man loses half of his wealth instantly and 70% of his kids’ time. And, that’s when he (I) did not do anything wrong. Mom just got fed up. Mom decided what was best for everyone. Mom lied to herself and the parenting plan counselor, saying she was the better and more responsible parent. That was a lie. She knew it. And, because it benefited her, she went for the divorce package.

I’d like to reset the divorce package across the US to treat moms and dads equally. Until that happens, you’re going to have women, like my ex-wife, who lash out for their pound of flesh, unaware that they are damaging their children.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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