In an article published in PsychCentral entitled, “Fathers Are Not Inferior Parents,” Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. wrote, “in our efforts to be supportive of single moms, it’s important that we not become convinced fathers are expendable. They’re not. Children who are lucky enough to have involved fathers are children who get added benefits that a father can provide.” We couldn’t agree more with Hartwell-Walker.
If you’re a father going through a divorce, nightmares of parental alienation may be dancing in your head. You may break out in night sweats, worried your children will be turned against you, or worried you’ll be replaced by a “new boyfriend” in the near future. If you can relate, these feelings are normal and you have plenty of company.
Hartwell-Walker goes on to say, “Children with involved fathers also tend to develop better verbal skills and do better academically.” Not only that, but “Girls who have a positive relationship with their fathers are less likely to get pregnant as teens. The statistics are startling,” says Hartwell-Walker. “Girls who have a good to excellent relationship with their fathers are less likely to be so needy of male love and support that they become prematurely sexually active,” says Hartwell-Walker.
Of course, girls aren’t the only ones who benefit from having a father around. Studies have shown that when boys have a good relationship with their fathers, they’re “about half as likely to be in trouble with the law,” according to Hartwell-Walker.
Why Do Fathers Give Up After Divorce?
According to The Good Men Project, “Dads often give up because it feels like the deck is stacked against them.” This is true in many instances, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can hire a good attorney, you can turn things around in your favor. Here are 10 tips to follow before, during and after the divorce process. This way, you can avoid the common pitfalls of being the dad in a divorce.
1. Don’t Move Out of the Family Home
If you move out of the house, leaving your children with your wife, you’re sending a powerful message to the family court: “My wife is perfectly suited to care for our children.” You see, the courts don’t like to interrupt the status quo, especially if it’s working. If you cannot stand living under the same roof as your wife, don’t move until after you get a court order addressing temporary child custody. If you intend on seeking primary physical custody of the children, don’t think of moving out until you’ve obtained advice from a divorce attorney.
2. Keep Detailed Records
Keep detailed records of when you see the children, what you buy them (save the receipts), and the interactions between you and their mother. If she blasts you on Facebook, record it. If she posts pics of a new flame while you’re still married, save the post. If she insults you, or doesn’t let you see the kids, record it. Essentially, document everything, especially if you anticipate a child custody battle.
3. Take the High Road
One of the best ways to have a smooth divorce is to take the high road. This means keeping the dirty details of your divorce to yourself, with the exception of a few close friends and family members. For example, there’s no reason to send a group text to the moms and dads on the soccer team that your wife is cheating on you with your eight-year-old’s coach. If you’re able to act like a mature adult, it will help calm things down.
4. Be on Your Best Behavior
Amid divorce, be on your best behavior. This means limit public drinking, avoid jumping into a new relationship while you’re still married, keep quiet on social media, and spare the insults directed toward your wife. Otherwise, irresponsible behavior can backfire and affect the outcome of your divorce.
6. Find Experienced and Competent Legal Counsel
This one is a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many fathers (and mothers) act before speaking to an attorney. For instance, a concerned father may whisk his kids away from his mentally unstable wife without realizing the legal consequences. Or, he may move in with his new girlfriend, only to lose all chances of getting physical custody.
7. See Your Children Often
One of the best ways to make yourself bulletproof during and after a divorce is to remain INVOLVED in your children’s lives. This means seeing them frequently, volunteering in their class, taking them to extracurricular activities or showing up to all of these events, and helping out wherever you can as far as your kids are concerned. Do whatever your schedule permits!
8. Look for Emotional Outlets
Let’s face it, divorce is stressful, especially if you’re going to be paying spousal support, child support, and health insurance. That said, you have to take care of you. Whether that means seeing a therapist, speaking with a priest, rabbi, pastor, or bishop at your church, or taking a long camping trip. Look for support that will help you deal with your emotions.
9. Take Care of Yourself
Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, and divorce can definitely affect one physically. Now is a great time to hit the gym, take up running or bicycling, get into boxing, or find another sport like rugby that can help you keep your mind and body busy. As a plus, you can get into the best shape of your life. Don’t forget to eat right, get sufficient rest, and avoid overdoing it on the junk food and alcohol.
10. Expect the Unexpected
You just never know how you, your children, and your wife are going to deal with the divorce. If you find yourself going through analysis paralysis, you can reach out to a professional therapist or counselor, or read books on divorce or children and divorce. If you’re internalizing too much, it’s best to look for outside advice and support.
If you’re on the brink of divorce, call Claery & Hammond, LLP for a free consultation. We can navigate you through the uncertain waters of divorce.