By Matt Allen
Note: This is the first part in an occasional series on “real life” experiences of divorced dads. If you’d like to share your experience and divorce advice, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard (not his real name) is a 40-something who recently re-married following a divorce. He has four children from his previous marriage (one adopted) and now three stepchildren drawing the inevitable Brady Bunch references.
His three biological children live with him and his adopted child lives with his ex wife.
What was it like moving out with your biological kids and leaving your adopted son behind with his mom?
During the separation and up until a few months we had a 50/50 arrangement. During this time the oldest really struggled in school and with behavioral problems. This wasn’t new for him but simply got much worse during this time. I was awarded custody of all 4 children at trial with the mother getting an extended every other week parenting plan ordered by the court.
My adopted son didn’t go to live with his mother until a few weeks ago. He was still having issues at school, was having issues with his siblings and was generally unhappy living under my roof and expressed his desire to go live with his mother. We’re trying it out and I have little doubt that if he doesn’t straighten up for his mother she will send him back to live with me.
The fact that your three biological kids live with you full-time is not that common for fathers, unfortunately. Have you thought about what it could have been like had your biological children had an every other week visitation arrangement?
I thought about it constantly for the entire time before the trial. I’m fortunate my ex made the decisions that she did and that I found the forums at DadsDivorce.com to guide me through the process of divorce and custody. Without that resource and left on my own, I would have made some really big mistakes that probably would have cost me custody.
My ex is not a vindictive person and I doubt she would have kept the children from me. But having custody as I did allowed me to make some very important quality of life decisions that allowed me to move on after the divorce. I would have been stuck in a town where I didn’t know anyone, faced with a long commute to work, paying over half my income in support and forced to live broke and alone.
You mentioned to me that not having a dad around while you were growing up was an important influence in your decisions during the divorce process. How so? What did that change about your thinking?
I remember as a boy wishing I had a father to take me places, teach me things and do things with me. I can now have the father-son relationship I wanted since I was a child, only from the father’s side. Before coming home to an empty house and finding out my ex wanted a divorce, I took it for granted that they would always be there. Now, every day is a blessing.
What’s it been like blending a Brady Bunch-esque family together?
It’s been a challenge with new challenges coming every day. The children are all close in age and enjoy playing with each other. There has been very little conflict and they’ve all been very accepting of each other and the situation in general. My kids love their new stepmom and she’s great with the kids. We get the Brady Bunch reference a lot. I still get a chuckle seeing the looks on others faces when they’re spilling out of the van like it’s a clown car.
Lessons I’ve learned with dealing with my ex have been very helpful to my wife in dealing with her ex. Keep things simple, low conflict. Text and e-mail whenever possible. Simply smile and wave and don’t feed into any drama.
Finally, what does Father’s Day mean to you?
I’ve never been much of a holiday person. With young kids, Father’s Day has just been a day to spend with the kids around the house and enjoying their company. I can’t say every day is Father’s Day, but I definitely am thankful every day that I have the opportunity to raise my children and have them with me.
Note: This is the first part in an occasional series on “real life” experiences of divorced dads. If you’d like to share your experience and advice, please e-mail email@example.com.