Thinking about Changing Your Children’s School this Fall?

Co-parents are sometimes at odds when it comes to important decisions relating to their children. School choice is one topic that can become particularly challenging. Each parent wants what they believe is best for the child, but when opinions vary, it’s important to understand who has the ultimate legal decision-making authority. Your parenting and custody arrangements now factor into the outcome, now more than ever.   Joint custody, or joint legal decision making, grants both parents equal decision-making rights and responsibilities, although the court may include orders that one parent has final authority over certain decisions, like choice of school.

A recent Appeals Court ruling clarified the final decision-making authority for co-parenting or divorced parents with what used to be called “joint legal custody” in Arizona. If one parent has been granted sole legal decision making, then that parent has final say on major decisions that can include medical care, religion, education, including where the children will attend school. If the parents share legal decision making, then parents have to make these decisions together and the court now must refrain from making those parental decisions.

While communication and collaboration is always best for co-parents, if you find yourself at odds with the other parent on important decisions, it is best now to get the advice from an experienced attorney because latest case law has limited the court’s authority to decide certain decisions that should be decided by parents.

And when it comes to decisions about school, it should be addressed in the prior school years in early spring so that the decisions can be made in time for enrollment the next school year. If McMurdie Law can be of assistance, please call us at 480-777-5500.  



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.