In this article, you will learn:
- Why there is a common perception that children lose contact with divorced parents
- The historical background of the disadvantage fathers are at in custody and divorce matters
Gender roles aren’t something that the law requires you to step into, it’s usually a choice someone makes, maybe because of the way they were raised, or maybe they just think “That’s what people do, I guess that’s what I’ll do.” The most common gender roles we see people slipping into are the “working dad” who doesn’t get to see their kids a lot, and the “stay-at-home mom” or the “primary caregiver” mom who has a less-demanding work schedule and spends more time with the kids, takes them to most of their appointments, etc. Dads in custody cases often have that moment where they think about it and decide, “I don’t want to do that, I want to be in my kid’s life; I want to see him every day, maybe I’ll be a stay-at-home dad, maybe I’ll flip things,” but it can be very hard to get out of a gender role once you’ve already put yourself there. These gender roles can be a trap for dads, and can turn into a situation where maybe mom is isolating dad from the kids and alienating them saying “Your dad’s not here, he doesn’t want to spend time with you, he doesn’t like you,” and sometimes it turns into a situation where we see estrangement where the kid realizes on their own “Maybe dad doesn’t want to spend time with me, he hasn’t been around and that makes me feel bad.” In those situations, dads need to fix it because they caused it. This isn’t a blame mom situation all the time at all, it’s very much sometimes dad’s fault because dad chose that role for themselves, and now they have to get out of it.
Other times, we see situations where the parents grow resentful of each other because maybe dad hasn’t been around so much and doesn’t have much parenting time, so he’s “fun-time” dad. When the kids go with them, they’re having a good fun time, they go to the amusement park, they go to the movies, and it’s easy for dad to spend money on them and have a good time with them during a small amount of parenting time whereas mom becomes the “work-a-day school year mom,” and it’s not as fun, and the moms feel resented which sometimes gets projected on the kids. So there’s a lot of different situations there, but the key thread across all of them is the dad must choose what time he wants to spend with his kids, and he’s got to make that time meaningful in a way to create and maintain a meaningful relationship with his kids. If they have a bunch of time with their kid and they don’t do anything meaningful, they just sit around the couch watching TV, it’s kind of a waste. If they don’t have a lot of time and it’s all really meaningful, that can still be a good thing.
Why It May Seem Like The Deck Is Often Stacked Against Divorced Or Unwed Fathers When It Comes To Family Court Matters
Historically, we had the tender years doctrine that says, “During their tender years, kids need mom more than dad,” but we don’t do that anymore. Still, the deck is stacked against dads, and realistically, I think dads stack the deck against themselves more often than not. When they get into these situations, a lot of dads I’ve found come to me and say, “I’m in this bad situation now, and I’m there because I didn’t want to fight, I didn’t want to cause trouble, and I didn’t want to rock the boat.” Then they find themselves pushed into some kind of agreement or they find themselves going to court and being subjected to some kind of order, and afterwards, they realize that order isn’t what they wanted, but it’s too late. They didn’t hire a lawyer, they didn’t fight for their rights in court, and they just rolled over and took it… and then, afterward, they finally decided to fight, but they should have decided that months or years beforehand. There are other ways that the court’s stacked a bit against dad – moms talk about this kind of stuff. You go on Facebook, you’ll find a mommy group full of moms telling each other all sorts of information about, “Here’s what I did to get custody,” and you don’t really see a lot of that for dads. When you do, sometimes it isn’t going to promote a good co-parenting relationship. Dads just don’t have a lot of good resources and mentors out there, even online, so they don’t have as easy a time talking to their peers and mentors about how to get through these cases, whereas women often have a lot of resources and a really good support network available to get them through these kinds of cases.
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