Eating donuts in my car with my kids still in their pajamas provide some of my favorite memories of them when they were young. We used to have a good time – or at least as good a time as possible.
I can still remember my daughter being able to stand up in the front seat while she would eat a chocolate-covered twisty donut and then get dressed before preschool. (While parked, of course.)
The divorce happened when they were about 6 and 2, and I was determined not to let it disrupt the time I spent with them any more than required by the orders that we had to live under.
But I made some big mistakes. And there’s no way to go back and fix them now.
The first mistake I made was moving out of the house. When the divorce was announced, I made the mistake of thinking that the gentlemanly or courteous thing to do was to move out voluntarily. There was some logic to it. That way, I would know exactly where my kids were when they weren’t with me, and I could control how close I was to them.
But doing so was a mistake. Back in those days, it was common for a husband to be ordered out of the house, just because the wife wanted it that way. So, there is a good chance that I would have been ordered to leave the house anyway, but at least at that point, I may have been given more time to get things in order. Some judges will give a person ordered out 30, 60, or 90 days to leave.
Additionally, I could have asked for a “nesting” schedule. That’s where the kids stay in the home, and the parents alternate periods out of it. Sometimes this is set up on a week-on-week-off schedule. Although those were rare back in the ’90s, they are more common now, and just seeking such a schedule can be an important statement to the court and the soon-to-be-Ex.
Finally, I may have at least gotten some quid pro quo from the court. That is, “okay, you need to move out, but in exchange for that you’ll get…” The court will rarely make one side or the other “lose” entirely in a hearing, but when you voluntarily give away a big bargaining chip, it’s easier to come out a much bigger loser.
The next thing I would do differently has to do with living arrangements after the case.
I thought that the best thing for the kids would be to allow them to keep the home that they had grown up in, to that point. But in doing so, because their new “other home” was so far away, it meant a great deal of time in the car.
On Monday mornings, we would have to begin driving extremely early to get them breakfast, dressed, and to school in time, and worse yet, once school sports started, it was all but impossible. So, I gave up Sunday overnights to allow them not to have to get up in the middle of the night for school.
Soon midweek overnights were more difficult or impossible, and as middle school became high school, the problems with distance became even worse.
The hours and days and ultimately weeks that the distance caused me to miss with my kids can never be replaced.
And that is the single biggest mistake that I have made in any family law situation in which I have ever been involved – I did not do whatever was necessary to reside within walking distance of my kids’ other residence.
If you’re going through a custody case or have in the past. The best advice I can give you is this: Think long and hard before you decide to live anywhere other than very close to your children.
You can make more money, but you can’t make more time.