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Visit by Divorced Dad

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"I was working, sometimes two jobs, so I just wasnít around much. Iím not making excusesóI shouldíve been there, but I wasnít... But now when my kids are with me, itís just me. Iím the one who puts the band-aids on, Iím the one who rubs the tummies and shampoos the hair, holds them when they have a bad dream. Then they go back to their mother, and I realize what I'm missing."
Vic Damico, Bye Bye Love

In a show where the main child character(s) is(are) mentioned to have divorced parents (or at least parents that aren't together anymore), it's usually the mom who has primary custody of the kid(s). However, more often than not, there will end up being an episode where the child's father visits or where the child pays a visit to their father (usually but not always as part of some custody arrangement).

When the child visits his divorced father, Men Can't Keep House, Lonely Bachelor Pad or Dads Can't Cook will often feature.

This rarely works in the reverse—in fiction, dads and/or father figures usually aren't depicted as raising kids on their own unless the mother of the child (or children) is dead.

This might cause tension among the family in a Blended Family Drama if the parent with custody has already remarried.

Compare When You Coming Home, Dad? and Disneyland Dad.

Contrast Daddy Didn't Show.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed: A Gender Flipped example with Ran's mother Eri Kisaki. Ran (with or without her father Kogoro Mouri) either gets visited by Eri or she/they stumble(s) on her by accident or there's an meeting arrangement going on.
  • A variation happens in Kodocha — In some episodes, Sana's (adoptive) mother's ex-husband shows up at their house a couple of times asking for money. Of course, due to the show's comedic nature, he's likely to be (harmlessly) blasted with some sort of large weapon, sending him flying away. However, Misako's ex-husband technically isn't Sana's dad (legally or biologically), as Misako had adopted/raised Sana as a single parent. To go into greater detail:
    • Shortly after she and her husband got divorced, Misako learned that she wouldn't be able to have children through biological means. Still wanting to be a mother, Misako looked into adopting a child—after finding Sana (who was abandoned as a baby by her biological mother, Keiko) and taking her to an orphanage, Misako was eventually able to legally adopt Sana as her daughter and ultimately raised her as a single parent.
  • In Noein: Mo Hitori no Kimi e (To Your Other Self), both Haruka and Yu both seem to be being raised by single mothers and Haruka brings up child support and running away to Tokyo to live with her dad in an early episode. It turns out Yu is just always at work, but Haruka's dad's monthly visits become a plot point when fellow quantum physicist Uchida plans to use it to catch him and get him to help her save the world from their mutual research. There's always bloody quantum.
  • Yuki's divorced father Kurou visits him in the hospital more than halfway through Future Diary. However, a chance for father-son bonding isn't the real reason he's there...
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, the Kawamoto sisters' deadbeat dad divorced their mother years ago, before the youngest sister Momo was even born. Since their mother's passing, they've lived with their grandfather. One day their father shows up again out of the blue, reopening painful wounds and trying to take advantage of the girls.
  • In Tonari no Kashiwagi-san Sayaka arranges to meet with her father and brings Kazuki along for moral support. She only wants to know one thing: Was it worth marrying her mother despite how it ended up? The answer is quite simple: Yes, because Sayaka was born.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens in W.I.T.C.H., and gets its own subplot. Will's dad, Thomas Vandom, threatens to take Will away from her mother if the latter doesn't give him the huge sum of money he wants.
  • Jonesy: Inverted, the title character's mother is the one who's usually away while Jonesy lives with her father, and she eventually comes to visit in the 7th issue. Jonesy isn't too thrilled at this due to thinking that her mother left them and it comes to a head near the end of the issue. However, her mother reveals that this isn't the case: she and Jonesy's father separated due to marrying young and ultimately growing apart as they got older. Jonesy's father was the one who volunteered to look after her while her mother went to the city to study to be a lawyer. But Jonesy's mother makes it clear that she really does love her daughter (and always has), and comes to visit whenever she can. Jonesy's mom even goes out of her way to get an apartment with a spare room so Jonesy could have a place to sleep when she visited her in the city.

