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Doug French is a father of two boys who writes his personal blog Laid-Off Dad, co-founded the Dad 2.0 Summit, and co-parents When The Flames Go Up with his ex-wife.

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10 Survival Tips for the Divorcing Dad

By Doug French |

As you may know, Magda and I used to be married. The wedding seems like ancient history now. In fact, we’re a month away from what would have been our 14th anniversary, which means our cells have regenerated twice over since that fateful day in 1998. Each of us has become two entirely different people!

What seems like an eternity is actually just under 5-1/2 years since we first realized our marriage was kaput. And I feel very grateful to tell you we’ve reached a degree of stasis. We’ve found houses that are a walking distance apart, in an area safe enough to let the boys walk to and from whenever they like. And from all accounts — *knock every piece of wood within arm’s length* — the kids are doing OK. It helps, of course, that our kids were young when we split. (We’ve been apart for more than half of our 10-year-old’s life, and just about all of our almost-7-year-old’s.)

The weird thing is that so many people have commented to both of us that we make it look so easy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth and that are diametric opposites, each at the far end of the spectrum of everything. It’s getting easier, but it was miserably rotten and hard for a long time. And now that I’m sitting here on the other side, in the relative calm after the tempest, I can look back on the things I did and think, “I guess that sort of … worked?”

If you’re a man about to divorce the mother of your kids, I’m sorry to hear it. Divorce is a heaping dose of awful, full stop. But it doesn’t always have to be forever. When I first knew I was going to be single again, my first thoughts were of our boys. I mostly knew I’d eventually be OK, but I had no idea how we’d help them through it and keep from screwing them up even more than we already were. The bottom line is this: Just like on an airplane, you need to take care of yourself in order to be in a position to take care of them. So here are 9 tips for seeing your way through the really terrible times, so that you can brace up and be the rock that your kids desperately need.

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Nine things helped me (and my kids) through my divorce.

Find a good therapist.

Whether you're leaving or being left, you're very likely navigating lots of intense feelings all at once. Acknowledge this and talk it over with a pro. You'll very likely realize things you never knew about yourself, or your relationship, and the answers will help you feel less threatened and visualize your partner's side of things.

Read more of Doug’s work on his personal blog, Laid-Off Dad.
Check out Doug’s Twitter feed @LOD.
Read Doug and Magda’s blog about co-parenting, When The Flames Go Up.
Read all about him on his page.

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About Doug French


Doug French

Doug French is a father of two boys who writes his personal blog Laid-Off Dad, co-founded the Dad 2.0 Summit, and co-parents When The Flames Go Up with his ex-wife.

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19 thoughts on “10 Survival Tips for the Divorcing Dad

  1. Windylou says:

    These are all great tips, but I still fail to understand why so much of what I read in 2012 still assumes DAD is who moves out. This is unrealistic and unfair to divorcing dads everywhere! The mindset that dad must leave really needs to change. There is ample evidence that dads are equally capable of being a/the custodial parent and until more strong voices like your support this, the majority of dads out there will continue to believe that they don’t matter as much as mom when it comes to raising their kids. It’s a sad cycle that many times leads to uninvolved dads, child support issues and eventual disappearance.

    I’ve been enjoying LaidOffDad and Moxie for years now, and I enjoy reading how the two of you have been co-parenting at WTFGU.

  2. Doug French says:

    I love everything about your comment, Windylou. From your lips to the courts’ ear.

  3. Mr Lady says:

    Hard things can be done with grace. Magda and you personify that. I’ve told you before that I admire how you both handle this, and I’ll tell you again. Maybe you guys weren’t good together married, but you’re sure as hell good together as parents, and that is really what matters most.

  4. Magda Pecsenye says:

    For the record, I always wanted your death to be painless. And quick.

    Also for the record, the more stories I hear about other people’s exes, the luckier I feel to be divorced from you, not them.

