How an “accidental dad” went from zero rights and no parenting time to being a full-time father...
It’s July 1999. I’m standing in front of a payphone at Ace Hardware in Tucson, Arizona.
The roll of quarters I grabbed out of my backpack spilled all over the sweltering concrete, and while I picked them up off the ground I wondered, “what did I do to make my parents hate me?”
You see—I’m 13 years old and I had run away from home, with no plans on ever returning.
My parents were going through a high-conflict divorce, and I was right in the middle of it all and wanted out.
I was calling my Uncle to see if he could come and get me, or buy a plane ticket to fly me out to his house. I wanted to get as far away as possible from my broken, unloving home.
My Uncle talked me out of running away and convinced me to go back home. He also said something that I didn’t give much thought to at that moment, but it would profoundly change my life. He said:
So while I’m walking back home on the side of the road, I made a promise to myself that if I ever had kids I would always love and be there for them. I would never make them feel like they are unwanted.
Eight years after that phone call to my Uncle, my then-girlfriend carried her unplanned pregnancy to term and my daughter was born.
I’m 21 years old—in college and working as a motorcycle salesman. All while trying to navigate how to be a single dad, trying to distance myself from the toxic relationship I had with my ex, and starting to get a little taste of what the family court system had in store for me.
For the next few years, my life was consumed by arguments with my ex, and pleading to see my daughter for more than a few hours a week.
I didn’t want to be a part-time dad and I didn’t want my daughter to grow up in a broken home as I did.
But that seemed impossible, and it felt like I was breaking that promise I made to myself every day.
The situation felt hopeless. I felt trapped. Even unworthy of being a father. So I took a job transfer and moved out of state.
I thought leaving was best for my daughter, so she could grow up in a “traditional” family unit and have a “normal” childhood.
I wasn’t happy about it by any means, but I accepted it and life moved on. Until I realized I could not live with myself knowing I had broken that promise to 13-year-old me.
A few months later, I moved back to Arizona and gained joint custody. I could finally start being that father that I knew she deserved, and I knew I could be.
I was happy. Well, as happy as one could be given these circumstances…
- Constantly arguing over parenting time schedules,
- Struggling to make ends meet while paying child support,
- Juggling attorneys, mediators, and psych evaluators,
- And even being afraid of hearing a knock on my front door, thinking it's a process server handing me a new court order.
But I refused to settle or give in. I wouldn’t break my promise again. Keeping the best interests of my daughter in mind, I continued to fight for my rights, and hers.
It took 10 years of near-constant litigation and six figures in attorneys fees and legal costs to keep that promise.
That decade was the worst of my life—I went broke, suffered from massive depression and anxiety, lost my job, and all hope.
That pain, agony, suffering, and constant struggle I experienced was real, and it felt like my world was closing in on me.
Then I figured out how to conquer my inner demons and regained control of what mattered most—my own mind. From there, I was able to regain everything I lost.
And today, I can proudly say I kept that promise.
I now have sole custody of my little girl—something that at one point seemed impossible to have. And it was only made possible by my decision to persevere through every obstacle I faced.
I’ve been out of court for a few years now and adjusting to my life for the very first time as an adult without having the constant anxiety and stress that being in a custody battle drowns you in.
Over the years I’ve helped guide friends and fathers through their custody cases or divorces. I founded Custody Corps to provide the highest level of coaching, expert guidance, and accountability a man needs while defending his rights as a father in family court.
I’m on a mission to change the national conversation around shared custody and parental rights so the 22+ million parents in America who can’t see their children as a result of a separation or divorce have a fighting chance.
This is just the beginning.
Founder, Custody Corps
About Chris Piper
Christopher Piper is the Founder of Custody Corps, the premier source of new and unique strategies to help fathers gain or retain custody of their children while going through a divorce or separation. He is the former Executive Committee Chair for the National Parents Organization and currently works as the Director of Marketing for Scribe Media. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.