Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
Fathers, this is going to be a quick yet heartfelt article both from personal experience as a father as well as a lawyer who has dedicated his practice exclusively to family law in Rhode Island for the past sixteen (16) years.
In many divorce cases there are lawyers, mediators, and even fathers have been making a huge mistake when it comes to placement and parenting time with the minor children. They have been assuming that the mother always gets placement or that the father cannot get parenting time of 50% with the children. I've heard lawyers say it. Hell, I will sadly admit that I've said it because that's what I've seen over the years and that's what I was told in my own divorce before I became a lawyer.
I've been in court ordered mediations and I've heard mediators say it to my clients and to other lawyers clients. In quite a few cases over the years I've had fathers walk through my door and say that they are realistic and they "know the mother gets the kids and dad only gets every other weekend to see them." Most of the fathers haven't said that happily either, they've said it sadly and in quite a few cases they had tears in their eyes or were crying.
Frankly, I'm ashamed of myself for EVER saying it. As a father myself I had been told the same thing by several lawyers and so I accepted the "company line" so to speak that fathers get "at most" every other weekend and one evening during the week.
Now, I wasn't a stay at home father. I worked full-time, had two children that I loved dearly and went to law school at night to try to make a better life for all of us. Today, well let's just say it didn't end out the way I planned or even hoped. Rather it turned out to be the biggest nightmare of my life and I've used my mistakes to help dozens of fathers over the years.
Yet that isn't the point of this article. The point of this article is simply this. We as men are fathers. Many of us love our kids and we would gladly die for them. Some fathers have thought of, attempted or succeeded at committing suicide. Why? Because we were full fledged fathers before we went into the family court system and we came out as glorified babysitters. We may have spent half of our time before a divorce with our children or doing things for the benefit of our children, but we came out only part-time parents with limited rights. Can it happen to mothers? Yes, but in 16 years I've rarely seen it happen.
So what is the reasoning behind being demoted because we divorced our spouse? There are numerous reasons that are given, but none are justified by any reputable legal approach, psychological approach that has been substantiated or even a logical approach that doesn't deny our children or ourselves as fathers our rights.
Children need their fathers. It is separate and distinct entirely from the relationship with the spouse we are divorcing. We are not divorcing our children. So why do the family courts treat men as if they are? Well, for some of us it is our own fault... we accept the company line from the lawyers or mediators and yes in the rare occasion a judge and we settle .... yes, SETTLE for having our children every other weekend and perhaps one night a week if we get it. If we do that, then we get what we chose. However, you don't have to choose that.
You are no less a dad simply because you are divorcing your spouse. When you have less time with your children as if somehow you are not as much their dad any more then can you imagine how much that traumatizes them. Even if you have a long day of work and/or school and you come home and they delight in your bedtime stories each night before you tuck them neatly in and give them a kiss goodnight and let them know they are loved. How might your children feel when they don't get those stories, or that tuck in, or that reassurance that their father loves them? This emotionally scars many children. So I urge you not to settle for less than half the time with your children. I don't care if you have to represent yourself in court and spend all your time after work studying law and procedure and going to court over and over again so that in the very least you can show the judge you care, and be able to say you did everything within your power to be with your children the way you were meant to be.
Eighteen years ago, I accepted the "company line" both as a father and later as a lawyer. These were two of the worst things I could have done. Nothing will ever make up for well over a decade without seeing my children.
Don't accept being a part-time dad! Don't accept having your child's right to have a father ripped away from him, her or them so that they are traumatized. Fight with all you are worth. Fight through embarrassment. Fight through tears, slander, the legal system, angry and vindictive spouses, despair, depression and everything that can pull you close to hell itself. I say this because a good father is irreplaceable for a child just as your children are irreplaceable to you as a father if you truly love them.
Isn't your child worth fighting for to you?