Tagged as Child Custody and Visitation

Separating Parents: What’s Best for Children?

How does a parent contemplating divorce or separation keep a child feeling loved, supported, and safe? This is a question often posed by clients and it was covered recently in an article published by The Washington Post, “Separating parents want what’s best for their 2-year-old. What is that?” Here are a few tips to help separating parents:

Understand the child’s perspective.

For instance, a young child does not understand time and cannot comprehend a parenting time schedule. To help a child feel safe at either house, a good solution is to have things that remind the child of a parent at both parent’s homes such placing a photo of the other parent in the child’s room, developing the tradition to wish (mommy or daddy) a good night too, re-telling family stories such as the child’s birth story that includes both parents, or asking the other parent to provide a recorded bed-time story for the child.

Allocate 5-10 minutes for drop-offs and pick-ups of the child.

Plan with the other parent to discuss simple topics such as the weather, upcoming child events, or just make small talk. If both parents are discussing simple topics in a calm manner, the child will likely remain calm during the transition as well. Please save your irritation or anger at the other party for the ear of a dear friend or counselor. Drop-offs are not a time to express dissatisfaction with the other parent.

Do not take a child’s rejection personally.

Even if both parents do their best to make transitions calm, the child may cling to the parent they are leaving. This is natural and common. As the article states, a young child “just wants and needs to be with her main attachments.” She may cling to you one day, and then cling to the other parent the next day. Try not to take it personally. It is common for parents to report their child does not want to visit the other parent’s house when in fact it might just be the child expressing its natural attachment.

Parenting is hard. There are often no right or wrong answers but there are tips and tools that can be used to help a child feel loved, supported and safe in both parent’s homes. If you are contemplating separation or divorce and are worried about your children, please contact me to discuss
developing your parenting plan.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over fourteen years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Can Mediation Work In A High-Conflict Divorce?

conflict resolution strategiesDivorce itself is difficult enough. Add animosity and lack of cooperation into the picture and the process becomes lengthy, expensive, and sometimes emotionally destructive.

From a Huffington Post article by Conflict Resolution Specialist Elizabeth Esrey, here are some facts about high-conflict divorce and some tips to survive the challenges it brings.

SOME DIFFICULT AND DISTURBING FACTS

A high-conflict divorce is the most expensive way to separate from your spouse, mostly because of the on-going litigation that results from one or both parties’ unwillingness to compromise or openly discuss issues. Full-scale divorce litigation averages almost $78,000.

This type of divorce also has a documented history of violence associated with it. “Family courts pit couples against each other – especially in high conflict divorce cases,” notes Esrey, and she cites several examples of people who shot their spouses because of hostile child custody and visitation battles.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent outright tragedy in the divorce process.

DIVORCE MEDIATION IS A VIABLE OPTION

Even though the conflicts may at first seem insurmountable, a skilled collaborative law attorney or mediator can help even antagonistic parties to work together toward positive outcomes for everyone involved.

It’s almost like hostage negotiations, according to Esrey. The negotiator (mediator) listens actively, treats all parties with respect, and keeps working at the process to produce the best possible results.

“Judges and lawyers typically don’t deal with the emotional aspects of divorce. Mediators help couples navigate the divorce process and reach agreements that are less expensive, more lasting and customized.” And both legal and non-legal issues can be put on the table in mediation.

YOU HAVE A CHOICE

You always have a choice in how you will handle your side of the divorce process despite what is going on around you. Even if your spouse is not willing to participate, having a mediator in your camp shows that you want to bring respect and dignity to the divorce proceedings and you understand how divorce mediation can beat litigation in resolving difficult issues.

No matter what kind of divorce you’re experiencing, I can help you find positive outcomes through mediation. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

A Totally New Image Of Divorce

New image of divorceSocial media has become the place to share meaningful life occasions such as birthdays, engagements, marriages…and now divorces.

ENTER “DIVORCE SELFIES”

The growing trend of “divorce selfies” shows newly divorced couples happily together, often outside the courthouse, after finalizing this major life change.

According to a recent article on Mediate.com by Hadassah Fidler, this trend actually represents the changing face of divorce from an angry and bitter separation to a scenario where “emphasis is on conciliatory divorce and mediation,” which is especially important for couples with child custody and visitation concerns.

It’s an outcome most everyone would like, but it doesn’t happen without work.

