A dad explains: “Why I don’t see my child.”

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Mention the fatherless epidemic in the United States, and the arguments are polarizing:

Why fathers walk away after divorce

It is either:

  1. Men are irresponsible douchebags who abandon their children to mothers, who are left to raise the children with few resources, or …
  2. Women are conniving, malicious, entitled nut-jobs who alienate fathers from their children while taking all said fathers’ money — all of which is supported by the family court system.

How can a father walk out on his child?

After studying this issue for the four years I’ve had this blog, I understand that the issue is complicated and nuanced, and there is plenty of legitimate room for both of these points of view.

Struggling with not seeing your child? Struggling because you miss your dad? Consider online counseling. BetterHelp is rated A+ with the Better Business Bureau, and offers unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions with a certified, licensed therapist. Financial assistance available.

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Ready to take action? Join MomsForSharedParenting.org — an activist org devoted to changing policy, law, culture and attitudes around parenthood. Time for 50/50 default parenting! 

A father’s experience with parental alienation

What I haven’t reported much is the point of view from the checked-out dads, many of whom have shared with me articulate, thoughtful, and often heart-breaking accounts of why they are not part of their children’s lives.

These stories resonate with me, as they have challenged my earlier, blind admonishments that every parent has a moral obligation to fight for their children, no matter what.

I still believe this, but I also believe in empathy, and for recognizing each other’s humanity.

Here is one story from a reader:

Related: Parental alienation: A call to change parenting culture — and law

Point of view from a dad who doesn’t see his child

From John G:

From my own experiences, I believe it’s widespread for women to use children as a weapon to exact revenge against the ex during, and after, divorce proceedings.

During my lengthy divorce, my ex-wife claimed I was abusive, that she was ‘afraid for her safety,’ and tried to get ‘supervised visitation.’

None of it worked, because it wasn’t true, and because, as an educated professional I had enough money to spend six figures on an attorney.

However, it was still a waste of time and money. Even after the divorce, the games continued.

My son was being tutored on what to say to me (did you ever hear a 7-year-old respond ‘I’m not comfortable talking about that’ when asked a question?) and being instructed to call me by my first name and not ‘dad.’ I grew tired of making phone calls that weren’t answered, or of being put on hold and the child not coming to the phone, and of canceled visits.

It was heartbreaking seeing the child slip away from me, little by little.

I went to court on several occasions. There is the assumption that the man will just sit there and take the abuse because he does not want to lose the child.

She stuck by the letter of the law, and was able to severely limit my contact with my son by way of orders of protection and maintaining to the courts that he was a ‘danger.’

Orders of protection as divorce strategy

Of the divorced, professional men that I know, all of them had orders of protection against them by their wives.

This is even a problem that is recognized by the courts. Some attorneys go so far as to admit that the ‘afraid for my safety’ issue is part of the ‘gamesmanship of divorce.’ I went from the mindset of being a father to the child, to being reduced to the status of a ‘visiting uncle’ or a ‘Disneyland dad’ allied with thinking all the time like an attorney.

I was often worried what would happen if she started to make untrue claims that I had (for example) abused the child. When he fell over and scraped his arm when he was with me, I was advised by my attorney to go to all the trouble of going to the doctor, having the scrape bandaged and so on, just to legally cover myself in case she would claim that it had in fact been intentionally caused.

While on the lookout for anything that could be used against me, all the while constantly being told I was a bad person, a bad father, and all my involvement with my son was systematically stripped away. The whole process became a painful sham.

Father refuses to see his child? Not quite …

I eventually reached a crossroads with four paths. Some men commit suicide because they can’t handle the anguish. Others resort to violence and anger against the ex-wife. Others take the difficult road, and sacrifice years of their happiness, battling on a hopeless battle with the ex, just to maintain some sort of contact with the kids. The fourth way, is to simply give up, and decide that the cost to the child through seeing the conflict, and to oneself, is too high.

Consider online therapy to help you through painful challenges >>

I considered all the above paths for a long time and was tempted by more than a few of them. In the end, I walked away from all contact with my child more than two years ago.

Mother keeping child away from father

After I had calmed down, I tried again and contacted the ex. I had hoped she would have calmed down and would be willing to work with me.

But no, she is still the same bitter and vengeful baggage that she always was. Rather than attempting to discuss things and put things on the right track, she is willing to communicate in writing only.

She refuses point blank to let me contact the child. Everything has to go through her.

Some people will say it would be the noblest thing to carry on fighting regardless. ‘I would do anything for my kids!’ they spout.

