For most dads, divorce will be the most difficult experience they ever go through. As grueling as the initial stages of divorce can be, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and there are even some upsides to life as a divorced father.
However, to enjoy that newfound freedom and ensure that you receive a child custody arrangement that affords you the amount of parenting time with your children that you want, it is important to get in touch with a divorce lawyer who focuses on men’s divorce and father’s rights. They can help you navigate the ins and outs of the divorce process and give you the resources you need to educate yourself about the intricacies of family law.
If you are a father heading down the road to divorce, you should be aware of what’s in store for you.
Here are four of the biggest challenges facing divorced fathers.
1. The Family Court System Seems to Work Against Divorced Fathers
One of the most discouraging aspects of divorce for many fathers is that it seems like the family court system is working against them at every turn.
In recent years, the shared parenting movement has made progress in passing legislation that recognizes the importance of fathers, but child custody statutes throughout the United States still do a poor job of promoting the equal involvement of both parents.
The fact of the matter is there still exist far too many gender stereotypes stemming from the traditional nuclear families of the 1950s and 1960s, in which the father served as financial breadwinner, while the mother stayed in the home to raise the kids. Society has evolved and it is no longer safe to assume that the wife solely is taking on all domestic and childrearing duties.
According to data from the Pew Research Center, the employment rate of married mothers increased from 37 percent in 1968, to 65 percent in 2011. During that same period, more fathers quit their jobs to stay home and raise their children to allow their wives to continue advancing their careers.
When many of these families are unexpectedly faced with divorce, the husband feels shame asking for alimony or child support, even when he has sacrificed potential earnings for the good of his family. It is double standards like this that make divorce seem like such a lose-lose proposition for so many men.
2. The Child Support System is Flawed
Divorced fathers are less likely to receive primary custody of their kids and therefore, more likely to be ordered to pay monthly child support. Ideally, those child support payments would be used to ensure all the necessary expenses required to provide for a child are taken care of.
The amount of child support a father has to pay is usually based on his current income – or in some states, that income is imputed, which raises a whole other set of issues. However, if he suddenly finds himself unemployed for whatever reason, his child support does not automatically pause. He must file for a modification, which might require the help of an attorney, which is an additional cost for someone already going through financial struggles.
If he decides the process is too confusing, child support arrears will quickly accumulate. If he falls too far behind, he can be sent to prison for being in contempt of court. While he is locked up, his child support payments still do not necessarily stop. This crushing cycle goes on and on as his debt continues to snowball.
This is another reason why it is absolutely essential to get in touch with a family law attorney if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot afford your child support payments. The attorney fees pale in comparison to the debt that can build up by failing to act.
3. Divorced Fathers Face Increased Health Risks Because of Divorce
The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale lists divorce as the second-most stressful life event behind only the death of a spouse or child. After experiencing so much anxiety, heartache, and general upheaval, your health is bound to suffer.
Research shows that divorce puts men at risk for a number of long-term health problems. Divorce increases the rate of early mortality for men by up to 250%. They also are more at-risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and cancer.
As significant as the financial challenges divorce presents, the physical health problems that can develop are equally important. Men should be aware of the risks so they can take action and mitigate the odds of developing any long-term problems.
Cultural and societal factors devalue the importance of self-care for men. Men are less likely to go to the doctor for regular check-ups and tend to throw their mental health on the backburner. These factors almost certainly contribute to a shorter life expectancy.
Divorce puts a lot on your plate, but it is critically important to set aside time to take care of yourself. Daily exercise, even if it is just a brisk 15-minute walk, is proven to fight against depression and other health issues and also is a good way to clear your head.
It is common for a guy’s diet to suffer in the wake of divorce, so make sure you are eating a healthy diet full of nutritious vegetables and fruits.
4. Divorced Fathers Often Lack Adequate Support Systems
For many reasons, it seems tougher for guys to get back on their feet after divorce than it is for women. Research shows that women might experience more emotional turmoil after a split, but men have more difficulty recovering.
That is partially because of guys’ tendency to form more of their identity from their spouse. Couples share the same social circle, and when the marriage ends, their friends tend to choose sides. It is easy for a guy to feel like his friends are abandoning him, and that makes it harder to form a support system.
Add in the stigma against men who show any sort of emotional vulnerability and you have a recipe for disaster. There is no reason to try to act like a tough guy if you are struggling with the emotional devastation of divorce. If you cannot find the support you need from friends and family, reach out to a licensed therapist or counselor and they can help you through this difficult process.