custody of children

When the Court’s Decision Doesn’t Go Your Way

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Being on the wrong end of a decision regarding the custody of children can be devastating for a father—as can the emotional fallout if he’s not careful. One person’s opinion of what “in the best interest of the child” means can be different from another’s, often leaving the losing parent to wonder what’s next.

If this is you, rather than focusing on the what-ifs, let’s look at how you can make the most out of the time you do have with your children and what it means for all of you over the long haul.

Hope in the Darkness

Finding the ability to cling to hope when you’re out of options will draw a strength out of you.

Probably not something you want to hear right now, but ask any father who has come through on the other side and you will see that though not everything is ideal, things can still work out over time. The short-term steps are not to let anger consume you, accept the court’s decision, and keep it together for your kid’s sake. It may seem like your relationship with your children is damaged, but hang in there. Custody arrangements can change, as can the other parent’s heart. Ask yourself what you can begin doing now to help make this as smooth and loving of a transition for both you and your children. Finding the ability to cling to hope when you’re out of options will draw a strength out of you—perhaps a strength you never knew you had.

Encouragement Moving Forward

You are a major part of your children’s lives, no matter how much or how little you see them. Their love for you has not changed. Children need both parents; you are half of that equation. You can still be Dad, but will definitely need to adjust. Keep loving your kids any way you can. I also recommend surrounding yourself with a strong support system of family, friends, and community—perhaps a men’s group in a church. Seek out those who will build you up and not contribute to the negativity of the situation. Above all, remain confident that your value as a man and importance as a father have not diminished in the least.

Wise Use of Your Time

Just before my custody case for my daughter began, my best friend told me, “Even if you get her just one hour a week, make that the best hour of her week.” What does that sort of best time look like? This is where we need to be careful. It’s easy to fall into Disneyland Dad mode, as opposed to remaining one of our children’s primary life leaders. And I get it—when minimal custody is given, schoolwork and discipline don’t exactly top our list. Still, it’s extremely important for us to stay focused on our responsibilities to raise them right, invest in their schoolwork, and help turn them into healthy adults. Of course, don’t go overboard in that direction either. Our kids do need that cherished playtime with us. Find a balance between the two.

I know it may be hard to see the next step right now, and perhaps the wounds are still fresh. But fatherhood is a lifelong journey. Hold fast to these forever truths along the way: When we genuinely love on our children, raise them with solid values and discipline, and give them the best of what we have when we can, that instills self-confidence in them and a foundation for them that no one can take away.

Sound off: How can you make the best for yourself and your children given the current circumstances? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Where do you go to find encouragement when things don’t go your way?”