by B. Robert Farzad
Over 20 years as a litigator and many of those years a divorce and family law litigator, I have learned fathers who endure difficult divorces are often victims of choices they made during the marriage.
These five mistakes by dads are the ones that lead to the most anger and mistrust. Avoiding them now may make divorce less painful if it happens—and may prevent it from happening at all.
1. Do Not Be A Secondary Parent
Parenting is a shared responsibility. If you choose the “she parents while I work 60-hour weeks to bring home the bacon” road, you may find yourself left with nothing but your half of the bacon.
Work-focused fathers we represent say they never agreed to be the sole breadwinner. “It just happened that way, I swear,” they tell me. Mothers say the opposite. “We agreed! He’d work while I took care of the kids.”
Dad abdicated too much parenting responsibility to Mom. Now, in the divorce, his choice is a sword she may use to get greater parenting time and, in California, more child support.
2. Live For Your Spouse And For Your Children
Many times, I have heard divorcing spouses say they lived for their children. Somehow, they grew apart from their spouses. That spark and love? Gone.
Your children may feel like your entire world, but ask yourself: Are you forgetting someone equally important in that world? You married your wife. You love her. She loves you.
But you can lose that love when you focus too much on raising the children. Continue to work on the relationship that caused the love, respect, marriage—and your bundles of joy.
You and your spouse share responsibility to keep your relationship strong. Because once you lose the spark, you may never get it back. What is next? Mutual resentment, perhaps infidelity and eventually divorce.
3. If Your Kids Seem Distant, Address The Situation Right Away
If your children are acting out against you, disrespecting you or growing distant from you, do not assume it is a phase that will work itself out.
Parental alienation is more common than you may realize. It most often starts when your spouse disparages you to the children or undermines your authority with them.
Talking with your spouse is a good first step. Counseling is another possibility. If you do not do anything, you may regret it.
After years of alienation, your children may have little respect left for you and want little to do with you after a divorce. This may be especially true as they transition into their teenage years. You may be left to wonder how it ever came to this.
4. Be Truthful About the Family’s Finances
Unfortunately, there are too many fathers who during the marriage lie about their income, will not tell their wives how much savings they have, or even hide or divert assets and income to keep this information secret.
Then they wonder why their divorce is so contentious. Be an honest husband. It pays dividends even if the relationship ultimately fails, because trust remains intact.
5. Do Not Micromanage Your Family
You have your style. Your wife has hers. In divorces, the issue of contrasting styles flare up like a wound that will not heal.
Wives who feel they have been controlled for years are often, understandably, very angry about it. That anger can explode during a divorce and cause a lot of damage in the process.
Nobody is going to tell you how to live your life. But husbands who are not overbearing often have more peaceful divorces.
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Good luck dads! I am not only rooting for you, I am one of you.
Please note, this article is not intended to be legal advice or any other type of advice.