Divorced parents, what should I expect?

So it seems that my wife has decided that we are no longer compatible and wishes to separate. She has gone so far to have separation papers drawn up and has told me that nothing will work to save the marriage.

We have two young children, one 4 and the other almost 2. It kills me to know that I’m not going to be around all the time for them.

I have no idea what to expect, at least in regards to the children and what they will expect. My parents divorced, but I was a older. I also didn’t see my father that much so my experience with this is limited.

What should I expect, what will the kids say or think? Not that the youngest one will know much about it. And how long is this feeling of both rage and sadness going to last. I didn’t even know it was possible to want to throw something across the room and at the same time break down and cry.

I just started a new job today too, how the hell is it going to look if I break down at work. FUCK.

Refrain from any temptation to use the kids as a weapon in the divorce proceedings. Get yourself a good lawyer, otherwise you can expect to get royally boned on custody even if your wife isn’t using the kids as a weapon.
At the time I divorced my daughter’s mother, I ended up spending many thousands of dollars just to keep her and her scumbag lawyer from limiting me to one day a month visitation with my daughter. My scumbag lawyer eviscerated both of them.

First, do not leave the house. Do not let her take the kids. Go to a lawyer and get papers drawn up which state she’s not allowed to remove the children from the marital home. She can go if she wants, but she can’t take the kids with her.

Second, talk to the lawyer about minimum 50/50 custody.

Third, begin snooping to find the real reason she’s leaving. My guess is an affair of some sort. “Not compatible” is code words for “I found someone else”. Look over phone and email records. Buy a voice activated recorder if you need to.

Fourth, be strong. Don’t be a whiny, pleading wimp begging her to come back. Don’t make it easy for her to leave. Tell her you think you can work out your differences and you don’t want to talk about divorce. Don’t let her think you’ll be friends if you divorce.

You sound resolved that you’re getting a divorce. A divorce is a long way away. Don’t act like it’s a done deal. Check out marriage forums like the one at http://www.marriagebuilders.com or others. They will be able to give you good advice to save your marriage.

Following all of this advice would seem to be a sure fire way of making the divorce as acrimonious as possible. Which will not be good for the kids.

I’ve never been divorced, but ISTM that all of the advice (except about snooping) is pretty standard. Especially “don’t leave the house” and “get a lawyer”.


My ex and I just went through this. My sympathies. It’s very likely that it will be rough on the 4 year old for a few months. You’re likely to see more arguments, more tantrums, more defiance, more tears. The kid just doesn’t get it, and even if you and your wife manage to make it as peaceful and happy a process as is humanly possible, the kid is still going to be reeling for a little bit until s/he finds their new bearings. As will you. It took my then 4 year old about 4 months to settle down and be a bearable human being again. It took lots of trying to find the right routine to make her feel safe, and a balancing act of “cut her some slack” and “keep it normal”. One specific thing we found was that our first few schedule attempt for picking up/dropping off at preschool were upsetting to her. She couldn’t remember if Mommy or Daddy was picking her up, and it was always the “wrong” one, and she’d break down. We found that a consistent “Daddy drops you off, Mommy picks you up” schedule worked far better, even though that meant some schedule juggling for each of us.

The 2 year old, you’re most likely to see little obvious impact on, but s/he might regress in some developmental milestones. Might start having accidents if toilet trained, might start sucking a finger she’s given up recently, or want her old favorite lovey back. Again, it’s perfectly normal and nothing she won’t relearn when she’s feeling a little more stable again.

If you have any assets, joint debts or any disagreements about the kids or your personal belongings, do get a lawyer. Don’t try to use one lawyer between the two of you, you each need someone looking out for your own interests. If you’re concerned about your kids, look for a divorce lawyer who places an emphasis on “father’s rights”. Make sure you check the Better Business Bureau and your State’s licensing agency to see if there are any complaints about your lawyer before you sign anything.

If you have no assets or debts to speak of, and you agree on childrearing practices and times, then you might consider a do it yourself divorce. That’s what we’re doing, and it’s not been a big deal at all (although we haven’t been to court yet, so my opinion on that might change). I found sample Petitions for Dissolution of Marriage, Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, Joint Parenting Agreement and Marital Settlement Agreements written in my state online. I cut and pasted and changed specific terms to match our situation. There’s another packet of paperwork to pick up from the courthouse which is mainly sign and date stuff. It was a little head scratching to decipher exactly what they wanted, and I’m surprised there isn’t a standard form for the petition itself…in Illinois at least, you have to draft your own (or plagiarize it like I did.) If you want to see any of the paperwork I’ve created, send me a PM. I can’t guarantee it will be valid in any state other than Illinois (and, to be totally honest, I can’t guarantee it will work in Illinois yet, because we haven’t submitted it, but it all looks good), but it might be a place to start.

