Coparenting Changes Everything?

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Coparenting Changes Everything?

In Episode 5 of our Restorative Divorce Podcast, we cover “Coparenting Changes Everything?”

TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 5, CLICK HERE.

Episode #5 of the Restorative Divorce Podcast is out! “Coparenting Changes Everything?”

In this episode we talk about how becoming a mom, dad, or parent can change your relationship, tips when considering a separation or divorce, what is a Guardian ad litem, and what parenting communication tools can help restore coparenting communication for Illinois parents.

Need an expert plan for coparenting? Need a buffer between you and your coparent? Contact us today at www.birtlaw.com or (630) 891-2478.

[00:03] Erin Birt: Thanks for joining us for episode five of the Restorative Divorce podcast. Today we're going to talk about how parenting changes you. We're noticing a lot of parents are telling us their relationship drastically changed after becoming parents. So we thought we'd explore that a little bit more and maybe provide you with some information about how Illinois handles changes in parental relationships and give you some communication tools to help you restore your parenting relationship.

Tyler, you were telling me earlier today that you were coming across some really interesting information, maybe some little-known information, about how parenting really changes people, how you change when you become a mom, how you change when you become a dad.

How becoming a mom, dad, or parent can change your relationship

[00:52] Tyler Birt: Yeah. It's something that comes up a lot that we hear throughout the business. I just did a little bit of research, and I found just a couple of things. One was research out of the Netherlands, the question being posed “does pregnancy, giving birth, change a woman?” And what the research found is that there are fetal cells throughout pregnancy, and after giving birth, that spread throughout a woman's body. The research was conducted on pregnant women that were giving birth to boys. And after birth, they found that there were Y chromosomes throughout, in the mom's DNA after giving birth.

[02:03] Erin Birt: A Mom, it biologically changes a mother, after she gives birth to a boy.

[02:07] Tyler Birt: Yeah. Wow, Right? Now, they didn't test it for giving birth to girls, at least in that research, but yes, the DNA does change.

I did find a little bit of other information regarding changing, different ways people change, and this could be related to moms and dads, really. There was a list of things that change during pregnancy, after giving birth and becoming a parent, and just a few things that kind of stuck out: having children changes your priorities. It changes the priorities for moms and dads and the unit, the relationship as a whole.

There's a new person in the world, and so what was once a priority may not be a priority. And those are things that fluctuate. Another thing that happens is giving birth and starting a family that can cause people to want to move, want to change jobs, these types of things, right? We know that moving is a big stress. Part of that reason to move is school districts. Right now, you're being an adult or whatever, you're not so concerned about school, but now you have a child that you want to have the best education possible given your circumstances. You want to make more money or you want more flexibility in your work. Maybe you don't have that right now. And it wasn't really a priority. And nowadays, those kind of things work together.

And another, I think, big thing that kind of leads into what we're talking about is the change in social settings. Meaning wanting to stay home or maybe not go out as much as you did as a single person, as a non parent. Many people have high social lives and having kids can change that. And again, priorities change, right? So maybe they don't want to go out as much. They want to be home and in a relationship. A mom and dad need to work together to have those priorities set for social changes, moving those things. Those need to work together, the mother and father working together for those changes as the priorities change. So those were just a few things that kind of hit me.

Yes, people do change, obviously. Women, moms, they go through the pregnancy process. Fathers do as well on a different side of things. But a lot of research is done on the mother's side because they have the ones actually giving birth.

[05:37] Erin Birt: The father or the other parent needs to be able to respond to that, to either acknowledge that there's changes and they can choose how to respond to that. Sometimes people feel that children should never make a change in their lives and others recognize that it's a pretty significant change and maybe they are able to adapt.

The things that you're bringing up, Tyler, these are incredibly stressful situations. We've got biological changes to the person giving birth. We have economic changes to both people involved, and then we have social changes, whether that's just behavior of a parent or their change in extracurricular activities. So there's so many drastic changes that it's easily understandable that young parents are under a tremendous amount of stress and that can be displayed in their relationship in either a positive or negative way.

Unfortunately, sometimes all of those changes, whether they're biological, economical, financial, social, sometimes those changes can feel so overwhelming that a parent might make a decision to separate or to divorce. And they might make that decision after a lot of research to try to determine what's in the best interest of my child. Maybe we're fighting a lot because we have different perspectives on child rearing, our economics, the amount of time outside of the family. And maybe they're saying, we've got to make a change here. Some people will seek counseling, some people will seek a separation or divorce. Right?

