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9 Ways to Be a Good Divorced Dad

9 Ways to Be a Good Divorced Dad

As a lawyer who champions dads' rights during divorce, Jeffery M. Leving shares nine bits of wisdom to be a good dad while going through a divorce.

Being a father has its challenges, but being a divorced dad has its own set of additional obstacles, which at times can feel overwhelming.

I’ve watched divorced dads tackle these obstacles for the past 30 years. As a lawyer, I’ve championed the fathers’ rights movement by fighting, together with my law firm, for the rights of dads in divorce and custody matters. From that experience, I’ve put together this list of nine things you can do to be a better divorced dad.

1. Make the most of a restrictive custody agreement.

Often, a custody agreement is restrictive and you may be concerned that it will affect your relationship with your children. Don’t give up hope if you feel this way. Capitalize on your ex-partner’s need for help with the children on certain days or times. No matter what the agreement says, the reality is that opportunities will likely arise for you to spend more time with your kids. Take advantage of this. 

RELATED: Secrets to Successful Co-Parenting

2. Don’t let guilt cloud your decisions.

Some divorced fathers have overwhelming feelings of guilt. A father may wrongly feel the failure of the marriage is completely his fault. As such, he will punish himself by agreeing to a settlement that is completely unfair to him. Don’t let guilt be your guide for these important decisions.

3. Manage your anger.

Anger can build barriers between father and child. Some men may direct their anger about a divorce toward their ex-partner or transfer it onto their children, which can damage those relationships. If anger is building a wedge between a healthy relationship with your child, seek counseling before irreparable harm is done.

4. Observe your children closely.

Good divorced dads recognize that divorce can affect their children in many ways. Pay attention to what your kids do and say. If you notice any behavioral changes, address them as soon as possible. Generally, communicating openly and honestly is what your children craves in these situations. If you need professional help, don’t be afraid to seek it out.

RELATED: How to Help Children Handle Divorce

5. Avoid stirring up jealousy.

Ideally, you will not start a new relationship until the divorce is final. However, if you strike up a romance while your divorce is being processed, be discrete. If your ex-partner becomes jealous, it may drag out settlement negotiations, which can put further stress on your relationship with your children.

6. Be careful about post-divorce relationships.

Be aware that any person brought into your child’s life will affect him. Hopefully, if you and your ex-partner begin dating other people or decide to remarry, your new partners will have a positive influence on your child. However, if you are in doubt of your ex’s new partner, don’t hesitate to check his credentials by searching the Internet or asking others about his character. Your children’s well-being must always be a priority.

If you decide to remarry and have more children, keep in mind that merging your families may cause issues you did not expect. First and foremost, communicate your legal obligations from your first marriage to your new partner.

7. Remember that your financial obligations to your child extend beyond child support payments.

A common misconception is that a divorced father’s financial obligations begin and end with child support payments. But many expenses may arise that the court order did not anticipate, such as summer camp or dental braces. Do not deny your child if you can afford it. If such expenses are raised to bait you into an argument, think of the value it gives to your child rather than the anger it causes you.

8. Request to alter your child support payments if need be.

Some fathers are unable to pay child support due to unforeseen circumstances. These fathers are not “deadbeats,” they are dead broke. This in turn may cause your ex-partner to interfere with visitation. Remember that you can petition the court to seek lower child support payments when financial circumstances change.

9. Don’t believe the joint custody misconception.

I am a strong advocate for joint custody. In fact, I co-authored the Illinois Joint Custody Act. However, many fathers feel that it is too much of a hurdle to get joint custody and do not even try to seek it. Although there may be obstacles, divorced dads have a good shot at obtaining joint custody, as long as you do not have anything in your history that would cause the judge to be skeptical of the arrangement. Don’t lose hope, ever. Your children are worth the fight.

RELATED: Prevent Children from Growing Up Too Fast in Divorce



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Jeffery M. Leving


Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery M. Leving is president emeritus of the Fatherhood Educational Institute and the author of How to Be a Good Divorced Dad, which received praise from President Barack Obama. Find more information on his website,

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