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The real reason your ex doesn’t see the kids

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One of the most common and heartbreaking topics I’m asked about is dealing with fathers who don’t see their kids regularly. A mom shared a typically devastating situation:

“My ex-husband doesn’t see his child”

The woman’s 11-year-old daughter’s father would go months without seeing the girl, and instead spent all his time with his new girlfriend. When the mom asked him why he didn’t return the daughter’s phone calls, he replied: “I don’t have anything to say.”

I gave her some ideas about taking the issue to family court, and managing both the daughter’s and her own expectations (stop trying to control him — you can’t). But the advice the mom told me that was most surprising and helpful was this:

Be empathetic.

“Biological father refuses to see his child.” 5 reasons a dad does not fight to be involved

I’m working on that brand of empathy as both a divorced parent and a child of divorce. My own dad was not involved in most of my life — and that devastated me in ways I don’t yet fully understand, but I have harbored a lot of anger about it and so, I have thought deeply about why do fathers abandon their child.

When you recognize that your child needs you — and you are valuable to them — you show up. You take parenting as a responsibility — not an extracurricular activity. Unfortunately, our culture dismisses fathers, and fatherhood. Think about the typical TV dad: Homer Simpson, or Al Bundy, Ray Romano. Nice guys, but bumbling idiots, and as parents, clearly inferior to mothers.

Divorce and family courts reinforce this stereotype, defaulting to visitation and custody schedules in which dads are relegated to every-other-weekend “visitors” with their own children, and told their greatest value to their children is as a breadwinner (the other side of this coin is that women are shoehorned into the primary caregiver role, and forced to be financially dependent on men. More on this in: Why is child support so unfair to fathers? A case for needed reform

Ex feels there is too much drama with kids’ mom

On the surface, “too much baby mama drama” is a petty reason not to have a relationship with your children.

But dig deeper, and you will find many men explain a history of police involvement, restraining orders, and mothers screaming at them in front of the kids. “I worried that all the conflict was hurting the kids more than if I didn’t see them, so I stepped away,” one man told me.

Of course, that is just one side of the story. You, the mom, certainly have your version of events. But consider his. Just consider it.

Here, a dad explains: “Why I don’t see my son.”

Ex did not choose to be a father in the first place

Until June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, women in the United States have a legal, constitutional right to abortions. That means that women in the United States have a legal, constitutional right to decide if she wants to be a mother or not. While conservatives slash away at that right by closing abortion clinics, state by state, women’s access to abortion is dramatically reduced, in practicality.

However, men have virtually no reproductive rights. If a woman gets pregnant, she can choose to carry the baby to full-term, put a man’s name on the birth certificate (or not — her choice), and take him to family court for child support and visitation. The father in these cases has no rights whatsoever about deciding whether or not he wants to be a father. He can be criminally charged if he does not pay court-mandated child support.

While there is no legal repercussions for a non-custodial parent abandoning their child, it is unjust to expect any person, of any gender, to take responsibility for a person they did not choose to bring to this world.

What to do when a parent cancels visits last-minute

Ex feels incapable as a father

The world tells men they are incompetent, bumbling parents. Think of Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, Ray Ramon — even good-hearted Dre on Blackish are all fumbling, lesser parents compared with their competent wives.

This is not surprising in a time when we still herald the stay-at-home mom as martyr-saint, and defer to women as the primary parent in every family — married, separated, divorced or otherwise.

If you were the primary parent during the relationship, and your ex now has just a few days per month with the kids, it is unreasonable to expect him to get into a groove as a father, understand his kids needs and wants, and understand and grow as a dad. In fact, men often report being much better parents after divorce for all these reasons.

Malicious mother syndrome

Malicious mother syndrome is a real medical condition in which one parent is revengeful towards the other, especially in cases of divorce. Parental alienation is a key example, though any display of revengefulness that makes a relationship with the children can be a symptom of this disorder.

Ex is a deadbeat dad

I have been reading the research on this topic, and interacting with single moms and single dads for nearly a decade. There are very few fathers who actively choose to bring a child into this world, and then choose to abandon that child without any good reason.

There are many men who want to be involved, loving fathers who cannot afford to pay the child support sum ordered by the courts. That does not make him a deadbeat, or a bad father who should not be allowed to see his children. Unfortunately, those two functions are often connected: Men who cannot afford to pay child support and are at risk of being arrested for arrears. That dad is not likely to go to family court to fight for more time with his children, out of fear of jailtime for child support arrears.

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How long can a father not see his child?

If there is a custody order in place, both parents must adhere to the visitation schedule outlined in the order.

Parents who do not follow these orders risk losing custody and facing jail time.

How long can a mother keep a child from seeing his or her father?

Child custody orders typically include rules for whether one parent can move away from the other parent without consent, or travel abroad or out of state without permission from the other parent.

Withholding visitation time can quickly put you in bad standing with the court, and put you at risk for losing custody as well as jail time.

Even if there is no custody order in place, a court will likely look unfavorably on a parent who keeps a child from his or her other biological or adoptive parent or guardian. “Friendly parent factor” is an increasingly common term written into state laws, as well as practiced by family court judges, which means that courts look favorably on parents who encourage a positive relationship with the other parent.

How much time must pass of a father not seeing his child before his parental rights are relinquished?

Biological parents have the legal and fundamental right to physical custody of their child, as well as the right to make important legal decisions on behalf of their child, regardless of involvement with the child.

If a parent is absent from a child's life, whether by choice or incarceration, they will generally still be recognized by courts as having parental rights.

However, if a custodial parent dies, goes to jail or otherwise is unable or unwilling to care for their children, then the non-custodial parent, or another relative or loved one may petition the court for primary custody. Otherwise, the state will appoint a guardian, which may include foster care.

