Author: Cristi Mcmurdie

Arizona Supreme Court Unanimously Affirms the Equal Rights of Same-Sex Parents

The battle for same-sex parental rights — for custody, visitation, even access to a spouse and child during and after childbirth – just got easier in Arizona.

On September 19th the Arizona Supreme Court issued a highly anticipated decision unanimously affirming the equal rights of same-sex parents in the state.

“Because couples in same-sex marriages are constitutionally entitled to the ‘constellation of benefits the States have linked to marriage’,” the Arizona Supreme Court reasoned in their ruling.

A positive ruling for same-sex parental rights and undoubtedly for the children.

Read more: Arizona Supreme Court: Same-sex couples have same parenting rights as opposite-sex couples

 

11 commandments of co-parenting

Interesting Article: 11 successful co-parenting commandments

I recently came across this blog post about successful co-parenting “commandments” and some items really resonated with me.

Rule # 1 follows my motto of “First negotiate, then mediate, last litigate.”  The author says Collaborate, don’t litigate and that’s great advice! Everyone is bound to be much more invested in a positive outcome if they’ve helped craft the plan, versus it being handed down by a judge.

And as to that plan, the author’s rule # 3, Create a parenting plan, is so key! Turmoil can be avoided if everyone understands their role, and that’s always best for the kids.

And rule #4, Remember that “fair” doesn’t always mean “equal”, should not be downplayed. At the end of the day, it’s about what works, what’s pragmatic and what’s best for the kids…not what’s fair or equal.

Read the full article to see the rest of the author’s 11 successful co-parenting commandments and contact McMurdie Law at (480) 777-5500 if you have any questions about your own divorce or co-parenting legal concerns.

MEDIATION: Often BEST for Everyone

Originally written for and published on DivorceTownUSA.com June 6, 2016.

 

MEDIATION: Often BEST for Everyone

by Cristi McMurdie

Mediation is one of the best ways to get your divorce or any other family law dispute resolved. I am a big proponent because when it works, people move forward with their separate lives so much healthier and sooner than a routinely litigated divorce.  Mediation is faster, it costs less, and it gives both parties a chance to be heard and to discuss things that may never be discussed in a court room setting. In every divorce, there are private matters that the court really has no jurisdiction over, and yet with a discreet and respectful discussion in mediation, it may lead to a better dialogue that influences settlement and peace down the road.

I have been involved in the mediation process for close to two decades now. Over the last couple of years, I have noticed a change for the better here in Arizona. It seems that the general public is becoming more aware of the option of mediation and requesting mediation more often.   It’s not just that it’s been around for 20 or 30 years now, but that the courts in my jurisdiction are finally ordering people who can afford private mediation to participate first before they are allowed to proceed on to court litigation. This saves the court time in trial and saves public resources, and, just as important, it also helps the couple to be part of a process that is less stressful. With mediation, they resolve their case faster because they don’t have to wait on the court’s calendar. The court also has the hope that the case will settle and not need to return for a trial and a judge’s decision, essentially helping the court to manage its astronomically overflowing caseloads.

I have had the good fortune this year to be selected by a divorcing couple’s attorneys for court-ordered private mediation. In this type of mediation, my office reserves two different conference rooms that the parties settle into while I, the mediator, will “shuttle” back and forth between offers and counter offers on various issues. This is called “shuttle mediation” and generally parties prefer to be in their separate room when they come to mediation with their attorneys – especially with court-ordered mediation. The spouses each paid their share of my hourly rate for an estimated time of 4 hours. At the end of 4 hours, the spouses wanted to finish their case because we were very close to a full settlement. An all-day mediation takes extreme focus and years of skill-building to keep a positively moving dialogue centered in peaceful and fair resolution. But I loved the fact that we accomplished a full resolution at the end of the day. I later learned from both attorneys that they never thought the case would settle. They were simply complying with the court order to attend private mediation.

Another type of mediation is when the parties do not have separately retained lawyers and our mediation meetings are comprised of the three of us, each spouse/parent and me – all facing each other at the table. I ask the spouses to choose the most important topic(s) they want to resolve first. We list those topics out and they are encouraged to come fully prepared to discuss this agenda list for that mediation meeting. You see, if you want to divide your assets, or your debts, you have to know what they are worth or how much it is. Sometimes this takes a bit of work before our mediation meeting, and the spouses have to do this themselves, since they do not have attorneys to gather it for them. Many people today want to save their hard-earned resources and are adept at using the internet and other ways of gathering the information they need for our mediation meetings. In these mediation meetings, I will often objectively and neutrally share legal family law information and the basics of community property. When I conduct private mediation with a couple who does not have attorneys, we spread the mediation meetings out over time to give the couple time to consider and reconsider their decisions, to give them time to deal with their own changing lives, and to wait for the time in their case that they are allowed to file their final agreement called a Consent Decree with the court for final review and order by the court. This type of mediation may take as few as four months up to about a year, depending upon what the spouses need to do. Sometimes we include allowing one spouse to get a new job, or to sell the family home. We can work together and as a team in mediation so that they start off as well as possible in their new separate lives.

