Fathering After Divorce

Fathers often are the forgotten parent when it comes to divorce. A father is looked at as the parent who supports the mother, sometimes assisting her in the parenting of the child or children. Yet this implication can have a very toxic impact on the relationship of the divorced father and his child or children. Typically, mothers receive physical custody leaving fathers as the non-custodial parent and offering at best a liberal visitation schedule. This may be a long road to walk and often leaving the father / child relationship strained.

Mothers remain very involved with their child or children, performing daily activities for and with the child or children. The father on the other hand often is the person who walks into and back out of the child’s life with sporadic visits. Fathers aren’t even expected to spend as much time with their child as mothers are. Note the key term here is expected. As a whole, there is not as much expectation when it comes to a father’s role or involvement with the child.

Almost half of American marriages end in divorce. In about 90 percent of divorces, custody is awarded to mothers with fathers receiving visitation. Fathers might see their child once or twice a week; often children do not see their fathers at all. It is estimated that after 10 years after the divorce approximately two-thirds of the children won’t see their father at all. There are about 30% of children now born to unwed mothers, leaving some of the children to never really bond with their father at all.

If the father remarries, the child feels displaced which also leads to the deterioration of the father / child relationship. Biological children believe the father’s loyalty shifts to the new family. Often fathers and their relationship with their children are looked at harshly. Fathers are viewed as absent or dead-beat. However, if a mother remarries, the relationship with the child is less affected. If mothers remarry, it is usually not as quickly after the divorce as fathers remarry.

Divorced dads are categorized as follows:

The Disney Dad – this dad engages the child in recreation, not real parenting. Dads of this type rather have fun with their child, in and of itself is not an issue, it is the actual lack of parenting, lack of structure missing from the child’s life.

The Deadbeat Dad – this is the father who does not pay child support. Whether dad is unemployed or is having financial difficulties, he fails to meet the child support obligation for his child. Often Mom will mention just how much Dad owes in back child support, often alienating the child based on financial obligation alone.

The Disappearing Dad – this Dad is the one who moves away, remarries or cohabits with a person not the child’s Mom and now focuses his attention on the new home or family or relationship. Often the Disappearing Dad does so because of constant conflict between Mom and himself, or Mom continually taking Dad back to court for some reason or another. This father will become angry and not having enough time with his child, but will disappear anyway.

Maybe Dad has a legitimate reason to lessen the involvement with his child; but as far as the child is concerned, no reason is good enough. Dads will stop being involved with their child because of Mom’s anger, continued conflict between Mom and Dad over support, Dad may feel there is maternal bias in the court system; Step Dad takes over as Dad, custodial Mom remarries and moves away from Dad. Again, no matter the reason, no reason is good enough in the eyes of a child. A child wants to see his or her father, and will question his or her self-worth and even his or her ability to be loved if the child believes his or her father does not love them.

Once the child reaches adulthood, reconciliation and the relationship between Dad and child may improve. Some children blame their father for the divorce, worsening of finances for Mom and them, and are genuinely sad about not having their dad around. Abuse is a different story, often children are relieved that dad is gone, but there is still a sadness that lingers – even if the child no longer considers his or her father a part of his or her life.

Often the child who is enlisted in parental disputes will experience conflict between loyal to Mom but also loving Dad. Parents should always avoid tipping the scales in their favor when it comes to the love and loyalty of the child. The child has the right to both parents.

If infidelity on the part of the father, and this was the cause of the divorce, often the child cannot forgive their father. The child will blame the infidelity for the deterioration of the father / child relationship.

Communication is a key factor to having a good relationship with your child. Children who lived at least half time with their Dad had better relationships than children who saw their dad less than at least half time.

To have a good relationship with your child, after the divorce, become more involved in the actual parenting of your child. Take more responsibility for the child’s upbringing, make an effort to have a good relationship with your former spouse, and above all, spend quality time with your child. You do not have to be the father described above.

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