Everyone suffers when divorce hits a family. If you have kids, things are magnified as you try and buffer their lives from the fallout. As a dad, the fallout has been on-going and harsh. Again, not to make my experience more difficult than anyone else’s, I do believe fathers, in most cases, get the harder path to survive. Before you write me off, hear my experience.
How Dads Suffer the Most During a Divorce Involving Children
Most often in divorce:
- dads are the ones who leave the house
- dads are given the additional financial burden of a second mortgage payment (even without a place to live)
- dads often get to see their kids 70% – 80% less than the moms
- dads become non-custodial parents, and this has huge ramifications both emotionally, and financially, and in negotiating your child support or parenting plan with the state’s attorney general
- dads are told to suck it up and get back to work (we put money and supporting the family ahead of our own physical, emotional, and mental wellness)
- dads experience the empty nest syndrome while their children are still very young, while the mom gets to maintain a constant and consistent presence in their lives
- dad’s house is more of a hotel, and never feels like “home” to the kids
- in his limited time with the kids, dads are accused of being “Disneyland dads” but the full truth is, they are struggling to establish ANY relationship with their young children.
- dads are often viewed as the cause of the divorce (elementary school teachers, close couples with children, parents and in-laws)
- because the dad is seen as the cause, moms are often supported by their female tribes as victims of a shitty marriage or a shitty ex-husband
- dads suffer from depression, thus demonstrating to everyone around that they were unfit as parents, and this is often imagined as the “cause” of the divorce
- divorced dads are often labeled as immature (he was such a child)
- dads are shamed while moms are given the benefit of the doubt
- dads seem to lose more than the mom or the kids
- dad’s life is 100% devastated, while the mom and children continue along as if he is on a business trip
- dads are accused of abandoning their families
- dads are given the label “deadbeat” when the realities of the economy and its emotional impact can cause them to struggle to maintain their “married” income or employment status
- dads shoulder more of the financial burden
- dads who feel angry about the divorce are labeled with “anger issues”
Now, of course, these are generalizations. And not all of them will apply in every divorce with kids. In my case, this represents my list of issues surrounding my divorce. They are MY issues. MY unhealed wounds. And MY responsibility. Additionally, I am aware that sometimes the financial and custodial roles are reversed and this bias is leveled at the single mom.
In the state of Texas, 80% of divorces award primary custody to the mom and child support to the dad. It’s easier for everyone if the process is easy, quick, and “how it’s done.”
This family law process is seriously flawed. I have written a lot about dad’s rights, and the unfairness of divorce law when it comes to dads vs. moms. I am a supporter of several dad’s rights lobby organizations in my home state. We have a long way to go. In 2010 when my divorce was processed, I could’ve sued my then-wife for 50/50 custody, but I would’ve lost. I put on my big boy pants and did what the majority of fathers do in a divorce. I tried to make the best of it. But I suffered.
I like to think I’m not still suffering. But that’s a lie. Today, my kids live 100% of the time with their mom. As teenagers, the alternating weekend routine became a burden. So, now I am really a dad with 1% of the time with my kids. It’s up to me to track them down and make dates/dinners/events with them. So, their mom gets their full lives. And now that she’s remarried, she’s even got a husband again. And my kids have a stepdad, who they know and love. And it hurts that they know him and see him every day over the last three years.
Moving along with my own experience strength and hope: A single dad does have to make the best of the divorce. And in supporting the divorcing mom, and struggling kids, he often puts his own needs and desires after that of the family. “In the best interest of the children,” is a phrase that bandied about to bring the dad in line, to get the dad to agree to the settlement and the standard possession order.
To the dads who are reading this: If you want 50/50 custody after divorce, go for it. Fight for it. I didn’t, and I’m still regretting my decision to agree to a cooperative divorce. I’ve moved on, but the list above still stings a bit, when I examine it. And to the moms, please consider the full support of your kids, and know that dad’s love is 100% just as important as mom’s love. (And that’s at EVERY AGE.)
Namasté to my ex-wife and her husband. And congratulations, I guess you got what you wanted when you asked for a divorce. You won. But the way you went about getting what you wanted was shitty and not “in the best interest of the children.”
*image: an IG post from my daughter
How I Can Help
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related posts from Positive Divorce:
- Experience, Strength, and Hope After a Divorce with Kids
- What Do You Tell Your Kids About Divorce As They Grow Older?
- The Odyssey of the Single Father: Kids Change Everything
- Single Father Manifesto: I’ll Never Stop Pursuing You
- 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 Third Glass: When Drinking Becomes an Issue
Image: my “photo” library, all rights reserved, 2019, John McElhenney