The courts are going to have a lot more to say about your divorce and your parenting plan if you can’t come to an agreement with your soon-to-be-ex. One way to break this pattern of abuse and neglect is to change state family law to start at 50/50 shared parenting as the starting point for most divorces. Sure, there will be exceptions. My mom was somewhat protected by these old laws that gives mom the kids and dad the child support payments.
What Do We Get In Divorce?
Dads in divorce with children will quickly learn, as the process of separation begins, that the family court is stuck in 50s thinking. Moms are the emotional heart of the family. Dads are the breadwinners. In the past, old school law set this as a precedent. Now it’s the norm in most states. In my state, Texas, I got the non-custodial package because my wife renigged on our shared parenting agreement at the last possible moment. She knew what she would get if we fought in court. So, she merely asked for that. Of course, we cooperated in our divorce planning, in our financial planning for the divorce, and in our ideas about parenting and parenting schedules. We both agreed that mom and dad were important to our young kids’ lives. Somewhere along the way, she changed her mind.
She began to tell herself that she was the better parent. She must’ve gotten support from her divorce attorney. (I think of the scenes in A Marriage Story, where Laura Dern is telling Scarlette Johansen that she should go for full custody. She should not consider her husband’s needs. She should do what is best for her. Always.
That’s how we got here. Moms, over the years, have gotten the lion’s share of post-divorce parenting duties. In my father’s case, he was shunned from the family decisions. Sure, he was a highly functional alcoholic with tendencies to rage when he didn’t get his way. And in some ways, I was protected by the old family laws. My dad may have thrown all of his financial muscle into getting me and ruining my mom, but he got neither. Today’s divorces, among committed, educated, parents of means, are a different story. In the beginning, negotiating the divorce my wife demanded, was cooperative and collaborative. It didn’t work out for me. But I think the fault is partially my wife’s issue and partially the court’s bias towards moms and dads.
Dads Are Great Breadwinners
And for this privilege, you’re going to be given LESS of your kids’ time because we need to make more money to pay for your ex-wife’s house (sorry, your kids’ house). And the mom is going to get more of the kids’ time so that she can nurture and protect them from the pain and struggle of the divorce. So we dads PAY and GET LESS TIME with our kids. It’s an awful system.
How about we split everything? Right down the middle. 50/50 shared parenting. 50/50 shared expenses. That’s what I thought we were talking about until my ex came back with her new plan. She knew I would not lawyer up and fight her. What did she have to lose? She could go from 50% of kid time to 70%. That’s a winning idea, right?
What my ex-wife still fails to understand is that excluding me from so much of our kids’ lives has consequences that still resonate with all of us. The cynicism that runs much of her life, is now also a big part of my son’s life. I think my daughter got out will less impact from this toxic mindset.
Kids Need Their Moms In a Different Way
What do you think about that statement? Do you think moms provide love and nurture differently than dads? Of course, we do. Do you think both sides of the parenting equation are equally important to your kids’ development? I hope your answer is yes.
The data the family courts used to set the precedent for all of our divorces is old and outdated. We all know by now, that mothers and fathers are equally important in the healthy development of kids. You can have a terrible mother or an even-more-terrible father, that is true. But to start every divorce assuming the mom is the emotional anchor of the family and dads are the distant breadwinners is a painful process.
We need to start the dialogue BEFORE WE HAVE KIDS, obviously. You can’t have kids by yourself. Your partner is just as important. Why would it be different when you no longer live together?
image: breakfast with an exhausted Minnie Mouse and Elmo in NYC with my sweetheart, 2022. @cc 2022 with attribution