Fighting For Your Kid

The damage men do to themselves, their family, and their legal status by leaving the home before they have to.

Seated before me is a man, a father, a provider of love to his children. He has soothed scraped knees, changed wet bedsheets at 3 a.m, and taught his boy to ride a bike. He is fighting back tears. We aren’t close enough yet for him to let me see the hurt that comes from losing his family.

I’m a divorce attorney. I specialize in helping men. Frequently a man comes to my office having already left the family home. “I don’t care about the house,” he’ll tell me. “I just want to see my kids.”

I know the story well enough by now: He and his wife weren’t getting along. They were arguing fighting in front of the kids. She kept telling him to “get out, just leave!” So he did. He thought it was best for everyone. He thought that if he moved out, the fighting would stop.

What he doesn’t know, and what I have to tell him, is that he has already lost the custody war.


Moving out of the house is the single worst move a man can make—financially, emotionally, and strategically—during a divorce. (The only time a man should leave is if there is physical violence, or if his wife is cruel enough to lie about being abused in order to get a restraining order.)

Aside from the financial strain of finding an apartment, the husband now gets blamed for “leaving.” Moving out has created a “status quo” as far as the courts are concerned. Since dad left the kids with mom, the court thinks that he feels they should be with her, and that’s most likely what will happen.

He will get every other weekend and a weeknight dinner. This is the bad news I have to deliver to the man who sits in front of me in tears.

Men are hugely uneducated about what happens in a divorce or a child custody battle. We don’t talk about it with each other. We don’t strategize. This is our undoing.

Good men don’t leave until they have to. Good men talk to each other and get help. If we don’t, we lose our rights—and our kids.

About David Pisarra

David Pisarra is a Father's Rights Attorney in California. He is the host of the Men's Family Law Podcast available on iTunes and his website is


  1. my wife was asked to leave, bipolar and alcohol abuse and running around. i keep kids, pay for her medical bills, her psychiatrist, her meds, family counseling, and $1000 a month to supplement her income. 4 daughters. LAst friday, she didnt return them and fabricated some abuse letters involving me making the kids do laundry and riding a bike. All bull, but she has the “letters” from the older two and she has the kids. Contempt is filed, but i feel like none of the caring and stability matters – she wants them and takes them no matter and there’s nothing to do legally other than file some papers and wait and see…..meanwhile she if filling their heads with toxic waste.. yes – their rights are unending. i’ve heard this over and over from men. its killing me inside to believe that those beautiful little girls are listening to this bull malarky and now ” dont want to talk to their dada……ugh

  2. I made the same mistake. Sadly, I’m still fighting it, despite the fact that she is remarried to someone with a history of DV with my son in the house. Just because he hasn’t physically harmed my son–yet–I have spent close to $10k trying to get a judge to decide that my home is a more stable environment (it’s been a year, and the only courtroom I’ve seen is when I took out an injunction on behalf of my son). F*&@ the Dept of Children and Families, who admits to “moderate risk,” but won’t remove my son from that house. I feel like the only sane person in the world.

  3. Perry,
    In general, the rules are *supposed* to apply equally. The facts of each case make it difficult to say hard and fast rules, but in over 10 years of fighting for men, I’ve seen it happen that when mom moves out and leaves the children, the court keeps that in place. Much of it all depends on who was the primary caregiver, primary wage earner, is mom working and traveling, is dad, these determinations are not like aritmetic (2+2=4) but more like algebra (1a x 3G = 4z) with a dash of judicial bias thrown in that cannot be accounted for, or regulated.

    That’s why you need an experienced lawyer to give a read on the situation.

  4. Good advice, David.

    I’ve been fortunate in a reasonably amicable divorce and de facto wound up with custody of our daughter, but I wonder if the “status quo” legal status applies equally to women. That is, a woman leaves a home and child–do the courts subsequently perceive her to have conceded rights to the home and children, or do women enjoy a limitless right to return?

    In other words, if a woman leaves, what are the legal ramifications for her?


  1. […] their necks that the ex-wife uses. I address the strategic issue of whether to move or not in this article posted at The Good Men […]

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