On the other hand, if a non-custodial parent does not see his or her child for an extended period, which varies by state, nothing will legally happen. However, if the custodial parent chooses to seek to have that parent's parental rights terminated, he or she may initiate that process.

The other biological parent, a legal custodian or the state would need to take a court action to terminate the absent parent’s rights.

A state views an absent parent as someone who has abandoned their child by failing to make an effort to see or bond with their child for several months or years. Each state has its own laws in this regard.

What to do when the non-custodial parent doesn't show up or cancels last minute

Absent father? How moms can support fathers

First, let’s address the fact that the “deadbeat dad” stereotype is just that: A a trope, for which the history and explanation is complicated. Edward Kruk, PhD, a shared-parenting advocate, and divorce expert, writes in Psychology Today:

Despite President Obama’s 2011 Father’s Day lament on the irresponsibility of “deadbeat fathers” footloose and fancy-free from taking responsibility for their children, in fact the two major structural threats to fathers’ presence in children’s lives are divorce and non-marital childbearing. More often than not, fathers are involuntarily relegated by family courts to the role of “accessory parents,” instead of active caregivers.

This view persists among many, despite the fact that fathers in two-parent families, before divorce, typically share with mothers at least some of the responsibility for the care of their children. This is both because fathers have taken up some of the slack while mothers work longer hours outside the home, and because many fathers are no longer content to play a secondary role as parents. Most fathers today are keen to experience both the joys and challenges of parenthood, derive satisfaction from their parental role, and consider active and involved fatherhood to be a core component of their self-identity.

Whereas parents in general are not supported as parents by our social institutions, divorced fathers in particular are often devalued, disparaged, and forcefully disengaged from their children’s lives. Researchers have found that for children, the results are nothing short of disastrous.

Father Absence, Father Deficit, Father Hunger

The vital importance of paternal presence in children’s lives. Psychology Today

Kids who miss their fathers is just a surface symptom of deep psychological and societal issue that results when one parent is missing completely or partly from a child’s life. It is not just that the father (in the majority of cases) is not present to be involved, teach, care for and share in financial responsibility.

That child for their entire lives is plagued with the question: Why doesn’t my father love me?

Princeton University scholars’ meta-review of 47 studies, The Causal Effects of Father Absence, found that children raised without regular father involvement suffered:

  • Increased behavioral problems
  • Greater likelihood of smoking, drug use and underage drinking
  • Lower chances of graduating high school, or attaining college educations
  • Less likelihood of working as an adult, and adult who were raised without the involvement of their father had lower job statuses than those who had involved fathers

More research on fatherless daughters and sons finds:

What can moms do about fatherlessness?

The biggest change that must take place before fathers will be equally involved is to change our laws and culture to respect men as equal parents to mothers.

This will not happen overnight, but changes inside of individual families contribute to informing those around us, the courts, the judges and attorneys and mediators with whom we interact, and friends and family members who observe how we behave in our co-parenting relationships. This can include:

  1. Aim for a low-conflict / separation. Divorce and family courts are designed to make attorneys rich by incentivizing all parties to fight to win. If possible, opt for an amicable breakup, in which everyone walks away with a fair deal, and equal time and responsibility for the children. There are several quality online divorce services that we explain and review.
  2. Aim to be financially independent of your ex. Money exchanged between parents increases conflict between co-parents. Studies find the more conflict between parents, the more likely the father is to check out of the children’s lives.
  3. Stop trying to micro-manage your ex’s parenting. If you are in a relationship with him, let him take full responsibility for caring for the kids when it is his turn — he may not do it your way, fail, screw up and try again — just like any parent. If you are separated or divorced, don’t call the kids all the time when they are with him, or otherwise control his parenting.
  4. Focus on mutual respect and truly equal, shared co-parenting. Stick to the rules of healthy co-parenting, and if you need help with a shared calendar, splitting expenses and tracking communication, try a co-parenting app.

Consider this excerpt from The Kickass Single Mom, my bestselling book with Penguin:

There are many ways you can do this, but in Valerie’s case, she actively reached out to her ex and explicitly supported him in being a better father. It worked:

The best advice after my divorce was from a counselor. I was complaining about the burden of having my kids most of the time because my ex (going through a period of self-loathing, pity, and guilt) was not taking the time to be with them.

She told me that my kids needed me to be 100 percent of the mom I could be to them, but being 150 percent of the mom they needed would not compensate for their dad being anything less than 100 percent of the dad they needed. I would be better off investing that extra 50 percent helping him be a better dad.

Something clicked in me and really shifted my perspective. It began with a discussion I had with their dad: “Our kids need more time with you. Our kids need you more involved in the day-to-day of their lives. Our kids need you to be 100 percent of the dad you can be. How can I help you?”

And I kept asking. Finally, one day he asked me to help him move furniture into his apartment so he could make it more of a home for them. I packed up some toys and clothes (and even dishes and cups the kids liked using) and took them to his apartment. I encouraged him to coach our son’s baseball team and I helped with its administration. I encouraged him to take one of the kids to dinner to spend time one-on-one with them while I kept the other two. He became more confident as a parent. Once I started to give, he started to give.

That was more than five years ago. Our co-parenting relationship is balanced and in a very good place. It has been for a long time now—sometimes I forget it wasn’t always.

My ex is an awesome father, but there was a time when he was not as reliable as I would have hoped, related to what I wrote about a little bit here. Over the past several years I have let go of a lot of the rage I harbored for my ex over all kinds of things.