LOOKING BEHIND THE SMILES

Although divorce selfies give the impression that the divorce planning process was easy and uncomplicated, Ms. Fidler sees them as a statement of successfully navigating a very difficult situation. “It is not saying that there was not a lot of hurt and obstacles to overcome along the way,” says Fidler. “It means that there were, but they were overcome and here we are on the other side.”

These pictures prove that while an amicable divorce is challenging it’s also quite obtainable with the help of divorce mediation professionals.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

The expectation of collaborative divorce is that it will be a smooth process with no difficulties or hard feelings, so when these do occur many couples want to give up. A good divorce mediator helps couples to manage their expectations and ultimately announce that they worked through the issues and separated amicably–without a long and expensive court battle.

Ms. Fidler comments that “you are much more likely to come out with a divorce selfie from mediation than you ever will from litigation” because mediation allows “each person to move forward and still retain a civilized workable relationship with their former partner.”

Is your goal to have a cooperative divorce (and maybe post your own divorce selfie)? Contact me to learn how I can help make this happen.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Helping Adult Children Accept Your Divorce

Portrait Of Family With Adult Son At HomeAlthough you’re not dealing with child custody and visitation issues, a divorce can be just as or even more difficult for grown children than for younger ones.

The good news is that there are a few more ways to successfully help your adult children to accept the situation and move on.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST

Although this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s actually one of the first and best ways to help your grown kids to move on, says Amanda Nicole in her article on DivorcedMoms.com.

When divorce happens, states Nicole, most parents will put all their focus on ensuring that their kids are okay while ignoring their own feelings and needs. “As a result, they become part of the cause of the same hurt that they are trying to shield their kids from.” Nicole believes in a different approach. “The best thing you can do as a parent for your children is work on being okay yourself.”

Nicole compares it to the situation of putting on your own airplane oxygen mask first so you can then fully help your kids.

BE A ROLE MODEL

By working toward your own acceptance of the divorce and subsequent new beginnings, you show your adult children what it means to manage and navigate through the inevitable difficulties that show up in some way in everyone’s life.

You don’t want your children to “become victims blaming mom and dad for everything that goes wrong in their life, rather than learning to take control of their own lives,” says Nicole.

What’s more, according to Nicole, adult kids “will most likely spend more time with the parent that is less maintenance and drama free; that usually is the one who is healed and is moving on.”

REMEMBER THAT YOUR KIDS ARE ADULTS

In the end, your children are adults and it’s their responsibility to work through their own emotions about the divorce, states Nicole. They should be paying more attention to their own lives and families at this point, anyway.

You can help by being willing to talk with them and not putting them in the middle of issues between you and their other parent.

If you didn’t use collaborative divorce with your spouse (or even if you did), consider using family mediation with your adult children to help all family members understand each other’s feelings and come to some kind of closure.

As a DuPage County Divorce Attorney skilled in the areas of divorce mediation, I can help you, your spouse, and your family to come to terms with this major life change. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Redefining Joint Custody in Illinois

Child custody concept.The recent Illinois Appeals Court case In re Marriage of Perez shows that the courts now favor a decision of joint custody (often without naming a custodial parent) for minor children in divorce cases.

Yet this is not always the best outcome for the children, writes Champaign County Circuit Judge Arnold F. Blockman in the June Family Law Newsletter of the Illinois State Bar Association.

CHANGES IN THE CHILD CUSTODY LAWS

In the past, the Illinois joint custody statute was defined as joint legal custody and joint physical custody, and the court could not order joint custody unless both parental parties agreed.

However, a revision of the statute in 1986 removed those two separate definitions and replaced them with the term “joint custody” along with other significant changes.

Now joint custody can be created by the court itself or by an independent request from either parent. The parties must present a Joint Parenting Agreement for court approval, and the court can “impose its own Joint Parenting Agreement if it finds that joint custody is in the best interests of the child.” Lastly, the cooperation of parents for joint parenting is a major factor in a court’s decision to award joint custody.

THE DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

Judge Blockman believes there is inherent danger in the trial court “imposing a joint custody order on the parties when one or both does not want joint custody or when the parties cannot agree on parenting times or the residence of the child.”

He feels a child would be harmed by the ongoing conflict in this situation, and Blockman would encourage the trial courts “to take a much more active gatekeeper role in approving joint custody agreements and adequately fulfilling its responsibility in insuring that joint custody is, in fact, in the best interest of the child.”

In the case of In re Marriage of Perez, there were major disagreements between the parents on several issues including where the child would live and specific parenting time with each party.