  • In the movie Armageddon (1998), one of the guys who has to go to space visits his son. The mom doesn't tell the boy that this is his father, but that he's a salesman; from what she says to her ex after their son goes into the house, it's implied that he's actually not allowed to visit, or at least not without advance notice (which is why his son doesn't recognize him). Later, after the father takes part in a plan that saves the planet, his family sees him on TV. When the boy says, "That salesman is on TV," the mom finally admits, "That's not a salesman. That's your dad." A similar thing happens at the end of The Long Kiss Goodnight.
  • The The Baby-Sitters Club movie has Kristy's Disappeared Dad visit for the summer. He only reveals himself to his thirteen-year-old daughter (ignoring his fifteen-, seventeen-, and seven-year-old sons), forcing her to keep it secret and basically lie to her family and friends all summer, before he leaves unexpectedly because his job prospect didn't pan out.
  • The film Drive Me Crazy has Melissa Joan Hart's father visit her and take her on a hot-air balloon ride to bond. While up in the air, he gives her the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to better understand him. She replies, "This stupid book is supposed to explain why you're never around?" and flings it over the edge. Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the film that he cheered at this part.
  • Prior to the events of The Guilty, Michael lost his visitation rights due to his criminal record. His daughter Mathilde tells police dispatcher Asger that she isn't allowed to visit her father, but that she memorized his phone number with his help. The movie begins shortly after he's visited anyway.
  • Happens in Pay It Forward, when Trevor's estranged father suddenly shows up at the door. It doesn't work out between the two.
  • One that does not end well in The Rebound.
  • In Somewhere, Cleo comes to stay at the hotel suite of her divorced father for an extended visit.

