5 Challenges Divorced Dads Must Overcome

Divorce is a tough process for everyone, but it can be especially brutal for dads. There are a number of societal, cultural, and legal factors that seem to conspire to make life for divorced dads difficult.

The good news is there also are some upsides to the divorced dad life, but there are some obstacles to overcome first. To get to that healthy place where you can enjoy your newfound freedom and quality time with your children, it is imperative to find a divorce attorney who focuses on fathers’ rights, whom you can trust to keep yours and your children’s best interests in mind.

If you are at the beginning of the divorce process, a divorce lawyer for men can help you understand what you are up against and figure out realistic goals you want to achieve.

Here are five of the biggest challenges divorced dads must face.

System that seems predisposed against them

The frustrating and sad truth that many dads discover is that at every turn, the family court system seems to be predisposed against fathers.

The shared parenting movement has gained a lot of momentum in recent years, as more courts are recognizing the importance of fathers, but the child custody statutes throughout the United States still do a poor job of promoting the equal involvement of both parents.

There still are too many gender stereotypes that stem from the traditional nuclear families of the 1960s, where the father supported the family financially while the mother stayed home to take care of the kids. This is unfortunate because society has evolved drastically and it is no longer safe to assume that the wife is taking on the primary domestic and childrearing responsibilities.

Data from the Pew Research Center shows that the employment rate of married mothers increased from 37 percent in 1968, to 65 percent in 2011. At the same time, an increasing number of dads are quitting their jobs and staying home to raise their children while Mom advances her career.

Not only are divorced dads less likely to get custody of their kids, but they also are more likely to get saddled with alimony and child support, which is a whole other challenge.

Many dads hit the pause button on their own careers for the good of their families and then feel shame about asking for alimony, even when it is deserved and necessary.

These double standards make divorce seem like a lose-lose proposition for many fathers. With so many factors working against you, it is especially important to get in touch with a family law attorney who focuses on men’s divorce. They will understand the unique challenges dads face during the divorce process and can guide you through the steps needed to take in order to ensure your rights are protected.

The frustrating and sad truth that many dads discover is that at every turn, the family court system seems to be predisposed against fathers. Click To Tweet

A broken child support system

Since divorced dads are less likely to gain primary custody of their children, they are thus more likely to be ordered to pay child support. In theory, child support would ensure all the necessary expenses required to raise a child are taken care of. The items your monthly payments can be used on should be limited to only those items that contribute directly to your child’s upbringing and well-being.

In practice, the system is flawed, archaic, and tends to take a disproportionate toll on low-income fathers.

This is how the system ends up working for many fathers: They are given a monthly child support order that is based on their current income (or, in some states, that income is imputed, which is a whole other issue). However, life changes and a man’s employment is fluid, so perhaps that dad is laid off and temporarily out of work.

Just because he is unemployed, his child support does not automatically pause. He must file a motion to modify that order, which usually requires the help of an attorney – an additional cost for someone who already is struggling financially. The process is so confusing that a lot of guys do not even bother with it.

Child support arrears quickly start to snowball, and suddenly, there is a mountain of debt. If he falls too far behind, he can be sent to prison for contempt of court. While he is locked up, those child support payments keep coming, unless he acts to stop it. This crushing cycle goes on and on.

If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot afford your child support payments, it is critical to get in touch with a family law attorney as soon as possible to see what  you can do to modify the order. The cost of the lawyer pales in comparison to the debt that can add up by failing to act.

Unfair stereotypes

Part of the reason that the child support system is so harsh on divorced fathers is because for years, there has been an overemphasis on collecting payments. The system priorities enforcement over fatherly involvement in children’s lives.

This punitive system is largely the product of the myth of the deadbeat dad. There is an assumption in society that there are a bunch of dads out there who are capable of making child support payments but refuse to do so. This stereotype originates from a 1986 CBS report that profiled a man named Timothy McSeed, who bragged about having six children who he refused to support financially.

While there certainly are irresponsible fathers, and mothers, out there, it is dangerous to generalize based on anecdotal evidence. Empirical data paints a much different story about dads in the child support system.

