It's blended family month at the Modern Divorce Podcast, and host Billie Tarascio joins with two experienced parents who've got a system you can use to make your blended family life more successful - and sane.
It's hard enough raising a family under any circumstances, but blending a family can be an especially difficult process as you build relationships between step siblings and step parents. Dr James and Ginger Dellaripa of Scottsdale, Arizona, blended their family of 5 children as younger parents, and developed a set of tools through trial and error that turned into their Family Resource Planning System. They share many of the specifics on today's show to keep you from feeling out of control, and keep your kiddos grounded and secure.
You can find The Family Core and check out its resources and videos here.
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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast. I am your host,
Billie Tarascio, Arizona family law attorney, owner of Modern Law and Win Without Law School. And today I am joined by Dr. James and Ginger of
The Family Core. They have quite the story to share. [00:01:00] And this is our month to focus on blended families. And I can't think of a more appropriate guest to handle this subject. James, Ginger, welcome to the show.
Ginger Dellaripa: Thank you, Billie. We appreciate it. Thanks for having us.
Billie Tarascio: Absolutely. So tell me a little bit about your story and how you even became involved in the family law world.
Ginger Dellaripa: Sure, well, James and I are both we came from divorce in our past life we met each other and decided to blend and remarry, so he brought in two girls, the ages of seven and four, and I brought in one boy a twelve year old. So we blended We thought it would be perfect, and I, to be honest, the blend went well, but the other components on the outer skirts didn't go as well as we hoped and anticipated, so we spent eight years in the legal system in Arizona and, and did a very long[00:02:00] expensive day of.
James Dellaripa: Custody agreement.
Ginger Dellaripa: Yeah, custody agreement. Yeah, it took us eight years to get to that. Our, our children are, those children are now grown and we've added an additional two. So we are a blended family of seven and we're happy to say we're on the other side of the legal system. Right,
James Dellaripa: but with that, yeah, so with that came all the challenges that most people can relate to, right not getting along with the exes.
clashing of calendars and schedules, just misunderstanding and miscommunication in a large sense and hoping that none of that poured over into the children. I can't take most of the credit for it, but my wife can take most of the credit for it. She was wonderful with organizing and making sure the kids were at the right places.
At the right times, schoolwork was done and they were prepared for tests or whatever activity after school was [00:03:00] going to take place that the other biological parents knew about it and were informed in the proper time. And all this, all this came about over the course of years. And we began to be noticed in our neighborhood that the kids were well adjusted and and and doing nicely.
And what was what was the secret? Like, how how did how did we make this work so well? And it was a a matter of just constant scrambling, as you know building. Building calendars, putting out group texts or group, group emails, making sure that all the flyers from the schools got out to the other parents on time scheduling the doctor's appointments and the dentist appointments and making sure that you were sharing all that information, just trying to behave.
like the mature parent that you're supposed to be, even though you don't necessarily like that other person on the other end of the phone anymore.
Billie Tarascio: Thank you. That was a lot [00:04:00] that you shared. So I appreciate that. Going back, what What do you think contributed to the blending of your families going well? What did you do to help that happen?
Ginger Dellaripa: We actually we had both in our prior marriages not kept a focus on our religion. And so we, when we met and we started dating, we kind of drew a line in the sand and said, this will be our main focus.
So. Introducing the children to each other, we just put it, made it a priority, so every Saturday night, we went to church, the kids knew that from their transition day in our custody schedule of 5 2 2 5, that when they transition home, that they would be involved in church, and so they were both, both sets were in youth groups, but when they went to the other household, they were not.
at all. And so bringing them back home, it was just a comfort to them that there was consistency. They, they had made a [00:05:00] friendship group. They had volunteered. Everything just
And so I think that we 100 percent have gone back to say that that was a contributing factor to the majority and I think the children at their ages made a very conscious effort to say, my dad loves her, my mom loves him, and we're just going to focus on what we can control under our roof and that made things a a lot simpler.
We weren't worrying about everything on the outside and how it can affect us. We were worrying about what was under our roof and how we could affect them once they left our home.
Billie Tarascio: I really like that. So instead of focusing on what was happening or what could have been happening or how to make sure that The other parents were having a similar routine or similar values.
You just focused on how do we make our home as consistent as possible and be very clear about our home's [00:06:00] family values. And then when they are with their other parent, they'll have a different setup there as well.
Ginger Dellaripa: Sure, sure. And I think that kids of custody that do. have that circumstance in their life, I really think that they come out on the other end more, more well rounded.
I think that they recognize that a lot of their peers are going through that same circumstance, and seeing the children from the outside, you wouldn't know how just absolutely absurd or ridiculous the behavior was because our expectation at home was, these are the rules, this is what we do, this is how it works.
