Author: Cristi Mcmurdie

Honoring your Ex on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this Sunday.

For divorced or co-parenting moms, it can be an especially emotional day. Small children may be unaware or unable to celebrate mom without some parental help. And honoring the mother of your children can go a long way toward maintaining a good co-parenting relationship, and teaching your children the importance of special occasions.

Tips for Honoring your Ex on Mother’s Day

  • Acknowledge the effort and love your ex puts into parenting your children
  • Allow your ex time with the kids, even if it’s not “her day”
  • Support your children in celebrating their mom in their way (helping them make her breakfast, sending her flowers on their behalf, or initiating home made Mother’s Day cards)
  • Acknowledge a step-mother’s role, too, but know that for your children mom is the most important person on Mother’s Day

These articles include additional tips that you might also find helpful:

As with any family law situation, McMurdie Law is here for you if parenting plan or visitation issues arise. Call (480) 777-5500 to schedule a consultation.

Summertime Bliss or Co-Parenting Chaos?

As the kids begin the countdown to summer break, are you anticipating a blissful, relaxing time-off from the routine? Or is co-parenting chaos your new summer norm?

Summer can present challenges for co-parenting families.

From road trips and sleep-away camp to family reunions and international excursions, summer is often full of events that fall outside the normal school year routine.

Sometimes things come up that are not clearly covered by parenting plan guidelines.

Here are some tips to keeping the kids’ best interest the main focus of summertime schedules.

  1. Communicate often and early – make plans as far in advance as possible and keep your ex in the loop, giving you plenty of time for mediation if disagreements arise.
  2. Be flexible and willing to compromise – summer brings different activities, such as family events or travel, that don’t always fit into the normal co-parenting schedule. Be flexible with your time in favor of the kids’ summer memories, and especially if you ask for extra or off-schedule time.
  3. Consider the children’s interests – let the kids’ interests guide your plans and always keep them informed. This helps them create memorable experiences with each parent.

These articles include additional, valuable tips that might help smooth summertime co-parenting stress.

If you need help interpreting your own parenting plan or think mediation could help prevent summer discord, now’s the time to act.  Call (480) 777-5500 to schedule a consultation.

Tax Time Turmoil? Ways the New Tax Laws May Affect You

Settling finances can be one of the most difficult and trying aspects of divorce. It’s complex and confusing and couples rarely see eye-to-eye.  Thanks to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, it’ll be even tougher.

Some areas that may impact divorcing couples will be:

  • alimony will no longer be deductible for the payer, and taxes don’t need to be paid on it by the recipient
  • More generous child tax credit rules
  • a new $500 credit for dependents who are not eligible for child tax credit
  • the standard personal and dependent exemptions have been eliminated for 2018-2025, so this tax season is the last time you will be able to claim it

These articles will help you understand more about how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will affect your finances going forward:

We can help you with questions about your specific situation.  Call today to schedule a consultation: 480-777-5500


Worry-Free Spring Break when Co-Parenting

Spring Break is around the corner. A little advance planning and a review of your custody agreement can avoid snags with your ex-spouse that could ruin the fun. While situations vary, you can ensure the ground rules for spring break travel are set in advance by considering these tips:

  • Plan ahead and clearly communicate your intended plans.
  • Get signed and notarized travel consent forms in advance.
  • Share (or get) itinerary specifics such as flight numbers, hotel details and contact numbers.

These articles can help you learn more about planning for vacation travel when you’re co-parenting:

Traveling With Kids After Divorce and Traveling with kids: 5 tips for divorced co-parents

If you have specific questions about travel guidelines under your own custody agreement or parenting plan, we can help.  Call today to schedule a consultation: 480-777-5500

10 Steps to a Mediated Divorce

The term “mediation” broadly refers to any instance in which a third party helps others reach agreement. More specifically, mediation has a structure, timetable and dynamics that “ordinary” negotiation lacks. The process is private and confidential and can produce binding orders that are enforceable by the courts.

Mediation in Divorce Includes 10 Specific Steps

  1. Choose to use mediation for your divorce or family case.
  2. Together, the couple selects their mediator and signs a fee agreement.
  3. Mediation sessions can begin before, during, or after filing your Petition with the court. Filing your Petition opens the case.
  4. The Mediator prepares your Petition for Divorce, Annulment or Modification. This Petition must be from one spouse, the “Petitioner.” The other spouse is the “Respondent.”
  5. The Respondent is served with the Petition, and other documents, by a process server or signs an Acceptance of Service. That day begins the countdown to the earliest date to file the final divorce papers, the 60 day deadline.
  6. The parties participate in 2-5 mediation sessions to reach agreement on all issues in the matter.
  7. After each session, some of the final agreements can begin to be written. The parties will review what is drafted and make necessary changes or corrections.
  8. After the final mediation, the final Decree or Orders, are signed and notarized by all parties. They are then filed for the Judge’s final signature. The Judge’s signature makes the documents enforceable court orders.
  9. After the Judge signs the final Decree, or Orders, copies are returned to the parties.
  10. Follow up work begins, such as changing titles of homes, vehicles, and retirement accounts. This can be overseen by the mediator or parties as agreed.

Mediation is one of the best ways to get your divorce or any other family law dispute resolved. 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.

For more information about Mediated Divorce, I recommend this article on Findlaw:

It includes a description of the mediators role, as well as an outline of the mediation process.

Is there a “best” time to file for divorce?

Many call January “Divorce Month” because so many couples file for divorce in the first part of the year. Maybe it’s for emotional reasons, to avoid disrupting the holidays.  And maybe more occur in January due to sheer chance, but the move is often made for practical and financial reasons.

Here are some articles that tackle the practical, emotional and financial impacts of timing of divorce:

The Best And Worst Times (Financially) To Get Divorced

When is the Best Time of the Year to Divorce?

Finding the Right Time To File For Divorce

AZ Grandparents' Rights | Thanksgiving Holiday info

Holidays bring families together. And can bring up challenges for Arizona Grandparents.

Holidays bring families together. And can bring up challenges.  Some Arizona grandparents won’t be seeing their grandchildren during Thanksgiving because of alliances that formed from their children’s divorce.

Divorce and other circumstances make grandparents’ rights complicated.  Read about the complex and emotional issue of grandparents’ rights.

Learn how you can be with your grandchildren in these important moments!  Grandparents in Arizona may have rights to visitation with their grandchildren. Learn More.


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 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.