Tom’s Story

The following was generously contributed by someone in the middle of dealing with Divorce.  If you would like to contact him directly please send email to: macetw@christian.net.

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This is where the Serenity prayer worked well for me:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things you cannot change”

She is beyond your influence, and in the hands of the people around her.  Be prepared to deal with them. They will blame you for her insecurities.  They will tell you that you are the one that needs counseling.  If they are experienced at divorce, they will play all the maneuvers to intimidate you to give up.   Be prepared for these things.  Look past the intimidation.

For example, when I think of my son, I like to think of age 6 when I can go skiing on Mont Ripley with him.  I like to think of age 12 when I can help him with his math, or get him into computer programming (like Dad).  I like to think of age 16 when I can take him to Isle Royale National Park, backpacking.

The intimidation is temporary, if you have the courage to handle it well.  There are legal limits to how much harassment is allowed.  If she files a divorce action, you have lots of legal rights!  So look past the maneuvers and intimidation and be calm.

Your behavior no longer has to be rationalized to your wife or her family. If there is a divorce action pending, you only have to rationalize to legal professionals. They really like calm behavior. They see that kind of person as the better parent.

“God, grant me the courage to change the things you can”

Contact your friends

The longer you keep it a secret, the harder it will be for you. You need to make some decisions about how to respond to the absence of your wife and child, and since you can no longer rely on your wife to provide support for your decisions, you’d best find a bunch (not just one or two- several) of friends that will back you up emotionally and maybe even back you up in the court room.  In my case, my whole bible study group supported me, as well as the godparents of my new son.

Maybe contact a trustworthy friend or relative of hers

I found a nurse professional who is her sister-in-law.  I had hoped that the sister-in-law would be able to notice the PPD-like actions of my wife, but my wife didn’t even tell anyone that she was living there, even 3 or 4 months into her residence.  Although I didn’t get to speak with the sister-in-law, she may have ended up with some influence that I would be unable to witness.

Contact her pastor

He might be the most tireless worker to keep your family together; he has been for me (he was the pastor who married us in the first place).

Find a fathers’ group

There are two kinds of fathers’ groups. One kind supports legal doctrine for getting greater paternal custody rights established. Another helps fathers in childrearing.  I am members of both, though I’m not sure that either one has done much for me yet. But being in the father-childrearing support group allows me to find new friends and allies that could back me up.  Some members and leaders might also have some family law expertise or contacts.  Attendance at this kind of fathers group also demonstrates to legal professional your commitment to being a committed father.

Beware of legislative-based fathers groups. They are full of dads who are angry at their wives and the legal system. If you appear to be angry at your wife or at the legal system, the legal professionals will be unlikely to cater to your requests, as they have been for many of the other down-and-out guys in this group.

 Attend a divorced-parents course

In my state of residence, Michigan, and in many localities throughout the nation, all parents going through divorce must take a class in how to protect your child’s adjustment to divorce conditions.  Taking this class taught me many important things, but it also helped me feel as if I was accomplishing something, something that I had a hard time feeling at the time.

“God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference”

Well, you’re on postpartum dads.org, right? That means you’re learning.   It also helps us understand what other fathers have done before us, and allows us to connect with a network of dads who are experienced at these issues.

You might continue your learning by reading up on family law in your state. Yes, you have rights! Rights to that little kid of yours! The sooner you find out what your rights are and the sooner you find the means to exercise those rights, the better off you will be, and most of all, the better off your relationship to your child will be.

For example, in Wisconsin, parents have the right to have unfettered access to their children before a divorce-temporary-order is in place (that is, no parent can “intentionally conceal” a child from the other parent). In Iowa, a respondent (that is, the person who receives divorce papers) has the right to send the two parties to marriage counseling before going to court.

Maybe get yourself a lawyer, but don’t tell your wife about it. Don’t worry- getting a lawyer is not like sleeping with another woman. A lawyer can prepare you for learning your rights and maybe help give you a couple days notice before you are “served” with legal documents. They might help you assemble financial and legal documents that put you in a better position to defend your custody rights and any property division that might occur.

You might go so far as to be the first to file for divorce. If you are, you might carry greater weight in earning custody. You also might have a travel advantage of appearing in court in your own county, whereas your wife may be in a distant city, or worse yet, a distant state! Learning the laws of a different state and retaining a lawyer in a different state might be difficult, so you might rather file in your own county to keep that advantage.

You might also might seek out a few people who have grown up in separated families, too. Learn from adults who, as children, lost a father or mother to death or divorce when they were young. Learn what kinds of things to avoid, and learn about how a child views these family changes.

For example, I met someone who grew up with his mom, didn’t see much of his dad, his mom remarried (twice, actually), and he had a hard time dealing with that. Moreover, the mother later admitted that divorce was probably the wrong thing to do in the first place. This friend is my friend who speaks on behalf of my son (who cannot speak yet).

Another friend I met, whose mom died when he was young and was denied access by his dad to the maternal grandparents, later grew up to understand the perspectives of others, and who was the better person- the better role model.

These people who would share their family-structure struggles with you will also stand behind your efforts to keep the marriage together or at least your efforts to get significant custody rights.

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