One quick way to establish conflict for a male lead (and it is almost always a guy used in this trope) is to make them a divorced father. The story will usually open with a first act divorce or some time after it has taken place, with the children old enough to start resenting their dad for "leaving them". For whatever reason things didn't work out with his LoveInterest and they separated, with her usually keeping near complete custody. Their relationship will never be completely civil or free of {{UST}}, because the lead thinks they should get back together which his ex wife will rebuff because "You haven't changed" the underlying character flaws that led to the divorce.

For whatever reason, it's always implied it's the dad whose flaw(s) led to the divorce; While the ex may be snarky, resentful or exasperated in their interactions, neither the lead nor usually the children will act as if she was the problem. Still, just as often this makes us sympathise with the father more, if she comes off as seriously insensitive or unforgiving in the course of this.

She will have either remarried, gotten a fiancé or is seriously dating someone else. Since she has custody of the kids, the First Dad will be worried the Step Dad will win them over because he has more time with them ''and'' he's handsomer, more successful, more empathetic and an all around better dad (though a painfully dull and "safe" rebound guy is also possible). The kids, usually boy and girl pair, will have one of four relationships with the First Dad and Step Dad: passive aggressiveness, wary distance, civil cohabitation, or a loving and respectful rapport. For variety and contrast, they usually each have a different relationship with the dad and step dad.

As the plot progresses, he'll win back his ex wife, the Step Dad [[DerailingLoveInterests will be revealed]] to be a JerkAss and [[CleaningUpRomanticLooseEnds get killed off]] or sent packing, he'll completely patch up his relationship with his kids and they'll all reunite and live HappilyEverAfter.

Contrast ParentWithNewParamour, where we usually root for the stepdad who's trying to win over the kids (in these stories, there [[DisappearedDad usually isn't a First Dad around]] to hog the sympathy).

See also ParentTrapPlot.



* ''Film/TwoThousandTwelve'' mixes it up a bit. Step Dad Gordon is a NiceGuy, saves their lives twice, and has honestly won the love and respect of his kids. Of course, [[spoiler: the ex-wife loves him imperfectly, not as much as her old husband who she has a flame for, but enough to not leave him. And of course he dies at the end in what seemingly is a last-moment attack by the plot to keep this trope enforced BY ANY MEANS.]]
* While there's no romantic rival, reuniting with his wife and daughter is William Foster's primary motivation in the movie ''Film/FallingDown''. Foster doesn't just have "frustrating flaws" the way so many First Dads have; he's insane to the point that his own mother is terrified of him, and his ex will do anything to keep away from him. Since it's a drama, [[AlasPoorVillain it doesn't end well]]: [[spoiler:Foster ends up committing SuicideByCop.]]
* The Belgian film ''[[ Le huitième jour]]'' involved this as a major part of the plot.
* ''Film/MrsDoubtfire'' has the example of Creator/RobinWilliams's character cross-dressing as a nanny to spend time with his kids, while meanwhile Pierce Brosnan's character romances the ex. It leads to his ex-wife gaining full custody and forbidding him any contact with his kids without supervision. DoubleSubverted when the ex-wife allows the dad to visit the kids anyway and their dad takes the cross-dressing professional with a motivational childrens' show.
* ''Film/RunFatboyRun'' is [[spoiler: quite literally this trope. The real dad does indeed beat the stepdad in the London Marathon, thus winning back the mum]].
* ''Film/NightAtTheMuseum'' has something similar. Ben Stiller's character main motivation is proving himself a worthy father to his son, and to himself, but he and his ex-wife have an almost sibling like relationship, with absolutely no UST and Paul Rudd, the step-dad, is shown as goofy but dedicated and never actively tries to get between Stiller and his son. Which makes him all the bigger threat.
* ''Film/TheRoyalTenenbaums'' has Royal try this to return in good graces with his family, including getting rid of his ex-wife's suitor by pretending to have stomach cancer. The Step Dad eventually sees through his ruse and they kick him out. They do eventually forgive him though.
* ''Film/TheWarOfTheWorlds'' with Creator/TomCruise has this set up, and plays it to a T except for the reunited parents.
* ''Film/{{Weatherman}}'' with Nicolas Cage has this set up... which [[spoiler:[[StatusQuoIsGod remains largely unchanged]] by movie's end, save for a slight repair in his relationship with his kids as he works out some personal issues. ]]
* ''Film/TheFullMonty'' has Gaz trying to raise the money so that he can keep seeing his son on weekends. He goes about this by... unconventional means, which backfires [[spoiler: when the police see him and his friends practicing their strip tease in front of the kid and arrest him]].
* ''Film/OBrotherWhereArtThou'' has the wife of the protagonist (a convicted felon) attempt to marry a man with an honest living, whose worst fault appears to be that of being boring. Interestingly, the step dad [[spoiler: is in the Ku Klux Klan, and gets swept out of the way because of it. The protagonist and wife eventually get sort of back together.]]
* PlayedWith in ''Film/TheSantaClause:'' it begins with Charlie clearly preferring his stepdad, Neil, to his workaholic father Scott, but Scott becoming SantaClaus helps to bring the two together. This leads to a rift between Charlie and Neil in the latter half of the movie--Neil is convinced Scott is delusional--but ultimately Charlie's relationship with both father figures is repaired. There's never really any hint that Scott and his ex-wife, Laura, might get back together.
* Gender swapped and subverted in ''Film/DefinitelyMaybe''. A closer look at the movie may suggest that daughter Maya asks her father about how he met her mother to encourage him to rekindle old feelings. But when he tells her about the three major women in his life [[spoiler: he realizes that the woman he loves isn't Maya's mother, and Maya then encourages him to follow his heart, even if it doesn't lead her parents to remarry.]]
* In ''Film/{{Taken}}'', Bryan's wife divorced him because of his time-consuming job as a special forces commander. She has remarried a millionaire and has custody of his daughter, Kimmy. Their relationship is summed up at Kimmy's birthday party, when Bryan gives her a karaoke machine, but her stepdad gives her a horse. The trope is ultimately subverted in that even though he regains the respect of his daughter and ex-wife after rescuing his daughter from kidnappers, they don't reunite as a family. [[spoiler:Until the sequel.]]
* In ''Film/BringingDownTheHouse'', the mother's new boyfriend is perfectly nice, but he's a lot younger than her (and her ex-husband.) Presumably the age difference helps her decide to go back to her ex once he becomes less of a workaholic.
* ''Film/LiarLiar'' plays this dead straight, with a reliable but boring new father figure who winds up getting the shaft just as she and the ex-wife were about to move away together. Interestingly, it still takes the couple a year to get back together.
* ''Film/{{Sharknado}}'' is particularly blatant with the JerkAss new boyfriend, but he gets all of two minutes on screen before getting eaten. Makes you wonder why they bothered, [[WildMassGuessing unless it was meant]] to be [[PoesLaw a subtle parody]]. Naturally the protagonist and his ex get back together at the end, despite another woman also interested in him. (Who [[ShipTease may hook up]] with [[spoiler:[[SquaringTheLoveTriangle the protagonist's son]]]] instead.)
* ''Film/DomesticDisturbance'' is good example of this trope. The stepfather seems to be a successful businessman, but the son soon discovers that he is actually [[spoiler: a killer]]. [[spoiler: In the end, the first father (John Travolta) wins.]]
* In ''Film/AntMan'', while Cassie loves her stepfather Paxton, it's clear that she prefers and favours her biological father, Scott.
* This trope serves as the basis for the 2015 comedy ''Daddy's Home'': when [[Creator/MarkWahlberg Dusty]] discovers how much his children have bonded with their new stepfather [[Creator/WillFerrell Brad]], he determines to win them back and force Brad out. [[spoiler:Averted at the end, when the two dads come to a mutual understanding... then [[HereWeGoAgain Dusty gets married and becomes a stepdad himself, upsetting his stepkid's father]], [[Wrestling/JohnCena Roger]].]]

