I wish to thank all the divorced dads who contributed to this book by sharing with me their experiences and insights into the many issues that they faced.
I wish them all well in their continuing journeys as divorced dads
40 per cent of all fathers lose contact with their children within two years.
100 children a day lose partial or total contact with their fathers in the UK.
Figures from the Lord Chancellor’s Department
The first few weeks of being separated can be, both practically and emotionally, the worst time of a divorced dad’s new life. It would be great to say that life will improve. However, whilst you may come to terms emotionally with the changes in your relationship with your children, many other obstacles lie in the way of a straightforward and fulfilling relationship with them. Not all fathers make that journey – which is why up to 100 children a day in the UK lose partial or total contact with their fathers. Each divorced dad has to decide if he will remain in contact with his children – or whether he will be one of the thousands of dads in the UK who does not. Unfortunately that decision may not be his alone to make.
The problem is simple, and needs to be stated clearly. The law, the court system and pretty much all the other aspects of a divorced dad’s life are heavily weighted against him. If you are a dad who has just been through a separation, and you believe that your and your children’s rights will prevail, then you need to think again and start to understand your position.
There are things you should know and tips that will help you be a successful divorced dad. They will also stop you from making mistakes that will cost you dearly – not just financially but in the relationship you have, and want, with your children. As one divorced dad I know said, ‘It’s not about winning, it’s about the degree of losing.’
The most important thing in your life is, of course, your children. Ensuring that you can create the space and time to build on the relationship that you already have with them is a major goal. The chances are that this was the case when you lived in the marital home, but now that your status has changed, you will also need to change the way you handle your relationships with your children.
The sad fact is that, instead of seeing his kids more or less every day, the average divorced dad now sees his children less than once a week. A recent study by the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DfCA) (Alison Blackwell et al) found that,
Overall, at least half of all children had some form of contact (direct or indirect contact) with their non-resident parent at least once a week: and that. . . fewer than three in ten children stayed over night with their non-resident parent at least once a week.
Non-resident Parent Contact Report (DfCA Oct 2003)
What this study shows is that almost half the children involved in a break up in the UK lose the input of their dad in their daily lives. This is a staggering statistic. The study also reported that up to 70 per cent of children stay overnight less than once a week with their fathers. This is a very revealing statistic which shows just how minimal the level of contact that the children have with their fathers can become.
Of course, there are many reasons for this lack of contact. Sometimes it is because the father himself does not wish to continue to have a relationship with his children, but in a lot of cases this is not so.
The study also reports that over the first few years of separation there is a massive reduction in the number of children who have contact from their dads – from 84 per cent in the first two years to 53 per cent in the fourth year. Among children in the non-resident parent sample just over a half (53 per cent) of those whose parents had been separated for at least three years had direct contact with their non-resident parent at least once a week compared with around four-fifths of children whose parents had separated more recently (79 per cent of children whose parents separated less than a year ago, 84 per cent of children whose parents separated one year but less than two years ago).
This means that there are up to a hundred children a day, or thousands of children per year, losing contact with their fathers. The reasons are complicated, but for many divorced dads the struggle to keep up the relationship in the face of a legal system that does not give the father any useful rights is simply too overwhelming.
This book is designed to help fathers continue with that struggle so that dads, and more importantly their children, can benefit from having a sustained and loving relationship. Studies by psychologists over the last 25 years have proved that having a balanced relationship with two parents – even if one is a nonresident father – is better for the children than being brought up with the influence of just one parent.
Good luck in that struggle. I hope this book will help fathers to understand the environment that they are in, and how best to cope.