Frankly, I feel that’s very naive and is almost always a view propagated by women.

Any father here who has been generously granted a weekend every two weeks knows the feeling when you say goodbye.

You’re just getting used to having them around, and they are gone. It’s like having a wound that never heals. Like a band-aid being ripped off over and over. The pain never really went away.

During those days, I used to recall these lines from Shakespeare’s King John:

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;

Logically, I have to balance the damage to myself, my life and mental health, the possibility of the conflict damaging the child, against the damage done by my absence.

People who don’t know the situation raise their hands in horror, or pass judgment, assume that this is a choice that is taken lightly and easily. It is not.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. Sometimes I see children in shops that look like my child and find it hard not to break down.

Sometimes I can’t take my eyes away. Even the shoes are the same. I don’t like to watch movies with children of that age in them.

I had to remove all the photographs that I had of my child and every other item and put them in a box. And that’s where all those emotions are now.

In a box, held tightly under control, so that I can try and enjoy some semblance of a normal life. It usually works.

I spoke to my ex recently. She claims that the child is just fine. She doesn’t seem to think that I’m needed and believes that my seeing the child is a bad thing.

She told me that the gifts I had been sending postally were in a box and he never got them. What is the point of trying? Who am I to argue?

She lives with the kid and does the real parenting. All that I could do, once a month or less (she lives a long way from me) would be to visit for a shallow shared visit, a museum trip perhaps – that’s not parenting – that’s just being a Disneyland dad.

I am in despair that many people and the courts expect the impossible. They expect the man to be totally interested, committed, involved with his child’s life – and yet – they make it impossible for that involvement to happen.

How can you remain interested and involved when you are given no information about the child’s everyday life, when even the most basic contact is made difficult or impossible, when you are limited to four days a month contact time if you are lucky?

In far too many cases, the father is merely viewed as a source of income.

The mother is viewed as the ‘real parent’ who almost always gets physical custody of the child. And once she has the child, she is then almost entirely free of the threat of any consequences.

Consider online therapy to help you through painful challenges. Very affordable, convenient and anonymous (no one will see your car parked in front of the counselor’s office!), get the help you and your family need via video, phone or text therapy. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

How fatherlessness affects children

This is a great shame for the children involved who will probably be involved in divorces of their own or be afraid of marriage because they have seen the consequences when they fail.

I shouldn’t be surprised if more and more men eschew marriage and traditional family values over the next century.

Personally, I refuse to be blackmailed by my better instincts. I refuse to be reduced to the level of a Disneyland dad by some judge, attorney, social worker or indeed his mother.

I refuse to beg for access, or beg for photographs, or ask permission when I can please take him on vacation.

No. They will have no more of me.

One day, I will be able to get in touch without going through her once the child is old enough. Until then, I intend to get on with my life.

Please listen to Terry Brennan, co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, explain why default every-other-weekend visitation leads to absentee fathers.

Note that in cases where ‘standard’ visitation is awarded — every-other-weekend — fathers become depressed and non-involved, and within 3 years, one study found, 40 percent of children in an unequal visitation arrangement had lost complete touch with their non-custodial parents, which are nearly always the father.

Have a listen:


Read more about Emma Johnson’s stance in favor of shared parenting, empathy for absentee fathers, and other related topics here:

The real reason your ex doesn’t see the kids

Related books:

Kickass Single Mom, Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children, By: Emma Johnson

Blend, The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family, By: Mashonda Tifrere

Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex: What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Tries to Turn the Kids Against You, By: by Amy J. L. Baker, PhD and Paul R Fine, LCSW

Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, By: Dr. Richard A. Warshak

What do you think? Are you a dad who no longer sees his kids? Why? Please share in the comments …

Or, are you the mother of a child with an absentee father? What is your response?

Here is my advice to moms and dads whose other parent is not involved.

If you are tempted to turn your child against the other parent, or not sure what is the best kind of parenting time arrangement, keep it simple, and equal. In fact, there are now more than 60 studies that prove that equally shared parenting is best for children (and, moms and dads!).

While we’re at it, have a read about why a simple, fair 50-50 shared parenting time with no child support is the best, fairest, and most feminist arrangement.

