When it comes to custody and divorce, I’ve been around the block, so to speak. I’m pretty versed on how the divorce process goes, but I’m no attorney. What I do know is that when you’re going through a divorce you’re hurt, you’re often surprised, you’re a whole bunch of emotions all rolled into one.I know, because I was a mess, too.
My divorce was nearly eight years ago and I’ll be completely honest with you: I hardly remember a thing about it. It’s all a blur to me now.
My head wasn’t in the right place. My heart was hurt and frankly, I was making piss-poor decisions. I learned a few lessons along the way that I’d like to share with other dads that are headed down the path of divorce. Here are my three pieces of advice for divorcing dads:
Advice: Seek 50/50 Shared Custody
Most courts favor the status quo. If it ain’t broke, they don’t want to try and fix it.
At the time of my divorce, I was able to justify not seeking 50/50 – my son would be “better off” being with his mother more. My son needed his mother. He was only 4 years old and his life was being yanked out from under him. I couldn’t imagine being separated from my son for more than a few hours at a time, but I gave in. I settled for less than 50/50. I settled for less than what I wanted because I thought my son would be better off. I settled for less than what I thought was fair or right for him.
A few years later I changed my mind and filed for a custody modification.
The laws may be different in your state, but in the state of Florida, the “burden” falls on the party filing the motion for the modification to prove a “substantial change” in circumstance. You can’t just seek a modification because you feel like it; you need to have a (good) reason. You would be far better off getting what you want from the beginning than changing your mind after the fact. But heed my advice: you never have a better shot at 50/50 custody than in the beginning. Once you settle for less than half you’re likely going to be stuck with it unless you can easily prove your situation has changed.
Advice: Stand up for your rights – and the rights of your child.
I hate conflict. I avoid it at all costs.
That’s not always such a good thing in a divorce situation. Sure, open conflict isn’t the best thing when you’re divorcing either, but when you don’t stand up for your rights (or those of your child) then you’re just setting the precedence for the rest of the relationship. Unless you’re divorcing with no children, there will still be a relationship that needs to be maintained – even if just an all-business co-parenting one.
Advice: Put your child first.
It’s cliche, I know, but it’s oh-so true, too. Putting your child first is important in the regard that you have to let go of some of that hurt, anger and raw emotion you’re feeling on the inside to make rational, responsible decisions. Putting your child first doesn’t mean rolling over for the sake of avoiding conflict (see above). What it means is that you (and your STBX) are responsible for the health and well-being of your child and you will be called upon to make certain sacrifices as you end your relationship to ensure your child remains healthy and happy.