  • Another kind of inversion happens in Amelia's Notebook where Amelia gets a letter from her divorced father, then she goes to visit him. There still seems to be tension between her parents, though.
  • In Animorphs Rachel is visited occasionally by her father, who lives in another city. She actually seems closer to him than to her mom because they have a lot in common.
  • A rare reversal in Sweet Valley High, as Lila lives with her single father and her mother lives in France. When Lila is nearly date raped and the therapy she receives isn't working, her dad reaches out to her mother. This leads to them eventually remarrying in Book #98: The Wedding.
  • Seen a few times in The Babysitters Club. There's one book in which Dawn and Jeff's dad visits Stoneybrook briefly before a summer trip. He has breakfast with his ex-wife, her New Old Flame husband, and her stepdaughter. It's just as awkward as it sounds.
    • The Spin-Off series, Friends Forever, has Kristy's dad get married again and finally remember that he has kids—because he wants the three oldest ones to be in the wedding. He doesn't even seem to remember that the youngest child (who was a baby when he left) exists, and is kind of a Jerkass throughout the whole thing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Monk, who finally meets his dad, who is in trouble for a murder his boss committed.
  • Who's the Boss? had a few episodes in which Angela's ex, Jonathan's father, came to town.
    • The first visit actually revealed they hadn't been divorced yet. He came back from an extended trip after being served with papers. That led to the attempted reconciliation.
  • Gilmore Girls, though in this case, the parents were never married in the first place. Multiple visits; one brief reconciliation with mom. One attempted reconciliation with catastrophic effects.
  • Hank Summers appears in the first-season Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Nightmares", and is supposed to meet Buffy, but cancels, a few other times over the series's run.
    • In "Nightmares" everyone's worst fears come true, so Hank tells Buffy that it was all her fault her parents divorced. It wasn't really her father as it turned out, but Buffy never gets over her Disappeared Dad, a fact that lampshaded in Season 7 "Conversations With Dead People".
    • Joss Whedon was raised by a single mother. Coincidence?
    • It got to the point where, in the fifth season, after Joyce dies and Hank doesn't even show up for the funeral, Dawn going to live with their dad is listed as only a slightly preferable alternative to foster care if Buffy were to be deemed an unfit guardian.
    • Played With and Gender Flipped in season six—when Buffy was temporarily dead, Willow and Tara became Dawn's substitute mothers, but later they broke up and Tara moved out. In "Smashed", she and Dawn go out together in what seems intended to represent a sort of parental visitation.
    • Seems to be an example of Characterization Marches On, Hank's appearance in the season finale indicated that he genuinely cared for Buffy, and his divorce from Joyce came out of irreconcilable differences (if the second season finale offers any hint), not from some sort of parental neglect. It isn't until the third season that his incompetence as a parent truly becomes apparent.
  • Charmed (1998): Victor Bennett, the father of three of the four Halliwell sisters, returns at least once per season (a total of 14 episodes across eight seasons, except for season 2). The first time he appeared he was played by Anthony Denison and was portrayed like a bit of a jerk, and he hadn't seen them for 20 years. Starting with his next appearance two seasons later, he's then portrayed by James Read and is depicted more fatherly, more sympathetic and more empathatic and becomes more and more involved with his daughters' family life. In the future, his two grandsons love their grandfather very much, and in the present, he would occasionally babysit his grandsons when the Halliwell sisters are away. The series also makes it clear that Victor was pushed away from the Halliwell family because of his ex-mother-in-law Penny who didn't let him being part of his daughters' life. Victor also treats Paige like one of his daughter despite her being the child of the man whom his ex-wife dumped him for, although the final episode shows that he has been long over that affair anyway.
  • Ocean Girl: Jason and Brett's father becomes a regular cast member in the final season. While Brett is happy to see him, Jason openly resents him for abandoning them and their mother before the series began.
  • A few times in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. The twins' father also comes to see them graduate from high school in On Deck.
  • Interestingly The Sarah Jane Adventures has an example of a child with divorced parents living with their father. This trope isn't used because Maria's Mum shows up so often that she's a Drop-In Character. It's later played straight when Clyde's father pays a visit for the first time in five years in "The Mark of the Berserker".
  • Sports Night has a Visit to Divorced Dad by Casey's son Charlie.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air used it for a Very Special Episode where Ben Vereen appears as Will's career-first father. Initially Will is excited, but when Uncle Phil tries to warn him against getting his hopes up, Will throws it back in his face. Of course, Mr. Smith plans on leaving without telling Will, triggering a Papa Wolf rant from Philip, as well the end when Will's attempt to look strong in the face of this latest abandonment fails and, breaking down, asks Phil, "How come he don't want me, man?"
  • Castle inverts this trope, since Rick Castle is raising his daughter Alexis (or in his case, possibly the other way around) and they get the occasional visit from his even more irresponsible ex-wife. (Even one of his other ex-wives, who isn't Alexis's mother, occasionally turns up to spend time with her.)
  • Inverted in The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Amy and Ashley live with their dad George (or did until Amy moved in with Ricky and Ashley went on a road trip with Toby). Their mom Anne and their baby brother Robbie live in another town near Anne's ailing mother. The girls (and occasionally George) sporadically visit Anne and Robbie. Anne keeps up semi-regular phone communication, but never really physically visits them, except when she's dropping Robbie off for his time with George.
  • Gossip Girl has done this with both parents. Blair's father (who comes to visit once or twice per season) and Dan and Jenny's mother (who appeared in a minor arc in season one).
  • Modern Family, with Gloria's ex-husband (Manny's father).
    • Also reversed, when Jay's ex-wife visits (though both of her children are now adults).
  • Eureka does the Gender Flipped version when Zoe's mom shows up. In a twist, she's showing up because it's her turn to get custody, and Carter needs to convince her not to put Zoe on a bus back to Los Angeles.
  • The Vampire Diaries has a two-episode arc in which Caroline's dad shows up. Of course, then he proceeds to torture her.
  • In the Power Rangers episode "Return of an Old Friend", the parents of the Rangers are kidnapped and used as hostages. This includes Kimberly's divorced parents, with the dad being in the middle of this.
  • Several episodes of New York Undercover focus on this trope between Det. Williams and his son, G.
  • Happens pretty regularly on My Name Is Earl. One episode involved Earl discussing his list for Dodge's class and it's revealed that he is Dodge's biological father. Another episode involved signing the kids out of camp to take them to Mystery Fun Land... only to find that the amusement park has been torn down. Dodge and Earl Jr. forgive "Old Daddy" and cross "Never took the kids to Mystery Fun Land" off the list.
  • Blossom is the living-with-father variety. On a couple of occasions, the mother (who just walked out on the family one day) comes back for a visit. The last time this happens, Blossom's dad tells her not to come back.
  • Faking It: Unfortunately, the first time we see Amy's dad, it's immediately after she and Lauren discover that her mom is having an affair with him behind her new husband's back.
  • Life with Derek had an episode in which Casey was particularly excited to be getting a visit from her absent father, only to be upset when he bonds with her annoying stepbrother more than her.
  • Verano Azul has the local Bespectacled Cutie's father dropping by during summer vacation. As it's a Spanish series from The '80s, coming right after the very conservative Franco dictatorship, merely speaking onscreen about divorce was revolutionary back then.
  • Stranger Things: Lonnie Byers was an Abusive Parent who walked out on his family, ignores his wife and older son's attempts to contact him after his younger son Will's disappearance, and only comes back to town when Will is reported dead. Even then, he proves to be a Coattail-Riding Relative who only hopes to profit from a wrongful death lawsuit, so they kick him out.
  • The main conflict of Mad About Alice - although Doug and Alice are divorced, Doug still has visitation rights, and he regularly sees his son much to the annoyance of Alice.

