dads apartment after divorce

The Displaced Dad: How the Typical Divorce Is Killing Dads

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Let’s imagine for a moment you’ve been given a new game plan for your life as a soon-to-be single parent. Here’s what’s getting ready to change in your life.

  • You are losing your home
  • You are losing 70% of your time with your kids
  • You are going to continue to pay for the home you are losing
  • You will have little or no rights if things go south in the post-divorce plans
  • And the courts and the lawyers will all tell you, “This is how it’s going to go.”

How does the nightmare feel to you?

Good and Loving Dads Get Shafted Too

That’s the typical package for dads in Texas. (90% of dads get the SPO and non-custodial role.) This outcome is not because 90% of dads are deadbeats or uninvolved assholes. This is in the case of a no-fault divorce, where the courts have determined the mom should get the package and the men should go packing. Back in the 50s perhaps this was a more typical scenario: dad works and mom stays home and does the kids. The family laws were put into place with that in mind.

But, the more sinister part of the “family law” system is this: The Attorney General’s Office in the state of Texas makes 70% of its revenue from ENFORCEMENT. And Texas likes to share their effectiveness at running down deadbeat dads and making them PAY. Well, many men, get tossed into the deadbeat dad category by their wives who are looking to score the package, regardless of their parenting involvement, their loving availability for their kids, and often discounting the dads who hold down the emotional and logistical side of the household.

Dads are lumped into this “other” category by both the family legal system (which is set up to make money from divorce, by the way) and the state court system (which gets the majority of its budget by enforcing child support payments). So, in many states, like Texas, the family courts are in bed with the AG’s office to strap ONE PARENT with child support. It’s how they make money, enlarge their staff, and give us accidental deadbeat dads hell.

Press 3 If You Are the Non-Custodial Parent

“We are experiencing heavier than expected volume. Please wait and your call will be answered in the order it was received. Your approximate wait time is 45 minutes.”

Press 1 if you are the Custodial Parent. “Hi, how can we help you? Need us to crack some skulls or just wreck someone’s credit scores?”

The rights of the non-custodial parent are limited. The state’s support of the custodial parent are limitless. They work for the custodial parents to collect child support from the non-custodial parents. That’s how it works. That’s literally 90% of what the AG’s Office does. And if you go to their local office, be prepared to feel like a deadbeat. There’s bulletproof glass. A sign-in sheet. A crappy waiting room with “Parent’s Rights” posters in Spanish and English. And some down and out folks who are sitting beside you, probably in a matter of survival.

When the DAD in a parenting relationship bolts and tries to leave the state, leave behind his obligations, and leaves his kids, that is a DEADBEAT DAD. When a dad is fully cooperating with their co-parent, is fully present for his kids, and is NEVER going to run from his parenting relationship with his kids: that is NOT A DEADBEAT DAD.

When You Harm Your Co-Parent

Somewhere in her rage, my ex-wife forgot that hurting me would also hurt her kids. Perhaps indirectly. And, since we had agreed not to discuss the divorce or money with the kids, perhaps, she assumed, she would get away with tanking my financial opportunities for the full 11.5 years we had left before our youngest turned 18. Maybe she didn’t consider how crushing me would also damage her children. Would she have struck a deal with the devil to kill me if she could? I mean, in that circumstance she would get 100% of the kid time. But, alas, no more child support.

Here’s her assessment of our options when I was less than three days behind on my child support.

ex-wife justifies turning ex over to the AG's office

“I’m pretty sure my acting “in the best interests of the children” translates into an obligation to pursue child support as described in the decree.”

Ah yes, dear ex, IF there was some reason for you to believe that I was not going to get caught up. I had been telling her about my work for a month. I had outlined my plans. I had been transparent about my money. And she, at this very moment, knew I was trying to refi my house with Wells Fargo. And BOOM, a few days later she texted me.

Sorry about the timing. I just filed with the AG’s office.

The Fk You Give Will Come Back to You 10-Fold

I’m not going to take my ex-wife’s inventory here, but I will say that karma is a vicious bitch. Somewhere, my ex-wife knows that this logic was bullshit. She was NOT OUT OF MONEY. She has never been threatened with the loss of her house. (The marital home that I put the down payment on and made most of the 8-years of payments on.) She was not acting on behalf of our children. They were not at risk of losing their home or their father’s attention. She was mad. She was going for her pound of flesh. She had no regard for how this would impact her lovely children.

If my kids knew 50% of the bullshit that my ex has played over the 11-years since our divorce, they would probably have to reconsider the entire story they’ve believed. When my son complains that “you’ve not always been available when I need you,” he is right. But the problem was not my availability of willingness. The problem was a vindictive ex-wife who has gone (still goes, 11-years later) after me, repeatedly since the divorce.

Doesn’t my ex-wife understand that a blow against me is also a blow against her kids? Would she do anything consciously that she thought would hurt her babies? My guess is no. Then, I have to suspend my disbelief and imagine that she doesn’t understand how her email above is complete and utter bullshit. There was NO RISK of losing the child support. NO RISK of me leaving my obligation to my kids, financial, physical, or spiritual. But somewhere, she had to make believe that the statements she was making were true.

I don’t believe my ex-wife was worried about getting her child support. I don’t believe that she was working “in the best interest of our children.” And I still don’t understand how she could take such a heartless and destructive action towards someone she loved. If you attack your co-parent, you are attacking your kids. Period. There is no way around it. There is no excuse.

My ex-wife is a deadbeat mom. She has used the divorce, the family courts, and the Attorney General’s Office to harm and punish me for giving her the divorce SHE wanted. Or, perhaps, she’s just vindictively hurtful because she hates to see me happy.

As We Grow As Parents

I hope my ex-wife has some epiphany. I would love to be friends and be able to discuss our kids’ futures. I’d love for her husband to quit shunning me and acting as if I don’t exist. He’s living in my old house, btw, and parenting (not well) my kids.

You sleep in the bed you made, dear ex-wife. I know you can’t be happy with your lies. And I know, even more, the lies and anger are eating you up inside.

Divorce is hard on everyone. Please, take your children into consideration, when you are about to launch an attack on their other parent. It’s NEVER a good idea. The consequences may not be obvious to you in the moment. But as time goes on you will realize what you did. You may never apologize. But you will carry the heavy burden forever.

If there is one thing my ex-wife has to be mad about, it might be me telling the truth about her. I guess that explains how quickly she moved to change her last name and distance herself from the angry ex-wife persona of the past.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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I am a 50/50 shared parenting advocate. I’m working in Texas first. We are working to make 50/50 and no child support the standard for divorce negotiations. You can see how we’re going to have to fight in Texas to beat the AG’s office and the actual family court system. Join us.

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