But I will say that if she gets a lawyer, you need a lawyer - it’s just stupid to do a divorce pro se if the other side has representation.

Our emphasis throughout the process has been on renegotiating our roles as “co-parents”. As long as we stay focused on the kid in a productive way, we can let the little things that made our marriage unsuccessful go, and we get along a lot better than we did. I understand that not every couple can do this, but I think every couple should at least try to. Whatever “the truth” about why the marriage is ending, you probably won’t be satisfied, and it won’t change the fact that divorce is what she wants, so I’d try to let it go and move on being the best dad you can be.

You know what’s best for the kids? Parents who stay together. If the EtH capitulates then the marriage is over and he’ll likely have little visitation rights.

His wife likely has some fairy tale scenario about how this will all play out. He needs to shatter that illusion so that she has some motivation to work on the marriage. She comes out of the blue with separation papers? What about trying to work things out first? What about counseling?

Are their “compatibility issues” so great that they can’t be fixed? Jeeze, they have two toddler aged kids. He needs to fight for his marriage so they grow up in a good home. If it doesn’t work, then oh well, he tried. He can look his kids in the eyes and say he tried everything he could. But do not just roll over and let her waltz out the door with a smile on her face.

You obviously never met my parents.

After “get a lawyer” and “don’t leave the house”–

First of all–What do you want in terms of custody? Do you want her to have primary custody? Do you want it? Do you want 50/50? Do NOT assume that because you’re a man your lot is every Wednesday evening and every other weekend. Fight for what you want, but accept that you are at a big handicap as far as getting full custody. But you could probably get 50/50.

Second–You know how everybody says that making sure you get along is good for the kids and yadda yadda yadda. It’s true, of course. But with all the “won’t you think of the children” stuff, one important thing is forgotten–Getting along with your ex is good for YOU. I get along with my ex and it pays off in countless ways: scheduling, financially, socially, and who knows what else.

That said, feel free to think whatever nasty thoughts you like about her. It’s the getting along publically and on the surface that matters.

Good luck.

ETA–here’s something you should expect: people will ask you how the kids are doing with regard to the divorce. Don’t insist that everything is just peachy because they’ll know you’re lying or a delusional idiot. You don’t have to give full details, of course, but you won’t make anybody feel uncomfortable with vague comments like “it’s hard on them, but they seem to be handling it pretty well” or “it was hard at first but they’re adjusting.”

Well neither of us has moved out yet, though she does go to her parents house every weekend and has for the last month. Through work they will help us get in touch with a lawyer so I’m hoping that will happen today.

I still haven’t figured out what the problem is totally. She says she gets scared when we argue. Now I can somewhat understand that as the last time we got into an argument she slammed a door in my face and I hit it and broke it. That’s the only time something like that has happened though.

We’ve been to counseling as a couple a few times, and I’ve gone myself a number of times as well. She just doesn’t want to tell me what’s going on. I think it’s more then that, but I can’t really tell and she hasn’t said.

As for what I want, I really don’t know. I haven’t thought that much out yet. Hell I’m just trying to get through the next couple of days right now.

Bolding mine. I grew up in a household where this kind of violence was typical. I’m still not over it. Regardless of whether the relationship works out or not, you need to stop this behavior immediately. It doesn’t matter if you know you would never physically attack your wife or children–she doesn’t know that and neither do your children. Though I’m not on board with her slamming a door in your face, your wife’s fear makes perfect sense considering your reaction, and if you both continue to participate in this dysfunctional cycle, you run the risk of seriously traumatizing your kids. Trust me on that.

I hope you guys can work it out, but the idea that people should ‘‘stay together for the kids’’ is somewhat misunderstood. A two-parent relationship is only better than one parent if it is a healthy relationship. I hope for your sake she will calm down in a few days and be willing to re-evaluate her decision.

I can’t speak to the legal angle (you should talk to a lawyer about that) but if there’s any way you can get away somewhere for a weekend to be alone with your own thoughts, it might help. You need to figure out what you want out of life before negotiations begin. You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want.

I got divorced 25 years ago and I had a 2 year old daughter at the time. The divorce was amicable, and we only used one lawyer, but I ended up giving up too much, with regard to custody, instead of fighting for what I really wanted. I felt that if I fought her she would do something hurtful like move away and make it even that much more difficult for me to see my kid. In those days it seemed that judges sided with mothers more than fathers.