* Played painfully straight in ''Literature/TheStrain'' with Matt, who is a cowardly, passive aggressive milquetoast department store manager described as a safe rebound guy. He tries to sabotage Eph's relationship and credibility with ex-wife Kelly, and tries to take Eph's place with son Zack. This in the middle of a [[strike:Zombie]] [[ZombieApocalypse Vampire Apocalypse]], which leads to [[spoiler:his convincing Kelly that Eph's warnings are a desperate cry for attention, which leads to both being turned into vampires.]] The trope is played so straight he seems to have a total lack of redeeming features, and when [[spoiler:Eph beheads his vampire form, it's a toss up as to whether the feeling is cathartic or not.]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* Ray Drecker, Thomas Jane's character in ''Series/{{Hung}}'', essentially follows this trope.
* The father in ''Series/UnhappilyEverAfter'' reluctantly does this. After they divorce in the first scene of the first episode he moves into a bachelor apartment; then eventually moves into the basement of his former home; and finally back upstairs with his wife. Then his wife is killed off so they could give more screen time to Film/TheHotChick.
* Danny "Danno" Williams and his ex-wife Rachel play this trope to the hilt in the ''Series/HawaiiFive0'' reimagining; however, [[spoiler: as of the season one finale, Danno stays in Hawaii while Rachel (pregnant with their child) and their daughter go back to Jersey and she begins to divorce her second husband.]] Time will tell what happens to their relationship from there.
* Earl Hickey of ''Series/MyNameIsEarl'' is a divorced father (his first wife left him for a mutual friend while he was doped up on morphine at the hospital). His children, however, are still young enough not to resent him for leaving, and even refer to him as "old daddy," and he finds out that [[spoiler: Dodge actually is his biological child.]]
* Jimmy [=McNulty=] of ''Series/TheWire'' is the first dad. He doesn't exactly win in the getting-back-together sense, but otherwise the trope applies.
* Shows up in {{Series/Justified}}. Protagonist Raylan is divorced due to his temper and his ex-wife's fear that he'll die in the line of duty. Before the series begins, she's remarried to a boring, "safe" realtor. A few seasons in [[spoiler: he's killed off by the local mob in an attempt to frame Raylan. The protagonist eventually gets back together with his ex-wife, but they're shown to be separated again in the epilogue.]]
* Also shows up in {{Series/Banshee}}. [[spoiler: "Sheriff Hood" is Deva's real father]], but his ex, Carrie, has long-since married Gordon, a former marine, current lawyer, and genuinely nice guy. [[spoiler: Gordon is killed when he helps Hood and co. rescue Carrie from an unhinged military man, but Lucas and Carrie go their separate ways afterwards, though Deva does learn who her real father is.]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* This is part of the storyline of Mutatsu, the Tower Social Link in ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'', minus the step-father.

* ''Webcomic/BiterComics'': A father attempts to win his son's love... by sabotaging his relationship with his new stepdad through [[ detailed lies of his evildoing]].
* Parodied, along with RomanticFalseLead, in [[ this]] ''Webcomic/{{Shortpacked}}'' strip (with specific reference to Creator/JamesMarsden).

[[folder: Western Animation ]]
* If you see the toys-as-parents theory, then Woody of ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory'' is like this, being Andy's favourite toy, even more than "stepdad" Buzz Lightyear.