  5. Jackie says:

    Those are all great tips… but it takes two people being mature enough to follow them.
    I understand what WindyLou is saying but it depends on the situation of course…
    my husband would not give up beer for his family and over a year later still will not. He has $1500.00 for a motorcycle jacket but claims he is broke and can not attend parenting classes. Each and every divorce should be treated individually – and if a father “disappears” it would be of his own doing – a real Dad would stick it out and actually be involved – not just say they are trying while they do the bare minimum.

    Many men may be just as capable as women to raise the children but just as many leave all the raising to the Mom’s and become the fun time dad. Its just how it is. And I agree it is unfortunate.

  6. Doug French says:

    Sorry to hear that, Jackie. And believe me, I know my situation could be a whole helluva lot worse.

    I’m hoping more dads might decide to be more involved if the roadmap for getting their heads in the game were more accessible. But that’s a really big hope.

  7. Brandy K says:

    I think these are great tips for both Dads or Moms. I didn’t see anything that wasn’t applicable to both parties. My uncle was one of the few who had his wife leave, and in fact, eventually stripped virtually all rights from her due to her terrible alcoholism. Even then, it was a slow, long battle. It was also 15 years ago, I would hope that courts are less apt to side with mothers automatically.

  8. Robin says:

    What do you mean by “I’m hoping more dads might decide to be more involved if the roadmap for getting their heads in the game were more accessible.”?

    I’ve just found your blog and enjoyed this post–in fact, i found pretty much all of your tips to be applicable to my side of the equation as well. However, I’m a mom in the middle of a contentious divorce with a soon-to-be-ex who suddenly decided he deserves a 50/50 split. He is miraculously deluding himself into believing he has actually been involved in our sons’ lives when he wasn’t. Period.

    And yet there is now this “fathers rights” movement that says men should be getting a fairer shake, that moms should not be automatically assumed to be the primary parent. That’s what i feel I’m up against and I’m hoping that the judge is able to give this case individual attention, see the truth of how it’s been for 14 years, and not just hand my soon-to-be-ex 50% because that’s what people are saying should happen these days.

    I tried for years to get him to engage with our sons, to participate in their lives, to be with them. And he couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. How could the “roadmap for getting their heads in the game” be made more accessible? Who made it not accessible? How would that help the children of divorce?

  9. Anon this time says:

    Kids do better when they have a chance to form healthy and involved relationships with both parents. Mountains of psych research on children with separated parents supports this. Of course there are situations when the risk of harm in a patent’s care outweighs this aim, but by and large that’s what the courts are striving to achieve. It’s for the child’s benefit. If a parent hasn’t been as involved as he or she could have been in the past, and it is safe to do so, it would be great to provide access to parenting and emotionsl support to help them step up and become a better parent for the sake of that child. Just thinking that a poor track record in the past shouldn’t deprive a child of the opportunity for a great relationship in the future. It will take a lot of work and support to get there of course if that parent was less than involved before. But the upside is so mega. To the above poster, it sounds like you’re having an awful time of it, and I’m sorry. I hope that when everything settles you feel more at peace.

  10. Lucky Girl Gankee says:

    Enjoyed article, seemed straightforward & real. However in reading comments – from March 26, 2012 @ 1:27pm from Magda Pecsenye, if this is the former “other half” someone needs to write it out BUT best to keep the UGLY, UGLY personal – perhaps as a word document. More than hostile & not effective at all in co-parenting!!!!! UNBELIEVABLE….

  11. Randy from WI says:

    My Ex wife was very abusive. Both mentally and physically (to me not the children). It was VERY hard for me to get any benefit of the doubt. Same old story of the Dad getting the short end of the stick. If there was one thing I would suggest to anyone going through a messy divorce with an abusive spouse. RECORD EVERY PHONE CALL. It literally was a live saver for me and my kids. My lawyer was amazed at the vile things she said to me and about how she was going to lie to get whatever she wanted.

    Go to Get an account and cover your behind. It was worth every penny I spent.

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