I see now that when he is not there for the kids, it is because forces bigger and darker than him are at play. And those things prevent him from being the parent he wants desperately to be — and enjoy his children as much as he otherwise might. Recognizing that allows me to be kinder to him, spend less toxic mental energy managing the situation. I’m a happier person and better mom because of all of the above.

There is also incredible work being done in the realm of shared parenting, in which courts presume that both parents are equally competent in the face of separation and divorce, and therefore presume that both parents should share in parenting time equally. There are now 60 peer-reviewed studies that prove that shared parenting is what is best for children — including in high-conflict cases (and I know of none that have found in favor of unequal time to either parent).

What to tell your kid when their dad is not involved

The literature finds very clearly that in cases where there is conflict between the separated parents, and when parenting time is heavily weighted in favor of one parent over the other (such as the every-other-weekend, Wednesday night arrangement, which constitutes 14 percent of hours in a month), the parent with the lesser time with the child has a very high chance of checking out of the kid’s life. Argue with whether or not that is fair or ethical. That has been happening for decades or more.

Shared parenting work in both the legal and mental health realms go hand-in-hand with work on parental alienation. A study found that 11 to 13 percent of divorce cases involve parental alienation, in which one parent systematically programs a child to reject the other parent, for no good reason. This is recognized as child abuse, and a symptom of mental illness on the part of alienating parent.

These facts are important to mention here in this post about fatherlessness. The research is there: When one parent is marginalized in their children’s lives, they tend to check out. As mothers — which are granted primary custody in 80 percent of cases that go to court — we can influence these things in powerful and positive ways. When you promote equally shared parenting with your kid’s other parent, that trickles into our culture, our expectations of one another, and that influences policy and court rulings.

When co-parenting fails: Can you force a dad to see his child?

In short: It is impossible to make a non-custodial parent take responsibility for his or her child. That said, when equal parenting time is promoted through courts and culture, men are more likely to use their parenting time, and even advocate for more equal parenting schedules. 

29 ways to co-parent like a pro—even when your ex is a crazy narcissist

When your heart breaks because he stood your son up again, are enraged at his disregard for your time at yet another last-minute cancelation, or your daughter knows her dad is on vacation with the new girlfriend but says he can’t afford to see her, you are 100% entitled to be livid. Because that is bullshit.

It is also a sign of a broken person. And a sign of a broken culture and parenting expectations that go far beyond just your family.

Practice forgiveness. Practice empathy. Get therapy. And activism. Read 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

Bottom line: Get dads involved

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:

One of the most important things you can do to support your kids’ father’s parenting is just that: Allow him to parent. Presuming he has not been legally proven to be an unfit parent, you must operate from the premise that he is capable of keeping the kids alive and is allowed to make all decisions when they are in his care. If you eventually have a great co-parenting relationship, you may find ways to cooperate on special diets, bedtimes, and discipline. Otherwise, he is allowed to be whatever kind of father he likes during his visits. This includes feeding them fast food, letting them stay up late, and letting them spend the night at his sister’s house even though you hate her so much about that thing that happened at your wedding.

Do not call or text him or the kids frequently during their visits. Except for unusually long visits—which could be more than three or four days for very young children, or more than several weeks for older kids—do not call, FaceTime, text, or otherwise ask to engage with the kids. You must allow their dad to get into his own groove of parenting without your interference, and your kids should be allowed to get into the groove of life at their dad’s house.

Advice for mothers raising sons alone

I understand that you may miss them and worry they are having experiences that you will not share. I appreciate that this can be sad. But this is part of separated family life, and the sooner you embrace the wonderful benefit of having an actively involved, loving dad and fill your kid-free time in a meaningful way, the sooner these absences will stop being sad, and all parties involved can relax and flourish in the rhythms of your life. Plus, your children will sense if your calls stem from your own broken heart, and feel a need to care for you. That is not children’s job.

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

And report in the comments how it’s going.

Movies and books on single motherhood, divorce and co-parenting:

Recommended shared parenting documentary: Divorce Corp

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

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

Can you force a dad to see his child?

It is impossible to make a non-custodial parent take responsibility for his or her child.

How long can a father not see his child?

If there is a custody order in place, both parents must adhere to the visitation schedule outlined in the order. Parents who do not follow these orders risk losing custody and facing jail time.


I’m sorry I won’t be treated as a atm .im her father it’s my (job )to lookout for her .the way you live is not suitable and your choice in men violent ex convicts drug takers bikers is no place for a teenage girl .you want to live that way is fine just not my child .we are going to court no more game.

I can’t pretend this doesn’t matter to me trying to be (cool with it ).it does matter to me I have tried to forget it drowned my sorrows taking drugs to numb pain no more.i fight you with law now all the way .

I been studying family law ,and have talked to online lawyers .i have 68%chance of full custody.i can’t except yourway off raising my child.i can’t let this go .im older now and can provide better life for her gods truth this is the right thing to do I feel it.

(I want full custody of my daughter ).i hate your (lifestyle )and the way you are raising (my child).im going to fight with everything I got .you will not raise her your life choices are very poor and not suitable for (my child).

My ex has been an absence father for the last 7 years. During this time I built a lovely family whit an amazing husband who loves my daughter. I was the one who grew up to be a good mother, now my ex appears and I don’t know what to do. To be honest I don’t think he deserves anything and he is just doing this because he want to bother me not because he cares about my little one.

My husband is very protective and he knows my ex threatened to take away my daughter when I started dating him. I am afraid this is going to be an issue in my family. I don’t even know if my daughter should know about this guy.