Let me know if you have any questions or we need to speak about it. And then also another factor for us was making sure that family dinner was around the table so that we could all sit together, focus on what was being said. We always checked in, like, how was your day? What was the good? What was the bad?
How can we discuss [00:07:00] that? And I think it really built the relationship between the three older children that even to this day as adults, even adulting, they still check in with each other, like, What, what was good, what was bad, you know, what, what would you want me to know? And so I think just building that, like you said, consistency was very healthy for them.
Billie Tarascio: How did you manage your roles as step parents?
James Dellaripa: Well, yeah, again going back to, to faith, essentially you had to realize that every single time there was going to be a challenge and that somehow you had to figure out how to take the high road when things weren't going as planned. So you needed to, you needed to always, in the back of your mind, make sure that you are going to be the parent.
In a responsible manner and rise above if there was any, is there any type of disagreements going on or any resentful [00:08:00] type of verbiage, whether it be a text, an email or a phone call, to set it aside and just deal with the actual parenting issue at hand. You had to take those, you had to take those types of facts and put them in your mind.
before you, you deal with anything related to a co parenting type of situation. You have to take the high road because the kids are always watching, they're always paying attention, and they take what your energy is, and when they go to the other house, they gauge. What the energy is like on that side as well, and they can feel the tension if it's there.
So you have to figure out a way to compartmentalize those antagonistic types of emotions, and set them aside, and then deal with the co with the co parenting issue at hand. Deal with other adult issues later when the children are not involved or not in your presence. You can speak about, hey, maybe you're not [00:09:00] speaking to me properly.
Those types of adult. Discussions, but you have to channel those away from the children because they pick up on all of that, and then you're not doing your job as a parent in that, right? Now, now you have dropped down into the fray, and you're being more of the problematic parent than you are being the good adult leading parent.
Billie Tarascio: James, did you, were you the primary disciplinarian and rule setter for your children when, once you blended? Or how did you handle your stepparent roles with regards to your own biological children and your stepchildren?
James Dellaripa: No, we, we, we viewed ourselves as a, as a new nuclear family. We tried to take, we tried to take on very traditional roles.
Jinge worked from home and I worked out of the house. So she was more physically involved with the [00:10:00] children directly after school or immediately in the morning before we'd get them off to school. So if there were issues, Jinge was on the ground, the boots on the ground, first line to deal with any disciplinary actions.
But me as the dad, I had to come in and say, you know what, I support whatever mom is saying. That's the rule of the house when you're here. And this is how we're gonna run our house. So we had to, we had to align ourselves. As, as a, as a front together and, and support decisions either one of us made when it came to any type of disciplinary actions.
Whether it was my, I don't like saying it, but my stepson coming in, or whether it was her stepdaughters coming into the picture, whatever the issue was, we had to put forth a united front, a united front.
Billie Tarascio: Did you ever have conflicts between the two of you on those types of judgment calls?
Ginger Dellaripa: Oh, sure. Yeah, I'm sure, but we never, [00:11:00] never address them in front of the children.
So we would stand united and, you know, he would say, I stand behind mom. What her decision is was her decision. But then, you know, once the kids were put to bed or we transitioned them out, he would say, you know, maybe we can look at this a little bit differently or. You know, every child is different, so you have specific issues with not only birth order our, you know, we had his daughters coming in, we had the birth order, who she was primary, and then we had the baby, but then they came into a situation where they were knocked down a position the older two who are Complete rule followers took to that fine.
The baby then became even further down and then we added children in. So she had lost kind of her, her queen seat. And so there were some adjustments and we just worked together behind closed doors to where, you know, we could, we could work through our, our discussion without [00:12:00] having it be in front of
James Dellaripa: them.
Right. But she was, she's also at the age, you know, at about the 10 year. 10 years of age, Mark, where we could sit down with her individually and, and just work through the problems and, and, you know, we gave her a sense of relief that, look, this is not an interrogation, it's the trouble today. Let's figure out how to get through this today.
So you spend the time with the child one on one and work through the issue that can come up with an agreement. of what we should do going forward, whether it was a phone issue, or an internet issue, a certain child that you really don't want them to be around issue, or a different type of school behavioral issue, whatever it was, we would take those children one on one and speak to them, and you gotta, and you have to get down on their level and speak to them and let them catharse, if you will, and then you can, then you can, you can repeat back.
What you understand the issue to be, and usually you come up with [00:13:00] a good resolution because these are children's problems and we've all been there, and there's usually very easy solutions to these problems, but making them understand what the problem is and how and how to best go about confronting the problem or jumping over that hurdle.
If you work through it together, you usually come up with the best resolution more quickly.