Blockman argues that these disagreements and lack of a custodial parent would have an ongoing impact on the child. “It is this writer’s opinion,” he states, “that when there is substantial conflict and lack of cooperation, there has to be someone making the major decisions or, at the least, someone designated as the primary custodial parent.”

For Judge Blockman, the court’s decision is simply postponing a day of reckoning when these issues will have to be addressed because the family relationships will have become strained and dysfunctional, with the child caught in the middle.

It’s his hope that the concepts of custody and joint parenting will be abolished in divorce planning in favor of litigation that actually protects minor children as they struggle with a very difficult, life-changing situation.

A divorce with child custody and visitation issues can be difficult without the right legal guidance. Contact me to learn how family mediation can help you make the best decisions for your children.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Handling Alcohol Abuse In Divorce Mediation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor divorcing families, the mediation process can be extremely helpful but also quite stressful. If anyone in the family struggles with alcohol abuse, they may manage their anxiety by coming to sessions under the influence–making the process more challenging for the mediator as well as the participants.

Author and trained mediator Charlie Mulvey addresses this issue in a recent article on the site Mediate.com, suggesting that mediators should be able to screen participants prior to a session using a portable alcohol recognition device to ensure all parties are sober. This is particularly important when negotiating child custody and visitation.

WHY SCREENING IS CRITICAL

Mulvey cites studies which show that separation or divorce rates are four times higher for alcoholics than for the general population, which means that at some point a mediator will be assisting a family struggling with this issue.

Research has also shown that alcoholism often equates with a higher rate of domestic abuse and violence, particularly with what Mulvey calls “high conflict couples” who struggle with any form of divorce mediation.

Screening for the presence of alcohol not only ensures more effective mediation but might also shine a light on domestic violence within the family. In addition, says Mulvey, it’s “just plain common sense, both for your own protection and safety, as well as the successful operation of your mediation practice.”

AN EFFECTIVE NEW TOOL

There have been many iterations of the “breathalyzer,” a device that measures a person’s blood alcohol content, but most were difficult to use and quite often inaccurate. Recently, the company Soberlink has developed a blood alcohol measuring device that is accurate, reliable and portable, making it a viable tool for family law mediators to perform DUI evaluations.

First, Soberlink can be used to confirm the sobriety of all mediation participants prior to the session. Perhaps an even more valuable use of Soberlink is to ensure child safety during visitation with the non-custodial parent.

Soberlink employs facial recognition to confirm the identity of the person using it, uses GPS to show the person’s location, and transmits results to the other parent within 60 to 90 seconds by internet, text or email. In child custody situations, this can provide peace of mind regarding a child’s safety during visitations and perhaps redevelop trust between the divorced parents, says Mulvey.

Finally, Mulvey states that “few investments in the family mediation arena have a higher potential for screening matters appropriate for mediation, providing safety and security, and ensuring a productive and successful mediation outcome for parents and children alike…”

As a trained mediator and licensed counselor for DUI risk education and treatment, I can help you successfully navigate a divorce process that involves alcohol abuse and/or domestic violence. Contact me to learn more.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37032Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She also opened The Birt Group, a state-licensed DUI Counseling Firm in 2011.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

A Better Father’s Day For Divorced Dads

father and daughter playing on the beach at sunsetFather’s Day for divorced dads can be anything from bittersweet to devastatingly sad, depending on child custody and visitation decisions. According to a recent article on the website Divorce360, “Depression for men is more closely tied to the loss of children than it is to the loss of the marriage.”

POST-DIVORCE MODIFICATIONS 

The National Fatherhood Initiative has discovered that a majority of men who don’t currently live with their children believe that they spend too little time with their kids. As a result, many divorced men carry around a lot of guilt that the family breakup is damaging their children in some way.

If you’re a divorced father who wants to spend more time with your children than the standing court order currently allows, schedule a family mediation session with a qualified DuPage County divorce attorney. The mediator will help you and the other parent come together to create a post-divorce parenting schedule that works as well for you as it does for the other parent. Furthermore, your children’s emotions and perceived needs can also be discussed in the mediation, which may or may not occur in litigation.

The result could be more frequent and/or longer visits with your kids on Father’s Day, summer vacations and major holidays.

OTHER HELPFUL INFORMATION

The links below will take you to web pages full of useful tips and ideas to get through Father’s Day (with or without the kids) and resources that support divorced dads in general.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, there is a Father Absence Crisis in America. Mediation can be the first step to taking your family out of that equation.

