Previous Months' Topics

A Divorced Dad Speaks Out

 

The majority of divorce proceedings in the United States are initiated by wives. Although there are obvious cases of spousal abuse and abhorrent or illegal behavior, the majority of divorces take place within low-conflict marriages in which one spouse simply wants out.

As a result, many decent men find themselves divorced against their will in our no-fault legal system. Fathers for Good spoke to one of these men, anonymously called “Divorced Dad” in this interview. The divorce was finalized earlier this year, and he has equal custody of his two children, ages 6 and 4.

(Click here for an interview with a mom who was divorced against her will after 20 years of marriage.)

Fathers for Good: Did your wife’s request for a divorce surprise you?

Divorced Dad: She had talked about it but I didn’t think she was actually going to do it. I wanted to work things out, so I was definitely surprised when I was served with a complaint of divorce. It was a long battle, mainly due to my insisting that my role as father to our children not be diminished to mere visitation because she wanted to divorce me for a new life. Though the divorce went on the record as “uncontested,” that could not be further from the truth. She wanted it. I didn’t. She wanted me to accept seeing my children four days a month. I would accept nothing less than the most time God would grant me with our children.

FFG: Could you describe the process, from denial that this could happen to acceptance and then making the best of the settlement?

Divorced Dad: Truthfully I don’t believe I have fully accepted my divorce yet. I still love my wife (now ex-wife). I took my vows seriously and to this moment I do not believe this was the path that was best for us. I would ask God to grant me peace in accepting the things I am unable to change and strength to sustain the damage caused by all of this. I would ask God to never allow me to confuse what is best for me with what is best for my children.

FFG: How have your children been affected?

Divorced Dad: My son turned 6 at the end of the summer. My daughter turned 4 at the start of the summer. By most accounts, school, friends, family they seem to be taking the changes well. I have worked very hard at fostering a positive spin on time spent on Mommy days and Daddy days in two homes as being something lucky. I try to leverage whatever is good and different about our family versus a conventional family to their benefit. I basically have the children half of the time so I get most everything done when I don't have them so I can really focus on the quality of the time I do have them. Normal families have no such luxury.

FFG: Have you kept your Catholic faith?

Divorced Dad: I have kept my faith and I pray now more than ever. I keep the dialogue with God much more open throughout my day as life throws me curveballs, as well as times when things are going great. I pray often with the kids too. We have a routine I call our “bag of prayers” where we place anyone in our bag that we believe may need a little extra help from God for whatever reason. My military reserve chaplain has been great. I have been splitting time between a few parishes when not with the military as I have had to move due to the divorce process. That has been tough.

FFG: Final thoughts?

Divorced Dad: Some key things I would offer to dads out there facing this situation is first, do not leave your home or your children. It will greatly reduce your chances of having any meaningful time with them in the future as it will be used against you in court as abandonment, even though you think you are doing it to avoid more problems with your spouse.

Find a way to have the discipline to be positive, respectful and upbeat around your children. They need to see by your example how a father with integrity weathers such adversity. Be the man they will look back on and be proud of your conduct during that toughest of times.

Second, do not be intimidated by anyone. Believe in yourself and how important your role of father is to your children. Don’t let anyone take that away from them. Family court is not a father friendly place. You will be treated poorly. You must not let it get to you. You must show the judge, lawyers and anyone else who cares to know that you are an above-and-beyond father, and that you will endure any hardship from now until the end of time for the sake of your children.

The most important thing, I think, is that so many dads are intimidated and they settle for a very poor custody arrangement, believing they will only do worse in court or in front of a judge. This is not true. They need to step it up and become SuperDad and remain that long after the divorce. Their kids need them to be as involved as possible.