Fathers love their children just as much as mothers do. We want to see our kids grow up to be healthy vibrant, productive members of society. We also want to be around them as much as possible and watch them grow. Modern divorce tends to push fathers to the margins of child rearing. The expectation is that if things are not working out with mom and dad, the father leaves, and the mother stays with the kids. It is time for this to change. The tide has turned and that scenario may no longer be the case.
I was proactive. I read all kinds of books about divorce and matrimonial law in New York State before I went into the courtroom. I was determined to not be yet another statistic. I heard stories about children growing up without fathers. I heard stories of men seeing their kids every other weekend and paying lots of money to their ex even if they did nothing wrong. As I dug deeper into the material, I really started to question the entire process of divorce and custody. Fortunately, I found help from a men’s support group. They gave me great information that helped me get to where I am today. If I didn’t talk with them or do my homework with all of the other material I was consuming, I am positive I would be in a completely different position than I am now.
I am the kind of person who believes in preventive medicine. If you want to avoid the heartache that comes along with not seeing your children for long periods of time and paying a vindictive ex lots of money, read on. If you are ok with seeing your children every other weekend and paying child/spousal support, I really have nothing for you. This is only for men like myself who care more about their kids than they do about their ex. This is for men who cannot imagine ‘visiting’ their own children.
One of the main reasons why men never get what they deserve in custody battles is because they give up. For one reason of another, they don’t take a principled stand and never waver. They never take the road less traveled. They are in the fast lane to long term heartache and financial pain. There are plenty of resources and all kinds of information on how to remain the father you want to be. Your fight should not be an attempt to discredit or destroy the mother of your children. It will only backfire. Do it because you want to be a father you have always been to your children.
I’m going to give out advice over a period of time on my blog. I hope that whoever reads this gains a certain amount of wisdom and can use this as a guide to achieve the level of success in court I did.
Rule number ONE for fathers involved in any custody battle:
DO NOT LEAVE THE MARIAL HOME.
I don’t know if you read that right, but I’m going to write out again. Don’t leave! No matter what she does or says or attempts to do to you, under no circumstances will you agree to leave your children. Leaving often radically reduces your chance for custody. If it comes to litigation, you may be portrayed as a father who turned his back on the children. Once you leave, you may never get a chance to get back in. Your ex may try all the tricks in the book. Calling the police, attempting to get a restraining order. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. I’ve seen my friends go through it. The unfortunate thing is that they fell for the okie doke and LEFT! They said they couldn’t take it. My ex called the police on me numerous times. I kept my cool and walked right back in our home after the police left. I had done nothing wrong and the police could tell the call was unwarranted. In fact, there were a few times I called the police on her when she raised her voice and threw objects at me.
Even though it may be incredibly intense, stay under complete control. Yeah, I know, it’s difficult being around a person who gets on your last nerves. Your partner knows how to push your buttons. It’s probably because they installed them. Find a way to disconnect the power. The best way to do that is silence. Do not say a word to your ex about anything except things that pertain to the children’s welfare. Anything else is off limits. When you hear the phrase ‘anything you say can and will be used against you,’ they are correct. SHUT UP! If your spouse provokes you and threatens you in any way, withdrawal to a safe place and call the police. Yes, you heard me, call them. Don’t be ashamed of using the authorities to protect yourself. That is what they are there for. Also, while you are still together , never argue in front of your children. Keep any discussions off limits to their ears. Keep the kids business separate from the business of their parents. Children need reassurance and they hate to see their parents fight.
Things will be rough. Do not fall for any suggestion that you leave and/or sleep with a friend or at a hotel. If you leave for any length of time and you are being sued for divorce, your ex will establish herself as the children’s custodian. She may change the locks and guess what, you are fighting a real uphill battle from there. Do not give into the temptation, no matter how difficult it may be, to leave your children. Do not overreact to emotional forces. Stay in your home!
If your ex says things are intolerable and she cannot take it any longer, suggest to her that she leave. Explain calmly that the kids have their father to rely on and will be safe and sound in your care. I even suggest offering to pay for a hotel for her so she will have a place to stay for a month, or two. Pay now, or you might pay her child support for 21 years and possibly lifetime alimony. The choice is yours.
Fathers need to understand that they are equal partners in child rearing. Children need a mother and a father. Why should that change after a divorce? Divorce is a disturbing and horrific game. It is best for you to understand the rules. If you are a caring, loving, responsible, thoughtful father and you understand that there is no longer a possibility to save your adult relationship, you might want to be proactive and make the right moves before the game is played. I sincerely hope that in the future people chose not to play it because the reality is this – you, your ex and your children are the biggest losers.
Never abandoning your family is one of the first things I heard about when things were starting to go south in my relationship. I heard it from the men’s support group, I read it in several books and when I asked my attorney about it, he confirmed that it is best to stay in the marital residence. Enduring 11 months of almost constant stress proved to be one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. It made me a much stronger man, a better, even more committed father and a living example of what anyone can do if they want to beat the family court system. You can follow my example and have similar results, or you can leave and hope for the best.
If you are anything like me, you just might wind up happy with the decisions you make before your get to court.