[07:45] Tyler Birt: Yeah.

[07:46] Erin Birt: And that is where we come into play. We do hear a lot from parents that perhaps their marriage was positive and going well and that they noticed a change once children came into the equation. I hear that time and time again. But I also hear they absolutely love their children and they wouldn't change anything because they're there for their kids. They want to provide for their kids, they want to spend time with their kids. So I'm not saying divorces happen because people have children, but we do hear a lot that that is the big dynamic shift in their relationship that maybe they didn't expect. Maybe they don't know how to react to the other person changing, or maybe they changed themselves, and it's just such a big change that maybe they can't reconcile their differences and they think that it would be better for their child to have two positive homes rather than maybe one negative home.

The things that you're coming up with here, we hear it a lot from our clients as well. It is really interesting, though, about the biology of changing. I mean, clearly you're creating a person, so a lot of things going on there. But when people come to us seeking a separation or divorce, it's really important to know what are those next steps look like, what happens or what are ways that we can help you restore a co parenting relationship.

What is a Guardian ad litem in DuPage County (and beyond) Divorces?

You're already saying things aren't working as they are. And when you come to see us, we really try to focus on restoring or preserving a good positive parenting relationship, all while coming up with a really good parenting plan so that that child gets to see both parents, that child's safe, everybody knows what the schedule looks like, and hopefully, then, you do start having that two positive household for the best interest of the child. Right?

One of the things you should realize if you're contemplating a separation or divorce and you've got kids, that here in Illinois, they, meaning the court. if you file a petition in court to either establish paternity or to establish a parenting plan, if you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, the court will appoint somebody called a guardian ad litem and for short, that's a “GAL”.

[10:24] Tyler Birt: G-A-L.

[10:25] Erin Birt: A GAL will come into your family dynamic. And so I just wanted to talk a little bit about what a GAL is and then maybe leave the listeners with some tips of tools that they can find online and start using immediately to really help their co parenting relationship.

So a Guardian ad litem is an attorney, at least in our jurisdiction. You're an attorney that has been trained in parenting matters and Guardian ad litem matters so that you can be on an approved list, which is a resource for the court to use to appoint a Guardian ad litem. In other jurisdictions, it might be a mental health professional. It could be other professionals that qualify to work with families. But typically in Illinois, and especially in our jurisdiction, you're an attorney, a family law attorney that is trained as a Guardian ad litem. So when a Guardian ad litem gets appointed, there's a court order, unfortunately, there is a fee for that service, but a Guardian ad litem does a really excellent job of learning as much as possible about the child or children and the parents and the family dynamic, because there's two roles to a Guardian ad litem. One is to promote settlement to see if the Guardian ad litem can work with the parents to resolve their parental decision-making responsibilities and their parenting time plan. And if that is not able to be achieved, the second role of the guardian and item is to make recommendations for a parenting schedule and how parenting decisions will be made or allocated between the parents and the Guardian ad litem will give that recommendation to the parties and the attorneys. They will also give that recommendation to the court if it proceeds to trial. So there's two roles: 1. settlement (let's see if we can work out an agreement that's in the best interest of the child or children and if we can't, then 2. we proceed to a hearing or a trial and the Guardian ad litem will testify and share with the court their recommendations, their investigation results, and their recommendations for a parenting plan for this particular family.

[12:50] Tyler Birt: So would you say that a Guardian ad litem is kind of like a mediator or an arbitrator in these family law cases?

[13:02] Erin Birt: So they technically are not, but I will say that they use those skills throughout the investigation and throughout their interactions with the parents or even the child, depending on how old the child is. A child, say over the age of twelve, certainly high school age children, they've got opinions and they will verbalize what they want and what their desired outcome is for a schedule for them or for where they want to live. But being a mediator, being a trained mediator immensely helps the skills of a guardian ad litem because you are attempting to listen and try to help the parents resolve their dispute, similar to a mediator. Now, an arbitrator usually will be hired by parties who make binding decisions. A Guardian ad litem does not make binding decisions, just the judge. That is the judge. The Guardian ad litem does not replace the judge. The Guardian ad litem simply conducts an investigation and reports to the court as the court's expert. The judge then decides, based on the information obtained about the investigation and the GAL's recommendation, whether or not the court is going to give a lot of weight to that investigation or if the court is going to adapt the GAL's recommendations into the judge's court order. So it's not an arbitrator, but it is similar skills, the skills are there. It is somewhat of an alternative dispute resolution process. I think it's everybody's hope that when you get to this stage of saying, my relationship is not working and I can't figure out a parenting plan with the other parent, that the GAL can help resolve that without going to an expensive trial.