I would say you have a (serous problem )on your sister had to get (bodyguards )for her new family the police advised it because the police new this man did not care about (orders )on him and the police can’t be (everywhere.)the police also said he has ties to some shady wasn’t about his daughter it was about hounor crazy fucking nutter sociopath,narcissistic,psychopath all rolled into one man one word from his lips you could tell he (meant business.)if you feel something (not right )trust your gut .this man was is cunning as a fox and new the law and played it to his advantage and played victim really well .just tread with caution all im saying .7 years is along time and she has a nice step father who loves her.why 7 years ask yourself that ?why didn’t he get a lawyer 7years ago?be very very careful is all I’m saying.

As a father who didn’t see his child in years but now does .its very hard on both sides because the relationship I had with my child’s mother was not healthy to but it lightly different believes lifestyles.its about (acceptance )and getting a third party when I picked up my child it’s a pain and expensive but it’s worth it I see my child now and don’t deal with ex .

My husband walked out on me 4 months pregnant and our 4 year old daughter end of April for a Co worker with the reputation of sleeping around. He rarely come around to see her. Doesn’t attend Dr Apts. And he and this other woman are constantly together. We created our own visitation agreement and child support paper work. We signed them and had them notarized this week because he pushed to do so. But he has not seen our daughter even 10 minutes in 2 weeks. Idk how to feel or what to expect out of him. He hides stuff from me, and he never did our whole 7 year relationship. I blew up from being lied to, him not seeing his daughter and in my eyes choosing everything over our daughter. Now he will hardly speak to me. Now I’m 7 months pregnant with our 2nd child and doing it all alone.

I am in this situation. I am the dad I see my son once a week I feel like that Is not enough. everytime I spend time with him I get depressed. thoughts of how me and my ex couldn’t make it work. how I am being the same as my father. he left when I was young… that is main reason y I don’t see him often. I end up hating myself and not enjoy time with him. sometimes he sees me tear up. i am too much in my head. wish things were diffrent but it’s life. I am currently trying to figure out how the next 5 Years are gonna play out.. I want to leave and start fresh but I have to stay close by for my son. feel like I lost my chance of having a family. don’t want to have another kid while my son is without me.

well stay strong

Freddy, you didn’t lose your chance of having a family. You have a son, so you HAVE a family. You may not have a partner right now, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. You didn’t fail in your relationship – sometimes two people don’t work out, no matter what. That doesn’t make it your fault, and it doesn’t make you incomplete. Many fathers are choosing not to have a partner, so that they can focus their energy on their children. Your son NEEDS you. He needs you to show him how to be a man. He needs you to show him how to be a father. He needs you to show him many things that men understand better than women – resiliency, problem solving, self-sufficiency, sacrifice, industriousness, honor, respect. You can teach him these things. Good luck to you.

I’ve read a lot of these comments and my conclusion is that we need to stop generalizing. Every case is different.

I’m a western guy in an Asian country. All I wanted was a family. Because of our situation, I spent LOTS of time with my kids – like a mother.
I know that most women are great mothers and I know my ex loves her children, but she was pretty inept. So, I was the one who was better at keeping them alive – I won’t go into the numerous cases of near misses on roads, baths etc.

She left me and then I wasn’t allowed to see my kids for 2 full years while the divorce was being settled. In this country if you get a restraining order it’s easy to extend it during the divorce.

After the divorced was settled, I had to apply for visitation. During mediation she refused any access. I still don’t understand why in this country even a phone call isn’t allowed.
The court eventually said that I could get the right to send a letter every two months, and she had two send photos every month.
For me it’s a ridiculous decision, but I accepted it and looked forward to sending a letter.
She appealed to the high court! – to stop letters!!!

So three months later the court overturned her appeal and I sent two letters.

A month later I have no idea if my kids have read the letters. Asking her lawyer he said “She intends to make them read them” when I asked for proof of whether or not she has given them the letters, or if they didn’t want to read the letters and why, he refused.

So now I had to apply to the court to get her to comply. She got a letter from the court asking for a response. The very next day I got a photo of two unhappy looking kids,
She has two weeks to answer as to whether or not the kids have read the letters and why.

So, I am a father who hasn’t been able to afford a lawyer, have done everything by myself in a foreign language, hasn’t been allowed to send an email or even a 30 second phone call for over three years.
I send her money but only because I have not paid a tax/health insurance debt. I’ve battled depression and thought of suicide many times, and thought about just going home to my country because I don’t know whether I’ll ever see them.

I don’t hate women because my new wife encourages me to not give up, is not angry that I pay child support, and says she will do anything to help and even let the kids be with me if I could get custody.

So, your system in America is still much better than the rest of the world.

Incidentally my ex wife gets more money from welfare than 80% of working women in this country. And she works cash in hand and in probably not declaring it.

Please understand that there are fathers who are doing everything to just get a 10 second hug after 3 years. And there are bad women out there. And wonderful women.

Personally if I could have my kids with me, I feel like I’d be in top of the world even if the ex didn’t want to see them.

Seems like everyone has their own private hell.

Stay strong.

But if you can see your own children even for a day but especially if they sleep in your house, remember that you are so blessed when you think of they people who couldn’t have kids, lost a child through death, or someone like me who dreams of just being allowed to even say Hapoy Birthday by phone.

Hi there…

I am in the opposite situation… i am trying to see my daughter every time i don t have work in my schedule, seeing her around 1time to 3times a week.

But here is the thing, my girlfriend(been dating for a year) wants me to reduce the time i see my daughter to 1 time per 2 weeks… which i am clearly not gonna do.

She had asked me things like that before and i had told her there was no way i would do it and would rather end our relation.
She backed up those times but now she is the one threatening to end the relation if i don t comply(so my guess is that unfortunately the relation will end although everything else is perfect), for i have told her yes(i lied of course), just because i would like to try and fix whatever issue is in her head before to end things without trying all i could.

