Guess what, divorced dad, as much as you wish your ex would disappear off the face of the earth—let me tell you a little secret, she isn't going to.
You are more than likely going to get the minimum custody because your child isn't old enough to decide for him or herself. You are more than likely going to be on the wrong side of custody, unless mommy is a kleptomaniac and has developed a meth habit.
It's time to adjust, deal with it, and be the best damn dad you can be.
Unfortunately for me, I got wiped out fighting for custody of my only child. A game of Risk was less complicated than the two-year saga I went through. I would fortify my position as a dad, thinking I was doing good; and then my baby mama would outflank me, because she had more money, I and learned the hard way that family law is far from black and white.
I wish my daughter lived in the same town as me, but she doesn't, and a clueless judge determined distance wasn't a factor. It may be worth mentioning that my daughter lives 90 minutes away, assuming I'm not held up by some tractor on a desolate Kentucky highway. I get to rewrite the rules of fun with her every two weeks during the school year, which involves a 3.5-hour round trip drive on a Sunday evening when I must return her home.
Welcome to co-parenting, dad.
I'm here to tell you it sucks, but you are a dad, and you had better #DadUp for the sake of your children. The divorced dad stereotype needs to be tweaked, and unless you are willing to do the work, it won't be altered any time soon.
You lost the custody battle; good chance you were never going to win. Sure, a lawyer probably strung you along for a bit to keep the meter running.
False hope is a painful lesson, an expensive lesson.
Losing a custody battle will literally zap your will to live at times. It will take time to recover, but dad, you will recover.
Your daughter has three softball games a week, 100 miles away? Unless you lost an appendage in a car accident, you had better be there if you can. There is nothing more rewarding than driving out of your way to see your child for an hour. The monster size hug you get will, at times, have you misty-eyed.
Your child just got named Student of the Month, and you only found out about it a day before? You tell your employer what's up, and if they won't give you the time off, you let me know! You claim to be an involved dad, but you must prove it. Showing up unexpectedly will do two things: Make you proud to see your child being rewarded, and more than likely annoy your ex.
You may not have chosen this war, but you can do your best to win it. Don’t settle for the "weekend warrior" dad moniker. Traveling three to four hours a week sucks, especially during the work week, but it's a must that you never miss an opportunity to spend time with your child.
The nasty knot you got in your stomach once you learned that you were going to be Mr. Every Other Weekend dad goes away over time. It isn't a fun process to get over, but eventually you will. Regroup, refocus, and reenergize all your bitterness—and use it to become a better father. People will notice, and more importantly, your children will.
Written by Gary Mathews
Gary Mathews is divorced father of the "most beautiful girl in the world." He started blogging in July 2014 upon learning the news of his impending divorce. This process helped him cope, and eventually evolved into a passion. Learn how Gary dealt with custody, ex-wife, and life issues at: www.skipahsrealm.com.