Men will experience the effects of divorce in many different ways — you’ll feel it in your wallet, your dignity may take a hit, your quality of life may dip, etc. But the consequence that hurts the most for divorced dads will probably be losing out on invaluable time with your children.
Since mothers will still more likely than not be granted primary custody, fathers will typically be relegated to a limited visitation schedule. For active and involved dads, this justifiably feels unwarranted, leading to feelings of indignation, resentment and frustration.
However, it is important to make the best of the time you have with your children and learn how to be a great dad despite a potentially restricted custody arrangement.
It is not easy to make the most of a bad situation, but it is certainly possible to be continue being a great father despite your divorce.
Leave the anger at the door
It is only reasonable to harbor feelings of anger and bitterness for years after the divorce is finalized due to an unfair system. But when it comes to your parenting time, it is crucial to put those emotions aside while you are with your children.
Your kids do not want to hear you complain about how terrible their mother was during the divorce and listen to you blame her for the situation – they just want to spend time with dad.
Put on your happy face and save the venting for friends, family or therapists after your custody time is over. Your visitation should not be overshadowed by resentment over your ex; it should be about strengthening the bonds between you and children.
Maintain old routines & structure
Divorce can be a difficult adjustment for children — particularly if they are young — as the environment and schedules they have become accustomed to are suddenly very different.
To make it an easier transition for you kids after the divorce is final, do whatever you can to keep up with old routines and traditions.
If they were used to doing homework before dinner, continue that habit during your parenting time. If they had a bed time of 10:00 p.m. on weekends, make sure that is still enforced.
Anything you can do to make it a seamless transition to the new family structure will help your kids better cope with the new situation.
Follow the parenting plan to the letter
While you may or may not be satisfied with your custody arrangement after the divorce, it is crucial that you uphold your end of the parenting-time commitment.
Consistency will help your children adapt to the new arrangement more quickly, so you need to be available to exercise any and all visitation.
This includes showing up on time for pickup and drop-offs, adjusting your schedule to accommodate your assigned custody time, being prepared for last minute changes, making sure you include a first right of refusal clause and keeping up the fight for additional time with your kids even after the divorce is final.
Communication is critical
If you are unfortunately like the majority of fathers, it may be difficult for you to see your kids on a daily basis after the divorce. That does not mean, however, that you have to be absent.
Technology has made it easier than ever to stay in touch when you are not able to be with someone in person, and divorced dads should be encouraged to utilize all available means to continue having a meaningful relationship with their children.
Cell phones are everywhere these days, so fathers may consider getting their children (if they are old enough) a phone to stay in regular contact.
Texts, emails, phone calls and video services like Skype and Facetime offer an easy way to keep up with your kids even when it’s not your parenting time.
Avoid becoming a ‘Disneyland Dad’
Due to the current custodial practices of family courts, it is understandable how many fathers end up feeling undervalued. However, you need to be careful to avoid letting that feeling lead to overcompensation during your parenting time.
The term “Disneyland Dad” has become common due to the number of fathers who use their visitation to shower gifts on their children while leaving discipline and strict rules to their time with mom.
While you may feel this is a way to make up for lost time with your kids, being the Disneyland Dad ends up doing more harm than good.
You cannot buy the love of your kids, and after a divorce, children need structured parenting more than ever.
Participate in extra-curriculars
It may not be easy shortly after a divorce is finalized to be around your ex, but for the sake of your kids, it is crucial that you find a way to at least be in the same vicinity as one another without it devolving into a major argument.
Your children will still have ballet recitals, baseball practices, science fairs, band concerts, soccer games, etc., and it is important that both parents attend these events to show continued family support.
Although you may feel uncomfortable being around your ex, you need to avoid taking the easy way out in saying, “Your mom will be there, so I can’t make it.”
That attitude demonstrates to your children that you hate their mom more than you love them, which is not how you want to come across.
Realize you’re not a part-time dad
Although it may not feel that way, how often you see your child does not define how much of a father you are — it is entirely possible for workaholic parents to see their kids even less than a divorced dad.
You may not be in control of when and how often you get to see your children after the divorce, but it is entirely possible to still be a great and loving father despite limitations set forth in your visitation schedule.
You will face challenges that married fathers may not have to deal with, but demonstrating continual love, support and simply being there whenever you can will go a long way toward maintaining a strong relationship with your children.
It’s not easy to be a great dad after divorce, but you need to make it your primary goal to continue being the best father you can given your circumstances.
Even though your parenting time may be restricted, it is still your responsibility to raise your child. Don’t simply throw in the towel due to an unfair system; do your children a favor and continue being an awesome dad in spite of it.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”