Ginger Dellaripa: Yeah, and we found, we found quickly that if there, you can't set rules without a relationship. So, we made sure to date our children. So, we would date them together, one on one. So, we would take one child and we would take them to do an activity of their choice.
So, we would date them. They came out of their shell because they're not with the siblings and they could express how they felt about one another. Again, they, they were all amazing children. I don't, I, I, we just got blessed, but we were very intentional about the blend. We were very intentional about giving them their time to build their own relationship.
And we were very intentional about [00:14:00] building a relationship with each of them individually so that we, they could feel heard. Mm hmm.
Billie Tarascio: I can't agree more. Like, it's very difficult to set rules without a relationship. For sure. Especially, especially to get their buy in. Like, you might get compliance, but it's probably going to be short term if you don't get their buy in.
And that, that is not a fun cycle to be
Ginger Dellaripa: in. No. No. And they became teens quickly after. So, you know, everybody, everybody has their own way of understanding it and what they feel is fair. Mm-hmm. . So we just set our rules and expectations. I mean, I, we literally put them on the door on the way out, you know, the door that they leave through the garage every day.
And if, and right on it, it said, if you don't understand them, then let's talk about it. And so they knew that they could always come back to us and you know, I mean, some would consider [00:15:00] us strict parents. There's no technology in the bedroom. No, no computers, no phones. You don't sleep with your phone. You know, there's curfew, nothing good happens after 10, and they were all compliant with that.
There's just certain things that we laid in place, and I think even our, our college daughter called home the other day and she said, Okay, I'm, I'm 18 now, I get it, I've seen what's gone on, nothing good happens after 10. So, she... Make sure she checks in, and she sees it now, but she didn't understand it then.
James Dellaripa: The rules are really set in, so it's nice to know that they actually absorbed the teachings that we put out there over the years.
Billie Tarascio: So what were the rules on the back of the door? I know people are going to be curious.
Ginger Dellaripa: So it was, it was just that. Like, we, we work in a pattern. You, you get up, you make your bed.
There's no question. Don't come out of your room until you make your bed. You make your bed, you get dressed your teeth are brushed, your face [00:16:00] is washed, your body sprays on before you present. You have breakfast, you clean up. Just those different patterns that we set in place, that way everybody was organized.
We try and set up the night before so that Things go smoothly in the morning. Like, if you can get a good portion of your lunch made, you make that. It's always a protein, a fruit, a vegetable, one snack. Different things like that. Just, just rules in place and then when they come home, you unpack your backpack, you clean out your lunch pail, you get ready to set up your homework, you have a snack.
There's no TV Sunday through Thursday. There's just no TV unless it was a special occasion, things like that. And so putting those types of things in place gave us the opportunity to communicate with them and see their face instead of them looking at a TV or a monitor on a screen. No technology in the bedroom for any reason, no computers, no cell phones.
If you feel that you need an alarm, we'll buy you an alarm clock, things like [00:17:00] that. Otherwise I wake you up and we get the house rolling, but. Those, setting those habits in place for them have made them very structured kids and we understand that they're all different because all five of them are. But those are, that's what's in place.
We follow those rules. We do it to the best of our ability. And when we have ever had anybody come in and take care of the kids, they basically say, why am I here? I'm like, well, you're here just in case somebody bleeds, but past that they should be able to manage things on
James Dellaripa: their own. And what's interesting about that is the younger kids watch the older kids and their pattern.
They want to do that. Yes. So it's even easier to teach them the good behavioral patterns of how to go about your life. Mm-hmm. , they, they fall right in line, like little ducklings. They, they wanna be a part of the family and, and of the team. And so they know that that's what needs to take place, needs to be done.
So by golly, they're gonna do it. Yeah. And, and it's really, it has really worked out to be a very, a very strong positive for our, our children.
Ginger Dellaripa: That's awesome. Our kids [00:18:00] are 26, 20 18, 9 and five. So as you see the progression, we're getting older, so the easier we can make it on ourselves now that we have a five year old following us around, the better it is for everybody.
James Dellaripa: Absolutely. Basically, you know, organization is, is key, and then follow through, right? You need to follow through. Those are the rules that are in place. Then you follow through on those rules. They need to be reasonable, of course. Can't be draconian. But you need to follow through on those rules so that the children understand that you're serious about them.
And these are the rules of the family. Got it.
Billie Tarascio: Okay, so at some point, you all decided you wanted to create an app. How, what led to that decision?
Ginger Dellaripa: We did. It was several years ago. And every day, I think, like we do, we question, why am I going through this? We had gone through an eight year custody battle, and it was, it was [00:19:00] difficult.
