Divorced Dad Wants to Know How to Handle Custody Issues

This was a heartbreaking question to receive. A divorced dad is asking advice on how to handle custody issues:

When we got divorced I had a very demanding job and gave in to her terms. I was trying to be nice. Now I want to see my kids more and she said they are too young. My daughter is 8 and my son is 5. She’s saying “that’s what the decree says so that’s what we agreed to and that’s what we are doing.” Any advice on how to get her to compromise?

Ugh, I’m so sorry you are going through this. I truly feel for you. It is so very sad, not only for you but for your children, too, and it is very unfair.

In my opinion, I think that when people are going through the divorce process, they just want it to be over. They want it behind them so they can move on, and they also don’t want to keep paying attorneys fees, which is understandable.

But, because they feel this way, they sometimes settle for things they are not really comfortable with, and they don’t think things through enough. This can happen with anything, not just custody.

So, in my opinion, I think you walk out of a divorce with that same feeling you have when buying a car. You’re not sure if you just got a great deal or you got screwed. But somehow it doesn’t matter, because you’re so happy you’re done. It’s a tremendous relief. It feels liberating and like a huge burden has been lifted off of you, right? But my point is, what you settled for DOES matter, because if you sign your decree with things you aren’t 100% sure of, you will suffer later. Especially when it comes to custody arrangements.

A couple can say to each other, “Let’s just put this custody agreement in a drawer and co-parent the best we can by adjusting to each other’s schedules and having an arrangement that works better for us.” And that’s actually great. When mom has to work (or vice versa), dad (or mom) will take the kids, even though it’s not “his (or her) day.” Better than leaving them with a sitter, right? The kids get the benefit of more parenting time, and so do the parents. If couples can work out their custody issues in that way, I think it is beautiful and GREAT for the kids.

But the sad reality is, maybe mom gets angry at dad because she just found out he is dating her friend, and so she ceases to do him any favors, thus hurting the kids in the end (indirectly.) So, she decides to go strictly by the book and pulls out the custody arrangement “from the drawer.” Now, if dad has to work and it is his day, he has to get a sitter. Or, in your case, if he wants to see his kids more, she says “no way. That’s not what we agreed to.”

The lesson is, DO NOT SIGN a divorce decree with a custody schedule you are not 110% completely happy with, no matter how long the process takes. Might cost you more heartache and money, but so what. It will be worth it later.

I’m not saying you are dating your ex-wife’s friend, but your ex obviously has some anger/resentment towards you, and is using the decree to get back at you. Or, could she have trust issues with you? Maybe she doesn’t trust you with the kids? That’s a completely different issue.

My advice to you is, first sit down and talk to your ex, very calmly and rationally. No screaming or swearing or name calling, just explain that you love your kids, that you are capable of caring for them, your situation has changed at work and you want to see them more.

If she says no, you have to explain to her that you have the right to go back to court and amend your custody arrangement. Both parties can do that at any time (at least in Illinois, I’m not sure about other states but I have to believe it is probably acceptable to do so.)

And if she says, “go ahead and do it,” than what choice do you have? I would talk to her first and then talk to your attorney.

In closing, remember that you are your kids father and you deserve to spend time with your children! Don’t beat yourself up for signing an agreement that wasn’t right for you. It felt right at the time, so don’t second guess yourself. Just do the right thing moving forward.


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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Guy Grinning is a blog for men facing divorce and dating after divorce. It's kind of like hanging out with your platonic female divorced friend and hearing her perspective on your divorce and your love life issues.

2 Responses to “Divorced Dad Wants to Know How to Handle Custody Issues”

  1. Karen Covy

    Jackie is right — Talking to your ex is step one. You can always go back to court, too. But if talking to your ex gets you nowhere, and you are not up for going back to court right now, another approach you can try is to get more involved in your kids’ lives in other ways: coach their soccer team, go to all of their school events, take a day off work and volunteer to chaperone their field trip. Do whatever you can to share their activities and their lives. That still may not get you all of the extra time with them that you want, but it will get you something, and will very likely strengthen your relationship with your kids. That alone may show mom that the kids would do better if they had more time with you. On the other hand, if mom pulls the kids out of their activities just to avoid contact with you, that could be powerful evidence in court to support your argument that you need to change the parenting schedule to give you more time because that is the only way you can get it.

    Hope this helps!


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