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Dads and Divorce // Children benefit when the stereotypes don't apply

He's the guy who sometimes sends the child support payments only when he's threatened with legal action, who has forgotten more birthdays, school plays and soccer games than he has remembered.

His quality time with the kids? That usually means picking them up Saturday morning, filling them with junk food and dropping them off that evening. He says he loves his kids, yet he is selfish and irresponsible when it comes to caring for them.

That's largely the way America perceives divorced fathers _ and, many times, the notion is not far from wrong. The reason terms such as "deadbeat dad" and "absentee father" have found their way into everyday language is that there are so many men who fit the descriptions.

Sometimes the disconnection happens by choice. The fathers may want to punish their former wives. Or maybe they have other priorities and just don't care.

Sometimes there is little choice. A judge, an attorney or an ex-wife forces a father to assume a minor role. That eventually alienates everyone.

Much has been written and said about the divorced fathers who have minimal contact with their children or abandon them altogether. But there are others, men who don't _ won't _ let divorce come between them and their children.

Most of these men go about their lives quietly. They don't make headlines or sound bites, but they are out there.

Here and on page 5D are the stories of three men trying to make a difference.