So, i d like to know what s her issue… is there something i could say, because i just can t get it ….
jealousy? trauma?(she stopped seeing her own father at the age of 6~7, and says she was fine with it… although most probably she must be affected in way she ignores, also i do not know the issues of why the dad left/or maybe was left by the mom).

She also does not really want to meet my daughter much, she saw her once only, i personally think they should meet time to time.

” it might take long to be in a broken relationship but it’s never going to to be forever.i have been living with heartbreak for couple of years now, which wasn’t caused a lot of loss to me and my mind not been settled. i and my husband got into argument and we had a fight, he was cheating i tried to stop him but all to no avail. after a while, we had to go our different ways but i was hurt because i love him with all my heart and i can’t afford to loose to another lady, fortunately i came across this testimony of a woman online who also battled with a similar issue until she was helped by Dr.Mack. i also had to contacted Dr.Mack for help regarding my Marriage issue. he did what he have to do for me and in less than 4 days my husband was back. he automatically changed to a good man, was faithful and showed me love in a way i never expected, i oblige anyone with similar problem to contact Dr.Mack via email;dr_mack@yahoo. com “

Ignoring the kids because of low self worth? Maybe they are just a narcissistic @$$hole. My son’s dad completely ignores him, he knocked someone else up about a year after my son was born and decided to marry her even though he owed child support, doing what he wanted was more important. He has a replacement family now and our son basically doesn’t exist for him. I see this happen a lot – guy fathers a child out of wedlock, he’ll may make an effort or not to see the child, then when he gets someone else pregnant he’ll settle down and marry her and the first kid gets abandoned.

I wish i see my son more. I work alot with wed thur off. Everytime i ask to see him, hes tired after school or hes busy at friends. I always say aslong as hes happy playing. On school holidays my ex makes plans with her new man to do something with kids. I only have one son with her. im tired of asking permission to see him. Thats why i let her get on with it. Tired of arguing, Tired of asking can i see him later after school and go to park or for something to eat becase most of time its a no. I dont give her money because i like to spend the money on him, when i get him and i know what i spend. I dont have another gfriend for 3years. I cant be Botherd. Mean time i live in my car because im trying to pay everything off. 3 months now living in car. Evrything sucks. If only i earnt 38grand like my brother A year and ile b able to pay my ex a grand a month to see my son. She be happy then. Most woman r happy when u give em money. Not like im living the dream, new gfriend, my own place with a garden for my son to pop over for the night, bbq summer, no i live in the car with no help from council because im not an emergency and she claims the benifits for him. Nway im going on. Bollocks, if only i can re inlist in army but to old. Feel like packing up, dissapearing.

This is the other side of the coin. There are dads like as who are separated because the woman left the marital home and has decided not to provide me access to the kids. the law states unless 7 years before i can fight for custody. I have two sons and i visit the boy in school. The other one is 1 year and very soon when he starts school i will visit him too. I pay the school fees all by myself and send money bi-weekly into her account. Its not all men who are like that. sometimes the actions of some women make men to forget their kids. I could have done same but it will only be to my disadvantage in the future since the kids will say you neglected them. I know time will tell when they grow to learn it was all their mums doing not mine.

About two years ago my boys father came back into town, after a “friend” of mine went behind my back and asked that my boys stay over at her place one night(with the intention he surprise the boys) the next day they were so happy, they would ask me if they could see him. So I spoke to him , of course he said he had just arrived , didy have a phone, car, work or place to stay. So , I understood, he asked for time to settle in. Months later he bought a home (lived with his wife and two boys)
Has a car and a well paying job.
We came to an agreement that he would have my boys one week and I would have them one week. My youngest son didn’t want to stay with because my son felt like his daddy didn’t take the time to take him
To his practices or games. (Which he was right)
The first incident : Friday night, his night to pick them up. I take my boys to their game, again make
Sure they remind their father he has to pick them up at a certain time when the games over. He doesn’t show up. Games over , my boys call me say their dad is not answering. I go pick them up. About an hour and half later he calls me and asked if the boys are with me. Said he sent his dad to pick them up and the dad could find the place. Not wanting to argue I tell him he can pick them up in the morning.
Second incident:
His day to pick them up. My oldest son has gone to a dinner with the school team. My youngest is with me, he calls his dad and dad tells him he will pick him up later when he goes for his brother. Two- 3 hours later my son is inpatient and no longer wants to go with his dad( he thinks he is unfair thy he has to wait for his dad to go for his brother, when his dad was already on the same side of town we live in.)
3rd incident: it’s his weekend with my boys, he asks me if they can stay because he has to work out of town… of course this is no problem to me. He tells the boys his wife is having some type of surgery , which either way I’m ok with them staying. Well the next day we start seeing pictures of him, wife,kids and mother in law with some mutual friend snowboarding.
My youngest son sees the same pictures and asked why his dad didn’t take them. I told him I wasn’t sure. But that he should ask his dad, as I thought he would be the best person to answer that. Well he text him asking why he didn’t take them. Till this day he has not responded to his message.
I finally said this is it , I’m done. I went to a lawyer and for personal reasons asked if he could assist me me with asking for child aupport for my boys with out having to go to the court. Lawyer says yes… after almost two months of my boys not going with their dad . The lawyer sends him a letter, he goes in doesn’t agree with paying the amount asked , but instead asked to give them 50/50 and he will pay less them half requested. I respond saying no, the lawyer types out a letter with a reasons I don’t believe it is in my boys best interest to be with their dad 50/50 but instead offer a much more realistic schedule.they will be with me School nights. He will have them every other weekend. He will still pay the same amount requested. He goes back to the lawyer says nothing, only there to schedule a mediation. We go in, the layer he says he will give what he originally said he would . The lawyer asks if he read the letter he answers “Somewhat” then he goes on to saying “if I give her what she is requesting , I won’t be taking the boys. I won’t see them either” the lawyer tells him , it is your obligation to take care of this boys. Physically and financially. He says ok but like I said if she wants the money then I’m going to have to work more and either way I won’t be “helping” with the boys. The lawyer one more time tells him. Ok, but you have every right to spend time with your kids he says “NO” they can look for me when their 18. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My thought was my boys especially my oldest. How was I going to explain this to my kids when they asked why they haven’t seen their dad. Upset and crying I went home and sure enough the kids asked what happened and doing what I though was best for MY KIDS i was honest.
A week later my son gets injured , his dad finds out, calls him and my son doesn’t answer. It’s painful to see how everything turned out. Advise please. What do I do if he changes his mind. I did ask the lawyer that I wanted his decision of not seeing the boys on writing along with what he agreed to pay. Which by the way was lowered by 100 dollars. Why,? Do parents think it is ok that if they pay they don’t need to see the kids or spend time with them ?