Sometimes parties have been to court on their own without attorneys and they have realized they don’t want to go back to the court to finish their case.  They had showed badly in court and it didn’t bode well for them. Either they have had problems with the judge or they want it handled sooner. They need some help on the final thorny issues they could not settle between them. When this happens, they will come for mediation on that remaining term. This usually takes one two-three hour meeting and often we will write their stipulated agreement to file with the court. For example, last summer, a couple had been to court on their own about 2-3 times. They knew they were both in trouble with the judge if they had to go back to finish their case, and yet a trial was set for them several months later in the year. I helped this couple to resolve their parenting time conflict and regarding transfer of the children, as well as resolving an attorney fees award that had been assigned to one parent. This couple had their own incentives to settle their remaining issues, but they just couldn’t do it by themselves. That is where someone like me comes in who has seen these issues hundreds of times, with many options and ideas the parents would never have thought of by themselves. What I also bring to my clients is my own experience as a divorced parent who raised two children in a joint custody plan. So, I understand what it is like for my clients and I have compassion for them, and even more important, I have great concern for their children.

Last year, a young couple that had been married for a brief period of time came to me for mediated annulment of marriage. We were able to meet the court-required terms to get an annulment, without blame, and at the same time citing a “material misunderstanding” that made the marriage contract void. Yes, with legal creativity and agreement we can manage all family law conflicts through mediation. This young couple was grateful that we could get their marriage annulled without a long and protracted battle in court over whether they really had a marriage or not, when they both felt they never really did.

Though a lot of my mediation cases cover divorce, I believe my favorite cases are the paternity cases, where I can help young fathers or mothers understand their responsibilities and their rights and get them started in a routine parenting plan. Many times, the young couple also learns how to communicate with each other, and gathers new tools for conflict resolution of their own for their future when changes arise in parenting. After all, they have years ahead in raising their child.

Fortunately, mediation has been around long enough now that a study or two has been conducted on the long term effect on families years after the divorce.  In Dr. Emery’s study, the difference in the parent-child relationship showed that mediation has a better long-term effect:   twelve years later,  after 5 hours or more of mediation, the non-residential or non-custodial parent saw their children 3 X more than litigated cases.  Further, a striking 52 % talked to their children weekly as compared to  14% who litigated their cases.  These numbers tell the reason why I prefer mediation when it is possible, to the old-fashioned adversarial way of handling family matters, that is, it is best for everyone.

Separation or Divorce Which Is Best For Now?

It is important that you know there are four different ways to separate and choosing the best for you and your family is extremely important and can impact property rights. This blog is a brief overview of the four different ways to separate, however, it is important to understand that every state has their own marital and property rules that will impact you depending upon where you live.  Contact WHYmediate at 480-777-5500 with any questions you have about divorce, separation or family law.(See WHYmediation.com)

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What About My Child Support?

The best place to start on the topic of child support is first, define just what “Child Support” actually is and what it means. In the family lawCourts, child support is the ongoing, periodic payment made by one parent to the other parent or guardian for the financial benefit of their joint child at the end of a marriage or live-in relationship. Child support is paid directly or indirectly by wage assignment to the Arizona Clearinghouse, who then disburses check payment by the higher earning parent to the lesser earning parent, even sometimes if they both have equal time with the child or children.

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WHAT CAUSES COUPLES TO DIVORCE?

Infidelity, fighting, abuse
Poor spending and saving
Substance abuse or other addictions
Too young to understand love
Misunderstood values
Unequally yoked
The purpose ended

You finally reached your “last straw,” and one of the spouses realizes that there is no turning back, and they cannot make their marriage better. They tried and they did their best to make it work. But even with counseling or new agreements, it just doesn’t.

Often, there is a combination of factors that culminate to the final decision to split the sheets. When your marriage ends, it’s natural to seek a convenient scapegoat — namely your spouse. But often it is a third party who comes in to fill that role of scape goat. It could be the controlling or crazy Mother-in-law or the neighbor your spouse always seemed to like, or the colleague at work. Assigning responsibility can help you make sense of life during this confusing, overwhelming time and make it a bit easier. Unfortunately, and ultimately, relationships really are complicated and it doesn’t happen overnight when your spouse took up suddenly with their co-worker. Often times, there is a chance to really dig deeper and see where the pitfalls happened to learn from them, for this marriage, or for future relationships.

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Using Mediation to Improve Your 2016

In our everyday lives we all rely upon skills of negotiation and mediation to navigate, whether it is buying groceries and gas, signing a new lease, or dealing with our office coworkers, bosses and clients to help us navigate our lives.  The skill and the art of mediation include many ways to approach conflict management toward resolution that range from least to most effective. Conflicts can be talked out, negotiated, arbitrated, adjudicated, resolved by legislation, by political action, or by violent force. Many people are afraid of conflict and avoid it as much as they can, and yet if they had developed conflict resolution skills, they would welcome them as a chance to move to deeper communication and understanding.

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