Why coparenting is important

To prevent this kind of trauma, here are some tips to how to make co-parenting work:

  • Accept that mothers and fathers are equal. This is a gender equality issue
  • Accept that just because the other person doesn’t parent like you do, that is not abuse.
  • Let him fail, succeed and find his own parenting style. Many dads become better fathers after divorce because they have to.
  • When communicating with him, use ‘your house’ and ‘my house’ … not ‘Home.’ Same when you address the kids – “daddy’s house” and “my house.” Both places are their homes..
  • Keep him posted on matters large and small. Even if he doesn’t show up for the teacher meetings, or make the doctors appointments, keep him abreast of what is happening with the kids.
  • Buy him holiday and birthday presents on behalf of the kids.  

One of the first co-parenting apps, and widely used app, OurFamilyWizard, which features chat, information storage (like pediatrician and teacher contact info, prescriptions, etc.), and financial record-keeping. 30-day free trial,  discounts for military families, and a program to provide OurFamilyWizard free to low-income families. Each parent can add unlimited numbers of other people for free, including children, grandparents, step and bonus parents, as well as attorneys.

Try OurFamilyWizard for free for 30 days now >>

Read OurFamilyWizard review on Wealthysinglemommy.com >>

But the bigger challenge is to change our culture, from one in which it is presumed that fathers are incompetent, and mothers are the default primary parent. Terry Brennan of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, and an equality activist. Listen to our podcast conversation:

For more on co-parenting communication, and reasons for better shared parenting, read: Co-parenting rules–even with a difficult ex

Are you a child of a father who is was not around? What do you say to this dad?

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.

591 Comments

I’m the mom in this case. My ex husband has a child from a previous relationship. When that child was young, my ex would call every once in a while. Later, he claimed that the mom changed her phone and he didn’t know how to contact her. I found out later, his brothers wife is best friends with the mom – he chose to not try to get in contact. It was messy, but it was also his choice.

Fast forward to my situation. My ex was abusive – verbally, physically, financially, spiritually. Towards myself and both our children. He refused to participate in the divorce, he wouldn’t even open his mail to read what he was awarded. The judge put a time frame for him to retrieve his property or forfeit it – I tried to get him to get his stuff many times, he kept delaying so I said I was done waiting. He wrote letters during the separation saying he was sorry for the physical and verbal abuse, but verbally denies any of it.

He moved out of state recently. He calls maybe every couple of weeks. The visitation rules require professionally supervised visitation because of the physical abuse, and he has not even called the group to set up an interview with them.

Yes, my ex is not the normal situation. But they are out there. Even with the admissions in writing for child abuse, local prosecutor declined to address the situation. I don’t have a restraining order out, but my teenager does after being strangled multiple times.

My ex plays the victim because he “lost his family” in the divorce and I won’t let him get his “junk” (his words). He has refused counseling or classes on DV, still denies he abused us regardless of his written apologies, and tells our young child they will see each other really soon while on the phone even though he’s done *nothing* to start visits.

My teen’s biological dad from a prior relationship calls frequently, visits as often as possible and takes my teen for weekends whenever his work allows the time. It’s a great relationship! My ex husband will likely never choose to be on that level.

I keep coming back to you his article time and time again, as I battle with making the decision about how involved I should be with my children.

All the research shows kids do better in life with both parents, but is this really the case when dad is just everyone’s punching bag?

The dynamic of the relationship with the mother before separation was that dad (AKA me) was always wrong, and as long as dad accepted that, there could be peace in the household. No affection, love, or any nice things, just peace. If dad did not accept that, there was a household colder than an abandoned igloo in winter where the ice lingers for weeks or months.

The children whitnessed this dynamic, and in essence are still of the opinion that a father showing any form of displeasure in an attempt to discipline the children is a wrong father.

My son has autism, and just wants to be with his mother. My daughter is only interested in being with me when the cool people like my sister and new early stage love interest are around. It never occurs to my daughter that the reason I have got a really lovely lady in life now is that I am actually a really decent guy.

I have tried hard to stay in their lives, but receive only negative feedback from them for my effort.

It is easy to become envious of the so called dead beat dad who’s children actually miss them, rather than the scenario of being a good dad who is seen as a wrong dad.

Hi Rachel,

Why are you deeply disturbed?

There are two reasons why it is impersonal…

1) He’s telling his story online to people who don’t know him or ‘the child involved’ so the name doesn’t matter and he may want to remain anonymous. Could that be why it he is keeping it impersonal or do you think it is something else?
Do you think that he should have given the name of his child out to random people on the internet who don’t know him or the child?, knowing that this could cause further damage between him and the child and also ruin his reputation.

