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Weaponization of Divorce: Moms v. Dads = Kids Lose

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In divorce, everyone is going to be stressed. The fracture is going to radically change the lives of everyone involved. Dads are likely to be given a diminished role for their kids. In 85% of divorces in Texas, moms get the custodial parent role (the one with all the power and the support of the AG’s office), the child support supplement, and 70% of the time with the kids.

The Logistics of Divorce

In my divorce, my then-wife slipped into a couples therapy session and revealed she’d consulted with a divorce lawyer. Um, she forgot to mention that in therapy. It seems to me, she was in couples therapy to placate me while she organized her spreadsheets and notes for the divorce she wanted. In an aggressive move in that thunderclap moment of fear and shame, she also asked for me to move out of the house that day and tell the kids I was on a business trip. (WHAT?)

I refused to walk out of the house in March of 2010. Our kids (3rd grader – daughter, 5th grader – son) were two months away from Summer break. I refused. We had one more meeting a week later, to close our counseling relationship. At that meeting, my soon-to-be-ex said she was convinced by the school counselor to wait until the summer, so the kids had some privacy in dealing with the loss.

As I said to my then-wife, “The business of divorce is going to take a bit of time. I’m going to stay in the home and give the kids and myself the time to comprehend what you’ve initiated.”

Money, house, cars, and kids. There is a lot to sort out when you start the divorce process. In our case, we started in a collaborative divorce. We met with a divorce accountant, someone who works to help you build divorce spreadsheet scenarios. We met with a parenting plan expert to build our plan and ultimately determine the schedule.

Everything was going so well. I wasn’t able to return my wife to the fold, but we were in agreement and not paying lawyers just therapists and accountants. Until the schedule conversation, we were in agreement. Then the bomb dropped. [The second bomb, after the attorney slip.] She said she would not accept a 50/50 schedule. At this point, I had two choices: 1. lawyer up; 2. comply. I chose not to fight and lose. The parenting plan therapist said, “She knows this is what she’s going to get if you go to court.”

The Ongoing Antagonism of Divorce

Some people never get over their divorces. [I have been accused of this because of my writing.] In my case, I lost my shit after I lost 70% of the time with my kids. [Why is that seen as the best result for the kids?] And I continued to struggle under the loss for a year or so. At some point, I was able to land a big job, with enough money to pay my child support AND purchase a small two-bedroom house. Picking myself back up off the ground, learning to move on, and making the best of a hard situation.

Some angry bone in my ex-wife’s chest was irritated that I appeared to have put things back together. Something about my celebration of my kids, my ability to house them while it was my weekend, caused my ex-wife more fury. She filed our decree with the AG’s office as I was 1 week late on my child support payment. One week late.

In another bomb [The ongoing shitty moves against your co-parents cannot be justified or rationalized.] as I was seeking to refinance my starter home, she filed against me as a deadbeat dad. I was crushed. And my credit report became a mark of shame even when I was current. The listing “Account with the Attorney General’s Office” is a huge red flag for employers. So, even as she was trying to hurt me and my kids, she was putting a massive negative mark on my records. [Even a year after I made my final child support payment, my account was still open and reported on my credit report.]

There was no benefit to my ex-wife or my children. The only objective was to hurt and punish me. For what? She asked for the “no-fault” divorce. She got the divorce package she wanted. What does she have to be so unhappy about?

It took me a long time to learn, years after the divorce, that my ex-wife was not a happy person. She can try. She can mask her underlying cynicism. In the case of our marriage, I think she might have been happy for a few years, as the kids were toddlers. But, something, her deeper nature, led her to believe that I was the reason she was unhappy. She didn’t like seeing me having success and fun with our kids. WHAT IS THE PROBLEM HERE?

Hitting Your Co-Parent

There is no reason to attack your co-parent. At least, in our case, we were able to keep the “discussion” of this bullshit out of earshot of our kids. We never fought in front of the kids. At least she abided by that promise.

Listen to this:

  • Every arrow you fire at your co-parent will wound your children.

  • Let go of your ex, move on.

  • Focus on the love and happiness of your children.

  • Refrain from attacking or taking adverse positions against your co-parent.

Easy to say, I suppose.

In my case, my ex and her husband don’t communicate with me at all, or only in an emergency. They continue to do fkd up stuff with my kids. And my ex cannot help herself. She still throws javlins at me in the form of comments or actions with our kids.

Why would you attack your co-parent? Why would you take moves to damage them? Why would you continue to foster discontent? What is the point? What is the thrill it gives you?

Somehow, my ex and her husband do not see that their adverse actions toward our kids hurts their relationship with our kids more than it hurts mine. As my children get more distance from their mom’s house they will continue to see a solid and optimistic father trying to respond and deal with an angry and vindictive couple, who should be more focused on their years-long remodel project, rather than damaging me.

If my wife could do it, she’s try to find a way to reopen the AG’s account to hurt me more. She didn’t get any extra money. I suppose she got her pound of flesh. But at what expense?

Dear Ex and Husband, quit treating our children like pawns. Let them go. Let me go. Let the hate flow through you, but let me out of it. Move on with your lives. But, please read my blog daily. Thanks.

[Of course, my ex-wife and I will never be able to have a constructive conversation about this. “Why did you do this?” I’ve already crucified her and her odd husband hundreds of times. She can’t admit she was wrong about any of it. Then she would be the one crushed by her own misguided anger.]


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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a good dad's guide to divorce

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