But in that season that we had been drawn through every situation in the court system, and had plenty of people involved from the outside we one day, one Saturday morning, I got a visit from the Holy Spirit, and he said, You ask every day, and this is why we did it. This is, you, you've seen every aspect of custody and everything litigious.
And you have a knack for organization, which is something that we, has always been important in our lives. And so, he said, you're going to build an app, and this is what it's going to do, and this is who you're going to help, because you understand you've been drugged through the fire, and you need to shine some light on other people that are going through it as well.
So I hollered for him, told him we were going to make an app. And he said, go back and tell him he picked the wrong family. Cause of course, eight years into this, you don't want to hear anything else about that. And after he thought through it, he said, I agree. [00:20:00] So this is what we sat down and took the key parts of what would be an organizational, just structure for families going through that same thing and put it in place.
So we built it. We pro, we prototyped it for a year and had people come back and give us their feedback. Then we restructured it and relaunched it again in October of 21, October
James Dellaripa: of 21. 21 and mobile came out for version one in the early part of 2022.
Ginger Dellaripa: Yeah, so our intention with the four pillars is just helping a family that is kind of in that situation get themselves structured and making it long term.
Our college daughter that just applied didn't have to ask us for one thing, as far as like her grades, her accolades, anything like that, shot records, medical records, anything like that, because they're already stored in the platform. It's a way that we communicate in chat. It's a way that our children check in [00:21:00] location wise, so we know that they're safe because the three older ones don't live at home any longer.
And, and it was a way for us to, to be in communication as a family, just by picking one app, everything's centrally located and everyone can stay in communication and organize together. So we did it. Such a
Billie Tarascio: great idea. And it really does sound different from the, I'd say, you know, traditional competitors on the market of Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents it almost sounds like You know, like a Life 360, plus a organizational tool, plus a way to communicate and, and keep everything kind of combined in a singular place.
James Dellaripa: Yeah, for sure. It's your, it's your command center for sure. It has the chat feature, the scalable data storage, the color coded calendar that's shareable and [00:22:00] geolocation check in. So it's kind of your command center for the family. And because you can set permissions, you can keep personal information private and away from other people on the platform unless you wish to share it with them.
So you can have exes on your platform and then you can only share, just share the information that is pertinent to them with the biological children important for them. And they don't need to know anything about any other children on the platform if you have a blended family. And so it's HIPAA compliant and it's COPA compliant.
And so it's a command center, but you can also, you can also get that important information over to the other side when a child's moving back and forth between custody schedules. And it's a nice neutral platform, so you, you upload like a vaccination record. You tag the other biological parent on the document.
They get a push notification. You've just done your job of communicating. There's no text, email, or phone call needed. And then when they view the [00:23:00] document, you get a push notification back so you know that your communication has gone through successfully and they've communicated back. And then it takes all of the inflection of how a message might get passed along.
out of the situation. So it's nice and neutral, it's clean and it's all data recordable too, if in fact you need to have all that information for court or if you get into all the tough sides of it all that information is available. So you can basically make a record of the fact that I'm, I'm behaving like the, the mature parent that I'm supposed to be.
Billie Tarascio: And the chat feature, does that work with your children and with your exes?
James Dellaripa: It does. You can, you can build any thread, group thread or individual threads with anybody that's on the platform. You can have up to 10 family members on one platform on the one account. And it's 3. 99 a month for up to 10 family members.
Billie Tarascio: Wow. [00:24:00] That's a really, really great price.
James Dellaripa: Right. Well, we realize that people at all levels of the socioeconomic status have the same challenges and, and, and we really believe that this tool helps families get along better, communicate better, and thus connect better. And so it's not about becoming a Fortune 500 company.
It's about really giving back to the community. We were blessed. We blended very well and, and I know, and we know that that is not a usual path for, for a lot of families, there's a lot of struggles out there. We were made, possibly blessed with an organizational gene as well, and so we want to share the traits with people out there, just give them some idea of how to, bring this all together because it can be like a big dust storm out there for everybody and We know that when people are looking for these types of products They're usually not in a happy place looking to just be better organized [00:25:00] They're trying they're trying to overcome troubles and problems out there.
And so We just want we want to offer this to as many people as possible
Billie Tarascio: That's just wonderful. We will make sure that this is available to all of our listeners, a link to where they can go check out for the product, sign up for the product, download the mobile app. I just want to thank you both so much for coming on the show and for sharing your story.
I think it's been a really valuable podcast episode. I know people are going to love it. So if you've enjoyed this episode, make sure you like it, download it, review it, share it. And if you know someone who should be a guest on the Modern Divorce Podcast let us know. Dr. James and Ginger, thank you so much for coming today.
Ginger Dellaripa: Thank you, billie. We appreciate it.
James Dellaripa: Thank you, Billie.
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