Its hard to have empathy for my ex, he has 3 kids 2 he had when he was really young, hence the reason when we got married I had #3 by him. He told me that the mothers kept him away and that he had a lot of guilt about this Ect Ect Ect. We split up in Jan when he cheated on me and left, immediately started playing daddy to the OW kids. I bent over backward to make sure him and our daughter had contact and visits. Our daughter was a daddy’s girl, so I put aside my hurt and anger. It’s only been almost 3 months but slowly he stopped calling her daily and the visits got shorter. He recently made his relationship public, and it upset our daughter b/c along with the announcement came a video of him with the OW’s 3 kids playing and stuff and how lucky she was to have “such and amazing man”. Our daughter posted some puking enjoys on his post and he got mad and called yelling at her, I told him to stop and act like an adult, that she is 9, of course, she is going to be mad, he calmed down. I told him to email his days off so I could set up visits this week (our schedule isn’t set due to his work schedule varying but we per the counselor have to set up the schedule week by week) he never did and he hasn’t called and he removed her from his facebook. I’m sorry but she is 9 and allowed to be hurt and act like a child. He is almost 40 and should be grown up enough to emphasize with his daughter and put her first, especially since he supposedly had all this guilt about his two older kids. The only person I feel bad for in the situation are the kids that are abandon by their other parent b/c they are too selfish to make an effort or fight for thier kids

Hi. I just wanted to chyme in and tell my story, at least in condensed form. How would you feel if you had been playing the role of both parents for your child for 3 yrs (he was 2 when she left and 5 when she returned) only to have the other parent return, throw you under the bus, lying their way into the courts good graces that its all your fault they were absent? I was not believed and i told the truth. She lied and got immediate visitation. I wouldn’t mind coparenting with this woman but the way she came back, making me out to be the bad guy, makes me stressed and it tells me not to trust her at all. Now the court is not going to care unless it’s something against me such as “unfostering” towards her and his relationship. The court threw my precious boy to the wolf and now I’m helpless and he doesn’t know I’m stressed because what’s happened. I have to fake it till i make it i guess. Her being back in his life has just gotten him hooked on video games and acting out now at school…thats all I’m seeing thats come from this. The judge wouldn’t even hear of a “gradual re-introduction.” He had to go last summer to a stranger day after the hearing. I had all holidays taken away for two years for no reason. Now im dreading this summer. Any ideas on how to get through this? I want nothing more than to actually be heard and be allowed to try get myself in the clear regarding keeping her away because I did not. She should be accountable for her lies. We could even continue with visitation as is, as long as our true characters were revealed and I get my holiday time back. It’s like I’ve been expected the follow a false narrative and It’s doing what they must want-eating me up inside.

Hi Harold, I’m sorry you’re going through this, but honestly you need to find a way to let go. The courts don’t care about lies, they don’t care about character. All they care about is running the case through in and out as fast as they can, and making sure they collect their fees on the way. They will never hold her accountable for trashing you. You have to let that go.

As far as holidays, yeah it sucks to not be with your kid on special days. Be sure you make the most of the days you get to spend with your son, and make your own special days. Kids need both of their parents, even if one parent is broken or inadequate. When they’re grown they will look back and see which parent was there for them, and they’ll see which parent encouraged a relationship with the other parent. They’ll come to their own conclusions, and that’s all that really matters.

After being in a 12 year relationship with a true narcissist who was emotionally unavailable and emotionally abusive to his daughter I can say I spent the last 4 years begging and pleading him to simply act like he cared. I even covered for his shortcomings. But once I stopped doing so and ALLOWED my daughter to see who he truly was I was accused of being jealous of his new relationship and hateful. The more accountable he had to be the more he resented my daughter for demanding respect anddd the more he said I was the evil ex. He has justified NOT calling her by saying I influence her to be against him because it’s easier to put it on me vs being responsible for his own actions. For example he was going out of his way to wine and dine his fiancee but wouldn’t so much as buy his daughter a properly gift wrapped Xmas gift. When he brazenly posted pictures online of how well he treated his ex vs how passive and thoughtless he was with his daughter he half way changed only to eventually find a reason to not be in her life period. I have had several conversations with him and seen him several times but he refuses to call our daughter because then he must be accountable for his actions. I have refused to scream and force him to feel bad and now he is running around telling people I am the reason he can’t have a decent relationship with his child. I communicate by text or record all of our phone calls because he will lie and twist things. Its almost as if he inadvertently finds ways to sabotage his relationship with her. Unfortunate

Sorry Nikki, that’s a tough situation. However, from what I’ve seen, the child will figure out the truth eventually. As long as you keep encouraging the relationship with him and his daughter, then one day she will see what you did, and she will know that you loved her. If her father won’t work on the relationship, then she will see that too. And the child is the only one that really matters. Good luck to you.