[15:01] Tyler Birt: Yes. I see.

[15:02] Erin Birt: Okay. So with that said, if you're contemplating a separation or divorce, if you don't work out an agreement with the other parent out of court and you do need to file in court, just know a Guardian ad litem could be appointed in your case. And very often they are appointed in parenting cases.

Parenting Communication Tools in s DuPage County (and beyond) Divorce?

Two resources I want to leave our listeners with that can help parents in Illinois when they are trying to coparent with somebody. You don't even have to have something in court to use these tools. You can just say, “hey, you know what, I think our organization and our communication can be better surrounding our child or our children”. I can tell you, email, text messages and social media, they get messy really quick. And if you're scrolling through or you're looking through to find an email about something you were supposed to decide or discuss, you're going to get frustrated and it sets a bad scene. Text messages really should be for urgent matters. Again, we get text messages from everybody and it's really hard to parent through text messaging. Social media - that can be a whole other podcast, but that can also be difficult to look at somebody's social media and try to ascertain where is my child that day, right? All of those things tend to aggravate parenting rather than improve parenting.

So there's two tools that in Illinois we suggest using, courts suggest using, and I'll tell you, if you go through the court process and you get a Guardian ad litem and it's clear that you cannot communicate well with your coparent, you'll probably be court ordered to use these tools. So you might as well start looking into them now.

People voluntarily use them, and I think that they're a great resource. Two of them are called, the first one is called Talking Parents, and that's Talkingparents.com. It is a free communication app that parents can use to replace email, text, and other forms of communication. And it is solely about parenting communication, and it keeps a record. You can't change communications. You can see when things were posted, when they were responded to. You can also share files. So if you have to split expenses, medical expenses, something came up at school, you can share files and you can manage your account. And it's all just about your kid all in one spot. It's not all over the place. So that's a really good one. That's a free one. It's called talkingparents.com. Check that one out.

There's another one that parents use or a court orders to use. It's called our family wizard. And you can check that website out. OurFamilywizard.com, our law firm Birt Law is actually on that website as somebody who supports using the communication tool, we clearly don't endorse it, we don't receive any money for it but one of the reasons why we are even listed on that website is because we believe it's a valuable tool for clients. Now our family wizard actually has a fee. It's around $100 a year. With that fee, however, you get some additional things that maybe Talking Parents doesn't have. So check it out to see if it meets with your budget, if you think this is a good idea. It has messaging, it has calendars, it has journals with check ins. You can talk about expenses. You can even, I think, link a bank account if you had a bank account for children's expenses. But really, the communication is great on both of these things. It's going to be in one place. You're not looking all over for it. It's organized and it's all about your kid. And I think it sets you off on a really good path for coparenting if you use parenting communication tools.

[19:19] Tyler Birt: Yeah, I would agree.

[19:21] Erin Birt: So in summary, parenting changes everything. Becoming a mom, a dad or parent changes everything. Unfortunately, sometimes those relationships change so drastically that maybe your personal relationship with that parent that is affected, if it starts negatively influencing your kids, you might have to contemplate separating or divorcing. And if that's where you're at in life, we're here to help. Again, we covered some good tools for you. You should know about a Guardian ad litem. Don't be afraid of a Guardian ad litem. They're good to help you come up with a parenting plan. I understand there's an expense there, but if you can reach agreements, the expenses are lowered. And then the two tools: talking parents and our family wizard are really great starting points for restoring and improving parental communication.

Thanks for joining us. If you want to view any more information about parenting, parenting schedules, parenting plans, perhaps even grandparent rights, parent rights, custody, all of that information is on our website at birtlaw.com If you have any questions for us, feel free to contact us through our website and we'll be happy to respond. Thanks for listening.

[20:43] Tyler Birt: Thank you.

Need an expert plan for coparenting? Need a buffer between you and your coparent? Contact us today at www.birtlaw.com or (630) 891-2478.

Our Attorneys

  • Erin Birt

    Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on pa...

  • Tyler Birt

    Since 2007, Tyler Birt has been a legal assistant and bookkeeper fo...

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