If I could go back in time and do it differently I would have immediately got counseling for myself (she wasn’t interested and I couldn’t force her to go) to help me through it. My family provided me with support, but I just couldn’t confide in them like I can with an unbiased third party. Ten years after the divorce I went to counseling and worked through a number of issues that I had been living with since the divorce. It allowed me to live my life again. So my advice is to get some counseling now while this is all happening and not wait until it’s all said and done like I did.

I know what I did was wrong, and I’ve admitted that, many times to many different people. It’s another reason for me to seek counseling, though it doesn’t seem to matter as she’s not wanted to have anything to do with me for the past 5 weeks.

FTR, I concur with those who think you need to get a good lawyer. I could totally see her using this against you in the custody hearing. No need to assume the worst, but make sure you document everything.

My best advice for the children is never put them in the middle. Never. No matter how much you want to. Even if they eventually try to get you to talk shit about their Mom, even if she starts talking shit about you, even if she tries to make your life a living hell, don’t do it. Don’t. It is to tear a child’s soul in half.

Depending on your state, you don’t need a reason to divorce. My lawyer told me that it didn’t matter if she was having an affair, or boning the entire front line of the Broncos.

If she wasn’t doing drugs, an alcoholic, or a physical abuser, I had no change of getting better than 50% custody. Your state may vary and, it’s for this reason, you should at least consult with a lawyer for an hour or so over your rights in this.

Stop, immediately, any breaking of doors, etc. You don’t want to come off as the danger to the kids. Most courts will rule in favor of whatever is best for the kids and you want no reason for them to remove your rights to fatherhood.

My youngest, now 8, then 4, came out of it best of the children. Kids of a young age are amazing adaptable and he’s forgotten much of what it was like when the we were still married. My older children have suffered more so, frankly, I think your kids being young are a blessing in this case.

Here’s my thread from when the divorce was finalized. I believed then and still believe today that my relationship with my kids, especially my daughter, was damaged by being an 17% father (every other weekend). I strongly suggesting immediately going for the custody arrangement you want. If you want to share custody 50%, then start tomorrow with those plans.

We handled our divorce ourselves, other than the on-call services of a lawyer through the subscription legal service I’m a member of. They reviewed the paperwork for me that I filed with the court and were available for phone calls concerning issues. Later my ex decided she got a raw deal, her Mother-in-law funded a lawyer and she pretty much lost on an attempt to go after my few remaining assets (or leave them alone in trade for more custody (and child-support)). Her lawyer, I assume, told her that the deal was done, locked in, and probably more than fair. (I knew her early intentions from a mis-directed email sent to me for some reason).

Anyway, in short, fight for your rights as a father and parent. You have them but we, as men, have been conditioned to believe that we’re only entitled to every other weekend. Your kids need you too.

As much as you’ll want to, don’t put down your ex- in front of them. They have to respect her to have a successful relationship with her. As much as I want my wife’s new husband to treat her badly, it would make a bad situation for the kids if they were to be in that kind of household. In all things, think of your kids’ welfare first.

At least consult with a lawyer enough to find out what your possibles are. One hour of their time would be worth every penny. If your state tends to award custody to mothers, and you want custody, get a father-friendly lawyer. Split the debts and assets equally - sacrifice them and fight for the kids.

Bullshit. Absolute and utter bullshit. If she wants out, then the marriage is already over. And speaking as the product of a marriage between two utterly incompatible people who stayed together “for the sake of the child[ren]” I can tell you that that particular scenario is the worst, not the best.

Takes two to make that happen. If she’s not interested in trying, then how can they try to work things out together?

“Oh, well, he tried.” ?!? That’s the best you got?!?

Expect your wife to turn into a snake with tits.

You must see a lawyer. She is going to go after everything of yours. Forget amicable split. You have to fight this dirty, you have to fight this hard. Don’t give an inch of ground on anything.

Expect this to cost 5 figures - if you’re lucky.

Hell hath no fury…

Edit: Don’t even speak to her anymore. SEE A FUCKING LAWYER. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW BAD THIS CAN GET.

Having been through a divorce - not a particularly horrible one, but still - I’d say follow that advice to the letter. It’s great advice. Not acting in your best interest because you don’t want to make the other party angry is horribly self-defeating.

I was 6 when my parents separated. I was 9 when they divorced. The whole thing was a million times easier on me than on my brother, who is ten years my senior.

I was just confused and missed Dad. He knew everything.