Ask Jennifer: In Defense of Dads
I’m getting a divorce and I’ve been wondering if I should fight to keep as much custody away from my soon-to-be-ex as possible. He’s not a horrible guy but we got married too young, aren’t compatible, and I can’t stand to deal with him any longer. My daughter is only 1 so I don’t think she’d remember him anyway. Am I being selfish to want him completely out of our lives?
Confused mom in Birmingham
First let me tell you that, in my experience, if he’s not some terrible guy the court is unlikely to keep him from having any contact with his child. That said, while I can understand that you two don’t click, if he’s not a bad guy why would you want to deprive your daughter of any relationship at all with him anyway? In fact, I’ll give you three good reasons (out of many) why it’s best for a child to have at least some relationship with their father if it’s possible.
1. Self Esteem: Children who have their father taken from them altogether or who have no relationship with their father have been proven to struggle with self esteem. This hits girls especially hard as without a father around to set a standard for how they should be treated they often end up seeking the wrong kind of attention and pick the wrong type of guys. Teen pregnancy among fatherless daughters is 711% higher than it would be otherwise! For further proof of how it harms self-esteem, look no further than Grammy winner, Kelly Clarkson. She is insanely successful yet on her heart-wrenching song “piece by piece,” and in interviews, she details how having an absentee father has affected her and caused her to feel worthless for years. Though she has risen above it, the scars remain, and most are not as lucky to overcome as she has.
2. Education: 71% of all high school dropouts are classified as fatherless (9 times the average) and tend to struggle academically as a whole. Children who have a father who is involved in their education are 70% more likely to graduate high school. They also have a much higher likelihood of getting all A’s and of enjoying school enough to engage in extracurricular activities.
3. Drug use and delinquency: Drug use and juvenile delinquency rises dramatically when there is no father figure around. Studies have shown that, even after accounting for income differences, being fatherless puts a child at a much higher risk for being incarcerated in their lifetime versus someone with a relationship with their father.
All this to say, sometimes you have no choice but to have your child be without their father, and in those circumstances, the pros outweigh the cons; however, if you have a situation where the father is able and willing to be a part of your child’s life, putting aside your feelings towards the ex is warranted. Regardless of which route you choose to pursue, these facts above are just three quick reasons to consider co-parenting as much as possible. I’m not saying you must split custody 50/50, but I’m a big proponent of children having involvement and a relationship with both parents whenever it’s feasible. It might be hard to swallow your pride or learn to deal with him in a co-parenting role, but sometimes as parents, we have to make sacrifices we aren’t happy with for the sake of our child’s happiness and well-being.
Jennifer G. Rose is the founder and lead attorney at The Rose Law Firm LLC. One of only a handful of certified family law specialists in the state, Jennifer and her firm have won dozens of awards for their work in the field. Those wishing to reach her may call 205-323-1124, 24 hours a day or visit rosefamilylaw.com. Her firm gives complimentary initial consultations in person.
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