2) Or maybe he has distanced himself from a sad situation. Would you have preferred him to refer to the child as ‘My Child’ instead of ‘The Child’?.
Well sadly, when the privilege of knowing ‘your child’ has been taken away from you and there’s nothing at all that you can do about it, then sometimes it doesn’t feel like your child is yours anymore and it is easier to distance yourself from the situation to save yourself from further heartbreak and pain. Can you blame him if this is the case?

So hopefully that has cleared things up from a fathers perspective and I hope that you are no longer disturbed. After all the article is titled “A dad explains: “Why I don’t see my child.”
I don’t know the guy but I’m pretty certain that it is is very personal to him and that he doesn’t write Christmas cards or letters and address them to ‘the child’ or the ‘ex wife’

I can completely relate to his story, I myself Father of 5 have “chosen” to walk away. The word “chosen” is specific to the intent, a choice, stay and loose yourself under the strict manipulative rules and regulations of the other parent, the years of insidious underhanded abuse, complete alienation and isolation. Or leave and at least function and live. I at least can walk past my Sons room (I allow 1 week visits every holiday, and we talk weekly) without breaking down. My much older kids(4) have told me I don’t exist and I’m occasionally sent messages about my grandchildren I’ll never see. Still to this day I receive vial emails with a full psycho analysis of who or what I am.

For the record It took me 5years to finally ask for a divorce and a further 3yrs to move away from my youngest child.
It is NOT easy and a path I would not recommend for the faint of heart. Although I would do it again.
I do NOT Love my Children less, I just have to love myself more.

When a father is abusive, manipulative, and refuses to work on himself, he is able to make it appear that the mother is “alienating”. The term is low hanging fruit setting in motion an immediate pity party for the father.

I am a therapist and more than often if a mother is saying there is abuse, there has been multiple signs of domestic violence, especially with multiple women, a child is not safe with that father unless he decides to be accountable for his actions and choices. We are what we do. Not what we say we do.

Please look into Coercive Control and believe women.

By definition ‘Coercive control’ is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Whilst that is awful, surely it is a separate subject altogether and should be filed under the ‘Abusive Relationships Thread’?.

If someone is abusive, violent, manipulative or dependent on alcohol or drugs, then no one will disagree that the person should not be allowed anywhere near children (or anyone else for that matter) until they seek help or prove otherwise.

But not all relationship breakups feature abuse.

In most of the cases that I have read on here, the father is a loving man who only wants to continue his relationship with his child / children after the relationship between him and the mother has broken down – nothing else, he doesn’t even want to speak with the ex, yet alone abuse her.

So why jump to conclusions on this thread and put a person who has been alienated from their child in the category of “a father (who) is abusive, manipulative, and refuses to work on himself?
I was never abusive, so I guess this puts me in the minority.

I know that there are lots of abusive relationships which is sad and terrible when that happens, but to say “more than often if a mother is saying there is abuse, there has been multiple signs of domestic violence” and to link that comment to this thread is actually assuming that most men in the category of being alienated from their children are abusive.
But as a therapist, I’m sure that you know better than to discriminate or make judgements without knowing the full story from both sides.

I am the mother of children who live with their father and I feel this fathers pain so deeply. I am so close to giving up. The alienation and blatant attempts to completely cut me from their lives takes such a toll and I feel it’s better for all of us Iif I just walk away.

My son is now 5 years old. He has a 3 year old sister who is not biologically mine.
My ex convinced my son another man was his father even though I visited him every other week if not more.
This other man died in a bar fight when my son was 3.
Then my ex cut me off completely. She lied to everyone involved, and the Judge believed her when we went to court.
I was forced to get random drug testing, get a therapist of my ex’s choice, and only see my son 4 hours every other weekend.
I kept my head down. Did everything asked of me. I had to struggle to not give up.
The hopelessness became overwhelming. It became painful seeing my son.
He repeated the lies told about me. He refused to acknowledge he knew me at all.
I almost gave up.
I just kept saying to my self. “Do the right thing” for him and his young sister.
Do the right thing. Just do the right thing.
Be There.
I now have both kids in my house full time.
The mother is working on getting back into their lives.
The truth finally came out.

Just do the right thing.
My son and his sister are now safe, healthy, and happy.

Don’t give up.

My grandson is 5 at xmas. His father has issues regarding cannabis and drink I mainly look after the little boy. His dad wants to see him at xmas. He last saw him last xmas. He makes false promises like I will step up. He pays nothing for the child. Just a present at xmas and birthday which is xmas. He sees him once a year. Should I say he can’t see him anymore if it’s only once per year. Thankyou.