  • Franco De Vita: The theme of "Como cada domingo" (Like Every Sunday). Franco roleplays as a man who divorced his wife, and the custody fell largely onto her. The song is aimed at his son, advising him to be careful when crossing the street and always obeying his mother as well as his teacher. In the chorus, he promises him to visit him every Sunday (hence the song's name) so they go to a park and play together.
  • Reba McEntire's "Every Other Weekend" (a duet with Kenny Chesney) is about Amicable Exes who share custody of their children, with Dad getting them every other weekend. The song briefly touches on the visits, but is much more about how they each regret their divorce and still love each other—feelings they can't express, because they think the other is over them.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Nadine's parents separated after her mother discovered that she was just a side thing for her father. Said father has recently come back into Nadine's life, trying to atone for his past mistakes, which is only straining things between Nadine and her mom.

    Video Games 
  • Presumably occurs at the beginning of Among the Sleep, judging by the sound effects when Mom goes to answer the door in the first cutscene and via clues revealed throughout the game. Said 'visit', unfortunately, is nothing more than an entirely offscreen argument between Mom and Dad, ending with Mom shouting 'NO' loudly and clearly and apparently slamming the door in his face before giving you the present he had for you. By the way, you're a two-year-old. Dad returns at the very end after Mom has been revealed as alcoholic, and you open the door and let him in. It's assumed this visit was actually to take you away after winning custody.

    Web Comics 
  • Red String inverts this. Reika decides to visit her father while she's in Tokyo. Upon entering, she discovers that her father has not only remarried, but he already has a son that was born around the time of the divorce (plus another one on the way). Then her father reveals that Reika was an unplanned pregnancy.

    Western Animation 
  • Happens to Buster in Arthur, though sans melodrama on his part. It eventually culminates with Buster leaving for an extended period to travel with his father, later to be used as fodder for a spin-off series.
  • An interesting subversion of this trope occurs in the Emmy-nominated episode of As Told by Ginger, "Hello Stranger", where Ginger invites him to see her read a poem. However, he never shows up. Dad would, however, later visit Ginger in "An Even Steven Holiday Special" and "Losing Nana Bishop".
  • After not coming to a family picnic in the Nick run of Doug, we finally meet Roger's father in the Disney-run episode "Doug's Movie Madness." Despite what's implied about him before, he proves to be a good father, and possibly even a better parent than others. When all the children want to see an R-rated movie, Doug's parents use trailers and reviews (which can lie to a viewer) to make their choice to not let Doug see it. When Roger asks his dad if he can see it, his father says he'll have to watch it first to judge it fully; he ends up walking out halfway since in this case, the trailers actually kept out a lot of the bloodier parts. He tells Roger, who still doesn't understand. Later, all the kids told no go to see it anyway and Roger's father is the only parent who catches their kid in the act, physically takes Roger from the movie, and has a firm but gentle talk with him about it. Doug's parents don't find out until afterward, and while Roger learned that sometimes parents do know what they're talking about and a better understanding of his dad, all Doug learned was that he got nightmares, and grounded without fully understanding why his parents did it in the first place. The other kids never even get caught.
  • In one of those rare reversals, Dr. Katz actually has custody of his son, and is visited by his ex-wife only once for Thanksgiving.
  • Home Movies did this on multiple occasions; the divorced dad eventually evolved into a Recurrer.
  • King of the Hill had a few episodes sort of like this, when Luanne, a Womanchild who lives with her aunt and uncle, got visits from both of her parents. The mom had previously been in jail, while her dad had been as well.
  • Monkey Dust had a recurring sketch in the first series based around this. In each sketch a divorced dad has a custody visit with his young son Timmy; only to kill himself in various horrible ways when Timmy talks about how great the mother's new boyfriend is. The divorced dad eventually discovers that his ex's boyfriend is Timmy's real father, but on this occasion decides not to kill himself and just be there for Timmy. However, in the last sketch featuring the characters, the dad commits suicide yet again on discovering that a now-teenage Timmy has become a juvenile delinquent.
  • Pepper Ann: her father visits fairly often, though as a blimp pilot he's usually away.
  • Inverted on Phineas and Ferb, where main character Dr. Doofenshmirtz occasionally goes through with his evil plans while his daughter, Vanessa, is visiting; most of the time she's with Doofenshmirtz' ex-wife, but unlike most of the men on this page he keeps regular contact. Even if she sometimes wishes he wouldn't.
  • Rocket Power with Sam's workaholic father.
  • The Weekenders had Tino's dad show up for one episode, causing a temporary awkward moment as his dad and mother's boyfriend initially have no idea what to say to one another; however, the two men end up becoming friends after bonding over Tino's mother's terrible cooking.
  • Wheel Squad had an episode where Jessica's father visited her.
    • It's unclear if Emilie might have a similar experience since it's not known if her birth father died or simply divorced her mother.
  • W.I.T.C.H. features this a couple times with Will's dad, especially in the episode "Q for Quarry".
    • It happened in the original comics, too. However, Will's dad there isn't so nice...