As a qualified divorce mediator, I can help you get the process started. Contact me for more information or to schedule a mediation session.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37032Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

What Your Kids Want To Say About Your Divorce

parents with children talking silhouette vectorIn a recent Huffington Post article, 12 Things Kids Think About Divorce But Are Too Afraid To Say, family therapist Tara Kennedy-Kline outlines what your kids probably want to tell you about the divorce, “but don’t have the world experience to say directly.”

She developed this list after counseling hundreds of divorcing families and observing the children’s behavior.

You can see the entire list in her article, but it really boils down to three basic rules your kids want you to follow.

RESPECT AND ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS

“Quit telling me I’m ‘being dramatic’ about what’s happening.” Your kids have every reason to feel upset about the divorce. They’re scared and might even be wondering when they’ll make you mad enough to stop loving them, too, states Kennedy-Kline.

Try to include your kids in decisions around child custody and visitation, perhaps through family mediation. Sometimes what they prefer might actually be best for everyone. This can be facilitated by the use of a Child Specialist, or even taking the time to discuss your personal knowledge of the children’s expressed feelings during the mediation session.

Let children have (and express) their thoughts and feelings about your new relationships, and expect that those feelings may not always be warm and fuzzy. Often that’s a signal that your kids need quality time with just you.

BE CIVIL TO AND ABOUT YOUR EX IN FRONT OF THEM

If they could find the words, your children might say, “Please stop talking badly about each other to me or in front of me; it just makes me disrespect you,” according to Kennedy-Kline.

Don’t whine in front of your kids about how you got the worst of the post-divorce property division. They will think you care more about the material things than about the loss of their family. Try to admire the gifts your ex gives them rather than being jealous and insulting.

Accept that your ex may be better at teaching your kids something than you are. In your child’s words, “When you allow me to learn from and value both of my parents, that teaches me to appreciate the gifts in others and to ask for help when I need it.”

REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE ALWAYS THEIR PARENT

You might have stopped being married, advises Kennedy-Kline, but you have not stopped being parents.

This means being able to attend your children’s celebrations or sports event and be civil to each other. You also need to continue to protect them from anyone or anything that would hurt them, possibly including the new person in your life.

Finally, if they could, your children would ask you, “Please get on the same page when it comes to values, rules and discipline,” states Kennedy-Kline. Letting them have free reign to spite your ex will only confuse and frustrate your children in the long run.

Divorce mediation with a qualified DuPage County Divorce Attorney can help you deal with many of these issues. Contact me to learn more about mediation and other services I offer.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

Create A Workable Post-Divorce Parenting Schedule

Loving father.Being a parent is often challenging; parenting after a divorce can be even more so for both custodial and non-custodial parents. Creating the right parenting schedule can make this very difficult situation that much easier.

From a recent article on the site SinceMyDivorce.com, here are some tips to develop and follow a workable parenting visitation schedule.

  • Know Your Court’s Guidelines – “Many states have guidelines in place for visitation schedules,” according to the article, and it’s important to know what is allowed in your state. You can obtain these guidelines from your DuPage County Divorce Attorney.

  • Avoid Court If Possible – In other words, try to work out the details outside the court system. It’s likely that you and your ex-spouse can come up with more effective and workable results than a judge who knows almost nothing about your particular situation.

  • Consider Mediation If You’re Struggling – If you can’t work things out alone, the court may recommend or even mandate that you use family mediation. “A properly qualified mediator will be experienced in both facilitating discussions and parenting complexities so the probability of being able reach an arrangement that is acceptable to both you and your ex is increased,” states the article.

  • Complete And Submit All Required Documentation – Enlist the help of a lawyer to ensure the proper documents are completed and filed correctly. If you wish to have sole physical and legal custody of your child, you will likely have to file additional documents about your child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent.

These last two items can help ensure that your parenting schedule, once created, continues to work as intended for your new family circumstances.

  • Stay On Schedule – Whether your schedule came from mutual agreement, mediation or a judge’s decision, you must follow it once it becomes a court order. If either parent cannot or will not follow the agreed-upon schedule, it’s likely that the court will again become involved. It’s also possible to request post-divorce modifications of the schedule based on changing life situations.

  • Be Respectful Of Your Former SpouseThis is particularly important in front of your children. Let them contact their other parent when they’re with you, and remind them that both of their parents love them and want what’s best for them.

Even the most beneficial visitation arrangements can be difficult at times. Remember that staying calm and doing your best will make it easier for everyone involved and keep communications flowing.

As a qualified DuPage County Divorce Lawyer and trained mediator, I can help you create the right custody and visitation arrangements for your needs. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37032Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.