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Sunday, July 7, 2019


I was driving the other day and saw a bumper sticker on the car in front of me.  It said, “Single dad’s lives matter.”  Of course, it is a spinoff from the “Black Lives Matter” slogan, also imitated in the slogan, “Blue Lives Matter.”  In every case, the motto is an expression of frustration and a cry for recognition of a problem, a desire for significance.  I understand the frustration of the single dads bumper sticker, though there are lots of frustrations all the way around in the world of divorce.  I thought the topic worth consideration in a blog.

I once knew a man frustrated by the court as he sought custody of his young child, who was living with his mother who had a live-in lover at the time, and the lover was a known drug dealer, and yet the court refused to give the dad custody.  As near as I could tell, the dad was a responsible sort of guy, had a decent home, a decent job, worked hard, attended church, spent time with his kid when he could.  Why did he not get custody.  The man told me that it was because the judge in the county of jurisdiction was biased toward women, and always gave full custody of the children to the mother.  I thought it odd that a judge could actually be that way, until I ran into another couple going through divorce from a neighboring county.  The wife had filed for divorce in the other county not her own, because she knew that the judge in that county always favored giving the mother custody.  These two contacts I had were years apart, miles apart and independently verified that the bias did exist….justice isn’t always quite as blind as the famous statue would suggest.  Since that time, I have seen a lot of times where such bias exists.  I was even struck that a popular Christian divorce recovery program’s materials were written in such a way that they clearly assumed the mother had custody of the children and that it was the dad’s job to be paying child support.  No wonder the car had a bumper sticker demanding that single dads matter!

The battle of the sexes often comes to the foreground in divorce.  I have known of a number of husbands who falsified finances in various ways to keep from having to give money equitably to their divorcing wives.  But then, I have also known women who have done the same thing.  I suspect that the bumper sticker not only originates from custody experiences, but also from all the discussion in the media about single moms and their struggle.  I want to point out that there is often a disparity between single moms and single dads, because our society still has disparity in pay between men and women in a number of fields, so a single mom often has a harder time earning the same salary that the single dad makes.  But not always, of course.  There are a lot of single dads out there struggling to make ends meet, and feeling especially a pinch on the wallet when running a household and paying child support, and sometimes maintenance (or alimony).  It is such a tangled web.

I have also known of parents who use the children as a weapon or as spies against an ex by undermining visitation agreements, or by manipulating children to woo them away from the custodial parent, or by denying access that, though legally granted, is sometimes hard to enforce.  Out there are many dads whose children are living with the ex-wife who are trying to be a good father when only seeing their children every other weekend and a few hours during the week.  I think that the core of the bumper sticker slogan is that dads DO make a difference in their children’s lives, and for them to be marginalized or excluded from the lives of their children, or for their participation to be undervalued by court or society is doing a great disservice to the children of divorce.  Children do best when they have a healthy relationship with both parents all together in a unified home.  When a divorce occurs, the children’s best chance to grow healthy continues to require the involvement of BOTH parents.  Using access to children as a way to inflict pain on one’s ex is a cruel and reckless action that occurs far too often.  Sometimes, single parents who are suffering from that kind of abuse, can use an encouraging word from those of us who are their friends and family.  Probably the guy with that bumper sticker needed to hear someone tell him that he IS important to his kids, and that his efforts to be a good dad DO matter.  Divorce is hard enough.  Turning it into a war zone leaves devastation wherever it happens.

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