I am in the same situation where I cannot see my 1 year old daughter. This is not how I had imagined my daughter to grow up. Her mother is the most irresponsible human being I have met. At 8 months, during the pandemic, she saw no problem in going out to get drunk with her friends leaving our daughter at home with the nanny. Confronting her let to this situation where unfortunate threats were made and I haven’t been allowed to see my daughter since her first birthday on the 1st of November. She blocked me from all WhatsApp and she doesn’t answer my calls nor respond to my SMS messages. I feel so guilty for bringing my daughter into such a toxic environment. I have been there since she was born and I had the most indescribable connection with her. Looking at the current situation, she will grow up not knowing me.

I read the dad’s story and couldn’t help thinking that he was feeling sorry for himself. Parenting is hard. It hurts and is the hardest thing I have ever done. Kids grow into teens that say hurtful things and make bad choices and tend not to follow their parents advice. Younger kids throw tantrums and challenge boundaries and can be completely exhausting. Not to mention the feeding, cleaning, driving, homework, and schooling. The first time your teen sneaks out and you get a call from the police in the middle of the night. These are the realities of raising kids. I have been doing it on my own for quite a long time. Their dad cheated and left years ago. He didnt have much to do with them when he lived at home with us. That was his doing. I always encouraged him to spend time and bond with them. Now, they dont have much to say to him. It is always really awkward. I know it might hurt him, but honestly he made his bed. He needs to own his actions and be present. I would love for him to be a dad to these kids. They would benefit from having a dad. I also happen to know he has some of these same sob stories he spreads around. He doesnt want to look like a bad guy, so he deflects. Puts the blame on the kids and I. They are angry and have unresolved feelings that he needs to be open to hearing and dealing with. He isn’t willing to put in the effort. Yet, he tells everyone how much he misses them and how they don’t want to visit him. Well, he never calls or texts them. He only wants to see them for holidays or birthdays and even then it is only for an hour or so. It takes time, effort, and unconditional love to be a parent. It takes putting their needs and feelings above your own. It is hard. I dont have the choice to just leave or decide my feelings are hurt. I dont get a break either. I wouldnt change it either. I chose to be a parent. So, yeah, it’s hard. And yes, it hurts. But a parent does not get the choice to walk away. You are hurting the child. I am also thinking if the courts find that you only get supervised visitation, maybe you can look back and find something that might open up your eyes. Yes, there are some false instances of abuse, but more often than not, if you are a decent person, you would be loved, valued, and cherished by your kids and most moms would welcome a co parent partner and a break.

My custody agreement with my child’s father is “as mutually agreed upon”. I had this wording put into our divorce decree because I knew that his father would not visit him as much as the standard possession order called for and I didn’t want him to have any reason to say that I wasn’t holding up my end of co-parenting. I have spent years trying to get him to spend more time with his child, to be met with excuse after excuse as to why he “couldn’t” visit his child. I feel for this father that would really like to spend time with his child, but is met with hostility from the mother, but you still have to be a parent regardless of how hard it is. After 7 years of being separated I am just tired of arguing with my child’s father, trying to make him see the importance of being involved in his child’s life, but I fight for it because my child still wants to see his dad. As a parent you fight for what’s best for them, not what’s best for you.

I live in nyc. Great living dad and separated husband. A month before COVID-19 lockdown my wife got an order of protection stating she feared for her safety. I broke things and used drugs. It has almost been a year and I have not seen my kids. I do not use drugs. Have passed a drug test and the kids are being coached by the mom. The kids are being emotionally and psychologically harmed. Myself included. I am guilty of staying out late and sleeping around. My wife suspects this and this is why things are the way they are. It does not make me a bad dad. I am a great father and have been there since day 1. Every day if there lives I have been there. I live my wife and kids. My rights have been stripped away. I feel as if my life is on pause. I have never harmed my wife or kids. I have contemplated suicide, taking matters into my own hands and possibly walking away until my teenage kids are 18. What is happening is disgusting, not right, down right wrong. And happening on a wide spread level it’s sick. The game is rigged and I don’t feel I should be explaining to six people how I parent. After three kids I know what I’m doing. I get one weekly zoom phone call a week. That’s it. And that is supervised. I do not even get supervised visits. What is happening is like a sick dream. I cannot believe it. God help all those involved and those that are turning a blind eye to what is happening. Shame on the family court system.
Kindly,
A hurt loving father who just wants to love his kids

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