6 Reasons Some Divorced Dads Check Out Of Their Children’s Lives

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By Hossein Berenji, Guest Author - May 16, 2016

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We are all familiar with the image of an irresponsible father – the one that is all too happy to forget about his old family after the divorce and would avoid paying child support given half a chance. But what about another situation – when a previously loving and caring father cuts all ties with his children after the divorce?

He goes on paying child support without a hitch and sends his kids Christmas presents, but otherwise is virtually non-existent in their lives? This phenomenon is much more widespread than one may believe and has even earned a popular nickname of a Ghost Dad Phenomenon.

But why does it happen? Of course, each situation is unique, but there are major principles according to which they develop. Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons fathers abandon children after divorce.

6 Reasons Fathers Abandon Their Children After Divorce

1. Feelings of Loss

It may sound counter-intuitive, but quite often the main reason why a father in a role of a non-custodial parent chooses to fade away from the lives of their children is the feeling of loss that is exacerbated by occasional visits. When one gets to encounter physical representations of what has been lost, it suddenly gets much harder to deal with the issue than when they exist elsewhere out of sight.

2. Shame and Discomfort

Divorce is a painful and destructive procedure, often resulting in bitterness, especially if parents separate on unfriendly terms. Divorce is perceived as a major failure by society, and every new contact reminds the father of that failure, which may be made even harder by a number of additional circumstances: mother’s disparaging remarks about the father, especially in front of the children, presence of a stepfather virtually replacing the father in children’s lives, supposed court bias toward mothers, never-ending battles over child support and child custody. All this creates a situation in which the father feels that it would be much better to provide for the children at a distance.

3. Relocation

And now for something completely different and quite mundane. Divorce means that parents go their separate ways, and may end up in completely different places. No matter how much a father loves his children, he usually cannot afford to allow his entire life to revolve around them. He is supposed to have the best job he can find and look for better opportunities to improve his own life. When a father ends up in a different state, it gets quite hard to maintain regular contact. It may sound like a trivial a reason to check out of a child's life, but then, most reasons are.

4. They Want Nothing to Do with Their Former Wives

When parents no longer live together, sharing custody of their children requires extreme levels of cooperation and mutual trust. Unfortunately, these are often in short supply with people who, most likely, just emerged from a legal battle and are still resentful towards each other. As a result, seeing their children while at the same time having to interact with their ex-wives causes some Dads to check out of what they feel is conflict that just isn't worth it. 

5. Law Makes It Difficult for Them to Perform Meaningful Parenting Roles

A non-custodial parent, by definition, has a very limited impact on the life of a child. Usual visitation arrangements being something like one evening a week and alternating weekends means that the father is no longer a parent per se, but rather a visitor. He doesn’t take part in routine activities of his child, the law removes his parental authority if he doesn't fight for his right to parent his children and forces him into a position of an entertainer rather than a parent – which is unfulfilling both for the father and the child.

6. They Define Their Parenting Role in Economic Terms

Especially if prior to divorce the father in question considered his main purpose as a parent to be that of a provider for the family. Such fathers tend to compare themselves to “deadbeat” fathers who don’t pay child support and don’t care about their children at all. Rather than seeing their own lack of contact with their children as a departure from what is normal, they perceive themselves as doing better than the majority of divorced fathers and are content to define their participation in financial terms.

Of course, each particular case has its own distinctive features, and no two scenarios are the same. However, it is important to understand the other side of the argument – and these are the reasons that most often that men check out of their children's lives.

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