Man, I can’t decide if your article is dead-on to my situation or beside it, but the commentary has been quite powerful!
My husband and I have been together for 14 years and besides him being just an outright asshole to our 4 kids, and me every time I have to intervene, he has no relationship with them, no bond. No surpise, I know. As we are going through this divorce he has said time and again, that if he can’t have me, then he doesn’t want the kids either. It’s a package deal or nothing in his mind. Let’s face it, the kids don’t really want to be around him most of the time anyways, and I don’t feel like it’s safe to leave 4 kids in his care when all he does is scream endlessly about every cough, chew, or sneeze. I just can’t wrap my brain around why someone could ONLY make children with his wife because it seemed like what he was supposed to do, apparently not because he actually wanted children. Not that he ever told me, but that sure seems to be the case here. And now what do I do for them, for myself? He says he wants to sign off his rights, so he can drown himself in a bottle of sorrow and try to forget the last 14 years ever happened. In my state, you can’t just willfully terminate your rights as a parent without some hefty just cause(s). But I am convinced that between there being no bond with his children in the first place and the fact that he’s so verbally/psychologically abusive (although he doesn’t do it on purpose, he has serious issues yet to be determined that cause him to behave this way), perhaps I should just let him try to terminate his rights. If he couldn’t get better in 14 years time with a wife who bent over backwards to try, and had to mediate the whole rest of the time it’s not likely he’ll get better without me pushing him, therfore in their childhood years. I know he will never have good enough self esteem to feel like he is needed by his children, even with his mother and I constantly telling him such. There won’t be a girlfriend to distract, either. He’s the type of guy that will go on the rest of his days regretting lost me and never be able to move on, if he doesn’t take his own life first. How does a mother deal with this? What can I say to him to make him understand? I’ve said everything under the sun, it just doesn’t seem to matter to him. Without me, he has no reason to be a part of their lives, and often times says he has no reason to live at all.

It sounds like you’re having a rough time, and although I don’t agree with the man saying that he has no reason to live, I can understand why he might say that. Men experience divorce in a different way to women – they get to lose access to the wife, kids, often the house and lose many of their friends to boot. The woman typically loses far less of her emotional support network.

Either way, it’s really not your concern anymore. I believe that you will just have to do your best for the kids. I suggest that you just keep the door open and don’t make it hard for him to see the kids when or if he wants to.

As for the ‘parental rights’ issue – remember the difference between parental rights and parental obligations.

Parental obligations such as child support are legally required to be fulfilled. Parental rights such as visitation however, are available to be used, but are optional. Consequently, there is no need for him to ‘terminate’ any parental rights at all – he can merely choose not to exercise those rights if he so wishes, and, frankly, there is nothing that you can do about that.

I’m a 33 year old single father of two boys 2 and 8 year olds. I recently got full custody of my boys as of 2 weeks ago. My kids mom does not care to be around my boys, doesn’t call for them, buy them anything, and when I call and remind her that she has to beautiful little boys who ask for their mother and miss her she acts like everything is fine.. she’ll talk to them here and there weeks at times. But not care or bother to see them and make up any excuse to visit them. She met a new guy and makes more of an effort to put her all into him, but when I tell her to put that same effort into being a positive mother figure to her boys she makes up any excuse again to make it seem like I make it difficult for her to be a mother… I feel like completely shutting her out and see if she will miss the boys enough to make her at least try to visit them or just live my life alone with the boys and keep making excuses to them that there mother is busy with her work . That one day she’ll have enough time…

Hi Eliazar, I understand your frustration, but please do not shut her out completely. That’s not likely to have a positive effect on either her or your sons. One day when they’re grown they will look back over their childhood, and they will see the effort you made to keep up their relationship with their mother, and they will see the lack of effort on her part. I know it’s frustrating, but if you put the effort in, it will be worth it to them.

I stumbled upon this post but I’m in a bit of a different situation. I’ve been dating a man for 5 months now who has a child from a previous relationship. Although he helps with his child economically he rarely calls her and has only seen her once since we’ve been together. He has a horrible relationship with his ex as she cheated on him while they were together. I side with this post as I feel that the reason he has distanced himself from his child is because he feels that he’s already lost her or he feels that he has nothing to offer her, maybe he’s ashamed of not being there for her more often. I’m not sure what it is but what can I do to encourage him to see her more often and play a more active role on her life. I never had a relationship with my father and I can’t imagine myself with a man who has a child but isn’t an active part of their life. Any advice?

Frankly I don’t agree with the above. He is a grown up, and it is not your role to insist what he should and should not do. The women I have dated and indeed my current wife have all been supportive of my position and have said that it has opened their eyes to the depths that women will stoop to during the process. Frankly, I think you should be wary of opening pandora’s box and trying to interfere, unless you genuinely don’t care about this man.
Your well-intentioned moves towards improving the situation from your point of view may well alienate him to such an extent that he ends your relationship. I know that I would, if someone tried to take that attitude with me.

I agree with the above poster. The article is a little biased. I do not doubt that there are a number of men out there who abandon their children and who behave badly. There are others who are forced out of their children’s lives by their mother. I am in that latter group.

