DON'T MOVE OUT! How Fathers Become Their Own Worst Enemies
By Robert B. Gidding, January 2000
I am shocked by the number of fathers who, when asked by their wives to leave, say "okay," and just leave. Studies have shown that women ask men to leave the house far more often than men ask women to leave the house. Fathers often voluntarily abandon their homes, their possessions, and worst of all, their children. By moving out, they disadvantage themselves terribly in any custody, alimony, and equitable distribution dispute.
Are fathers just sheep who passively do what they are told by wives who no longer want them? Why do they do this?
My experience reveals several reasons:
1. Fathers unnecessarily blame themselves for the difficulties in the marriage and therefore mistakenly believe they should be the ones to leave when things get difficult.
2. Fathers sometimes see themselves and their mates in stereotypical terms: Men are tougher and women weaker, so they think fathers should leave the house and find temporary shelter while women should stay in a secure environment.
3. Fathers mistakenly regard the mother as more essential to the well-being of the children than fathers. They decide that the children should remain with the mother at the time of separation.
4. Some fathers are scared off by mothers' threats of domestic violence.
5. Fathers naively and mistakenly believe the mother when she says "I need some space. Please leave and we'll work things out. Then you can come back."
None of these reasons justify a father abandoning his home and children when asked to do so by his wife, except one: A father should leave only if it is the only way to avoid bloodshed (i.e., death or serious bodily harm). If the father thinks he probably will kill or maim his wife, or that the mother will kill or maim him, then he should leave to preserve life. That is the only reason.
Unfortunately, fathers can be their own worst enemies. Here's why the above five justifications for leaving are wrong:
1. The death of a relationship or difficulties between two people is rarely, if ever, caused solely by the fault of one person. Both people should be blamed for a breakdown in a relationship.
2. Men are not "tougher" than women or vice-versa. There is no rule of thumb here. Statistics indicate that women live longer than men, that is clear. The personality characteristics of men and women differ from person to person. One cannot generalize this point.
3. Fathers are just as essential as mothers to the welfare and health of children. Countless books and articles describe how children need strong, nurturing, present fathers to ensure their healthy psycho-sexual development. One cannot generalize on this point either.
4. Lots of mothers threaten domestic violence against fathers or threaten to file false allegations of domestic violence in order to run them out of the marital home. Indeed, many mothers do actually file false allegations of domestic violence in the courts. These threats should not compel fathers to abandon their homes and children when the marriage turns sour.
If the mother makes these threats, then the father needs to act cautiously and stay away from the mother while inside the marital home. This may mean sleeping in different bedrooms or floors of the home, setting meal schedules so that spouses do not share meals, and generally avoiding each other as much as possible. It will be difficult, but it can be done. It may put a strain on the children, but it is far worse for the children to see their father leave with no guarantees of seeing him regularly.
5. Wives often trick the husband into leaving by saying, "I need some space. Please leave and we'll work things out, and then you can come back." In my years of family practice, I can't remember one case in which the couple reconciled after the separation. I'm sure it happens once in a while, but it is extremely rare. If the parties really want to work at reconciliation, they can do it while living under the same roof, but in different bedrooms or levels of the house. A wife frequently has no intention to reconcile, or, she may have the intention at first, but quickly changes her mind.
Fathers should never leave the marital home and their children unless the parties have entered into a binding written agreement with respect to custody and parenting time of the children. This agreement should be filed in court as a consent order.
By abandoning the marital home, fathers send a terrible message to the children (especially young ones) that the children do not matter to them. By leaving, fathers lose practically all their negotiating leverage when it comes to custody, equitable distribution, and alimony. For example, once the mother asks the father to leave, he should say, "I'd be delighted to leave, but I want a binding written separation agreement. I want that agreement to at least guarantee me adequate parenting time with the children and impose a reasonable interim support amount. If you are unwilling to do this, I am not moving out. I suggest that you leave."
By simply leaving without any custody agreement, fathers put themselves at a terrible disadvantage later in any custody dispute. Let's suppose dad leaves, gets a new apartment, and calls the mother asking, "I'd like to see the kids and have them stay at my place." The mother may be cooperative, but may not. She may try to obstruct visits by claiming that the kids don't want to see dad overnight, that dad's new apartment 'isn't good enough," or that the kids are "too busy," etc., etc. Leaving the kids behind presents the mother with the opportunity to bad-mouth dad without dad being present to combat that alienation. By moving out without any agreement, dada put themselves at the mercy of the mother when it comes to the kids.
Once dad leaves the marital home and the children behind, and sees the children infrequently or every other weekend, then he probably will never be able to increase his time later. Judges employ the theory of the "status quo" and "primary parent." This means that absent some emergency situation, judges always favor the current parenting schedule and favor the parent who has the children more time. If time passes and the children visit the father only every other weekend, then the father will have a difficult or impossible time trying to increase this time later.
So, don't ever leave. Insist that she leave if she wants a separation so badly. Hang in there until you and your wife make a written agreement filed in court that guarantees you the parenting time you need to sustain a healthy father-child relationship.
Robert B. Gidding, Esq.
Society Hill Office Park
1874 Route 70 East, Suite #4
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
This may put one in a better position when/if abuse allegations are laid. Of course, this offers no protection to the fellow who comes home to a house with locks changed and so on, without prior discussion.
Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas.
A good percentage respond ' No she needs the house for the kids, I'd do anything for my kids not to be effected by this and they need a stable environment they are familiar with and I still love her.'
Of course it's not all just one sentence but is usually composed of most of the above reasons.
There is still a chivalry to sacrifice for the family at any cost, the modern version of King Solomon's wisdom sees the father give up the children before the sword except Solomon is now giving the child to the taker.
This is all before the Law is use to advantage the mother.
There is considerable amount of monetary support given to mothers at separation including rental support to suggest they receive free accommodation aid by the father on top of government assistance and child support seem ludicrous, if this is being done should the government then not reduce the benefits they receive ???