According to a U.S. General Accounting Office Report, 66 percent of all child support not paid by fathers is due to an inability to come up with the money. A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that most economically disadvantaged fathers still did what they could to provide non-monetary contributions, such as baby products, clothing, and food.

Cordell & Cordell Founder and Principal Partner Joe Cordell has been helping men and fathers through divorce and custody issues for more than 25 years, and he says it is wrong to paint with such a broad brush.

“I know most of these men are not bad people; they love their kids, they want what is best for their kids, they want to be there for their kids,” Mr. Cordell said.

Dads frequently are the butt of jokes in marketing campaigns and often relegated to the second-string parent. Just a couple years ago, Amazon sparked an online protest for naming its parent-focused program Amazon Mom instead of the more inclusive Amazon Family. Old Navy also sneered its nose at dads two years ago with the release of this Father’s Day T-shirt that read “It’s Father’s Day,” but with the words “It’s Her Day” bolded.

Popular culture also tends to treat fathers as bumbling doofuses. The images of Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin would lead you to believe dads are crude, unintelligent brutes capable of little more than lounging on the couch and annoying their wives.

However, the emerging field of fatherhood research shows that modern dads are finding unique and creative ways to emotionally engage with their kids more than ever before. These fathers are doing a lot more than providing financial support. An enormous part of their identity centers on their roles as fathers, and they are committed to doing whatever possible to make sure their children’s emotional needs are met.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Tougher to find a support group

For a number of reasons, recovering from divorce is harder for men than it is for women. The emotional devastation of the divorce process hits everyone, but men and women mourn the end of relationships differently and research shows guys take longer to get back on their feet.

One of the primary reasons for this is that men tend to get more of their identity from their spouse. Couples usually share the same social circle, and when the relationship ends, their friends usually choose sides. Often, the guy will feel like his friends are abandoning him and it can be tough to develop a support group.

There also is a stigma against men displaying any sort of emotional vulnerability, which can lead to a harmful suppression of emotions and feelings. If you are struggling with divorce, do not try to be a tough guy. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale lists divorce as the second-most stressful life event behind only the death of a spouse or child.

There is a natural tendency to shut down in the wake of divorce. It is tempting to wallow around in your apartment with beer bottles and pizza boxes strung all over the place, but this is not the road to divorce recovery.

Reach out for the help that you need. If you cannot find support from friends and family, contact a licensed therapist or counselor.

Health risks

All the stress that is thrown at dads during the divorce process often ends up having an impact on their overall health.

Not only are there health risks in the present, but men face an increased risk of developing long-term problems. Divorce increases the rate of early mortality for men by up to 250 percent. Other studies have shown greatly increased rates of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and cancer.

It is so easy to get caught up in the financial and familial challenges that divorce presents, but the physical health problems that can develop are just as important. Understanding these risks can help you take action, so that your chances of developing any problems are mitigated.

Cultural and societal factors devalue the importance of self-care for men. Just take a look at all the self-care sites on the Internet. They are largely focused on the needs of women. Meanwhile, men are much more reluctant to go to the doctor for regular check-ups, which likely contributes to their shorter life expectancy.

“Men are naturally looked at as strong, impenetrable and pride-driven creatures who build their worth on  how much the can ‘bear’ or handle, so it’s perceived by many men as weak for needing to take care of themselves or take downtime that doesn’t make them seem lazy,” Eliza Belle, a psychologist who focuses on men’s health, told Mel Magazine. “[That’s why] it’s taken society a long time to outwardly recognize the need for male self-care.”

Although you have a lot on your plate, it is essential to carve out time for daily exercise, even if it is just a brisk 15-minute walk around your neighborhood. Exercise is proven to fight against depression and many other health issues, and is a great way to clear your head and make sure you stay in the right frame of mind.

It also is key to make sure you are eating healthy. This can be difficult if your wife did most of the cooking, but you need to take the time to meal prep and avoid eating pizza and fast food every night. This is doubly important when your kids are with you because proper nutrition is vital to their healthy development.

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