During my lengthy divorce proceedings, my ex-wife tried every dirty trick in the book to get what she wanted. She 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. I noticed the child 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 & of cancelled visits. I was denied access using Skype, lots of little things, and it was heartbreaking just seeing the child slip away from me little by little.

In the end I gave up. I was angry and said goodbye and left for 2 years. 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.

I have no interest in the corrupt legal system or enriching the attorneys even more. I have even less interest in continuing to fight with this woman. Life is too short and too precious for that.

At this point, I’ve resigned myself to having lost my child. As time passes, it’s not as painful as it was. What the ‘system’ fails to recognise is that if a father is stripped of all his parental responsibilities (apart from the oh so important financial one of course), when he is removed totally from the day to day life of the child, when he doesn’t get the chance to help with homework, misses birthday parties because he’s not invited, when he is accused in writing of being a bad parent, a danger, abusive and all manner of lies are told about him, well, eventually the bond gets damaged, and it gets easier and easier to become disengaged, disinterested, distant and eventually, absent.

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 2 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;

It is not healthy.

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. If the mother won’t cooperate then you’re basically going to have a miserable life (which is what she wants, incidentally) and far too many women nowadays try and use the child as a weapon, in revenge against the father.

Personally, I refuse to be blackmailed by my better instincts. I refuse to be reduced to the level of a disneyland dad – or a visiting uncle 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. The ex wanted the child. Let her have what she wanted. 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.

After a 28 year relationship and three kids now 24,18,and 15 and trying for three years to get us back on track, my relationship ended 18 months ago. The children have had everything in their lives, my partner never worked, I paid for everything and have been a loving and involved father beyond the level some of my friends have been and other men I have heard stories about. Yet since the split my children refuse to have anything to do with me, will not even reply to text messages.My ex says it’s their choice and openly supports their actions. The pain has been unbearable and the lack of reasons and refusal of anyone to discuss all of this is insane. My self esteem is high and yet this level of cruelty is what’s killing it now. There are a lot good fathers out their desparate to be involved with their children. I am one of them. To say it’s the man’s fault and cite low self esteem as the ‘ real ‘ reason, is narrow minded, untrue and lacking in any understanding of the kind of emotional blackmail that happens more often than ‘good mothers’, who recognise the need of a father in a childs life , care to know about.

My ex-husband of 16 years would see the children for about 3 hrs every Sunday but he would not take them anywhere. How would bring breakfast and watch movies with him. Now we have discovered that he is married and the entire family hurts. No one knew of this women. He even spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with us and he was a newlywed. His mom, dad, and children did not know. Now that we all know, he wants me to tell him what activities our children have. He wants to
Know band performances, open house at school, wants to buy school supplies, and has recently asked if he could pay half on summer activities. Our kids are now 17, 16, and 10 and they do not know where he lives and has not spent the night with him since the day he moved out 5 years ago. It makes me worried that something is wrong with him, what are his intentions, and wanting to protect my children from whatever this is.

Legally and morally, he has a right to a relationship and time with his children. I agree he is a weirdo, but that does not preclude his rights as a parent – or your children’s rights to their father. Take it to family court and demand that he have the kids at his home. Sounds like the new wife may not know about them.

Sorry, I disagree. In the U.K., once a parent establishes a pattern of contact, if more was offered at the time but they didn’t take it, then they can’t come back and say they want more at a later date, because this is not in the interests of the child. Essentially the children’s rights and the parents’ responsibility to meet those are more important than the parents rights.

What if the child is the product of a “man trap” wherein the mother got pregnant on purpose to trap her man into marriage? It happens a lot more often than you think and in that case it is very understandable (albeit a bit petty) that the father is not as involved as he should be.

Oh please. I know of someone who uses that narrative to justify their dreadful behaviour, but it simply isn’t true. What is true is he claimed contraception went against his religious beliefs, and then blamed his wife when she got pregnant.

I’m not saying it never happens, I’m saying that it’s not as widespread as claimed, and in fact in many cases is a continuation of blame shifting for something they are 50% responsible for.

I admit I went for sole custody, mostly because my son has non-verbal autism and can’t be shifted around from house to house constantly. He can’t take it. My ex-husband readily agreed to it. I suspect his girlfriend doesn’t want the responsibility. My son is difficult at times. The ex chooses not to use visitation at all. It miffs me because I’d like a break now and then. I’ve made peace with never having a romantic relationship again. That’s impossible when you have a child with special needs. No one wants broken, old, fat, ugly, and damaged goods, but I’d like to be able to go out and see a movie once in a while.

Such is life. One day it will be over and I’ll finally be rid of this misery.

I appreciate your situation, though there is a wonderful guy (or 20!) out there for you – get out there!

That is not how life works. I appreciate you have a brand to uphold and an image that goes along with it, but you are doing a disservice by making proclamations like that. I do not know anyone in my situation who has ever found love again. Have a child with special needs makes you unmarketable to all but the worst sorts of leeches, abusers, and scum. I will not expose my child to that.

Do not give people false hope. It’s morally wrong.

Eh, not really. I’m not a professional. I’m a cashier at a freaking Walmart. I do have a BA, but I’ve been unable to get anything with it, so no career to speak of really. I’m not the type your group caters to. I’m poor, live hand to mouth and don’t have much to show for life.

I’m sure this kind of group suits women who have more connections, skills, etc, but that’s not me. I don’t have anything to bring to the table, but thanks for the thought. I’d rather not be fodder for your internet discussions, though.

No, it’s for all single moms with positive mindsets- most of those with special-needs kids were positive about dating, and have some great advice. They felt you were understandably burnt out and offered some practical solutions. When you are ready to see another perspective and initiate change, please reach out.