My Collaborative colleague, Nancy Hetrick was published in Forbes!

Advice For Boomer Same-Sex Couples Facing Divorce” syncs nicely with my blog posts last month on adoption in all types of families including same-sex couples. In many married same sex couples, their unique financial concerns are compounded upon retirement.

Nancy is a Certified Financial Divorce Analyst, and an active member of Collaborative Professionals of Phoenix, an organization comprised of attorneys, mental health professionals and financial professionals who have been trained in the Collaborative Divorce Process. A Collaborative Divorce, the process of reaching a divorce settlement without going to court, is fairly novel and brings 3-4 professionals to the fore front of your case at the very beginning. Each spouse is represented by their own attorney, trained in the collaborative process. The other neutral professionals may include a certified financial analyst and a coach with therapist certification who may help with child custody decisions and other emotionally charged issues and who often guides the full team meetings.

At McMurdie Law (www.mcmurdielaw.com) we customize your family law process to fit your needs and have multiple certifications in processes such as collaborative practice, mediation and coaching in additional to being a member of the Arizona Bar of Attorneys since 1992.

Tax Law Changes that May Affect Your 2018 Return

Your income taxes have been a hot topic all year due to the changes ushered in by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December 2017 by the Trump Administration. Tax credits and deductions relating to families and family law issues require a new understanding of how it might affect you and your tax filings.

Here are just some of the changes that may impact you and your family:

  • Dependent exemptions were eliminated, AND the Child Tax Credit was increased in 2018.

The old $4,050 exemption for children no longer exists. The child tax credit was only $1,000 in 2017 but for 2018 it doubled to $2,000, for children under 17.  “Married couples filing jointly who make under $400,000 per year and single individuals, head of household, or married couples filing separately who earn less than $200,000 per year, will be able to take $2,000 per child as their Child Tax Credit” according to Jeff Rose, author of Changes to the Child Tax Credit for 2019.

  • A $500 Credit for Dependents Age 17-24.

Older child dependents may be eligible for a $500 credit under the new tax laws. The credit also applies for dependents who are elderly or disabled.

  • Higher standard deductions.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased your standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers, $18,000 for heads of household and $24,000 for people married filing jointly.  This has been a benefit to many families that may outweigh the elimination of the dependent tax exemption.

  • 529 educational savings.

529 plans can now be used for tuition expenses for grades K-12 as well as for university studies.

  • Changes to alimony deductions.

Changes to alimony (spousal maintenance) deductions that were included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act took effect on Jan. 1, 2019. Divorce attorneys were rushing their decrees to the judges for their final signatures before December 31, 2018 and in Maricopa County, additional Pro Tem (interim) judges were brought in to finalize the swell of decrees filed with the court before the law changed so that they could enjoy the now “old” spousal maintenance deduction.  Now what this means is that if your divorce is finalized or you modify your alimony agreement on or after Jan. 1, 2019, then alimony payments cannot be deducted from taxable income for 2019. And if you are receiving alimony, it should not be reported as part of your taxable income for 2019.

While changes to the Child Tax Credit may save you money on taxes in 2019, other changes may offset those savings. It’s always wise to consult a tax professional about your specific situation. Consultation with a family lawyer may help you understand and minimize tax impact of alimony, child support or dependent care concerns.

Contact McMurdie Law today to schedule a consultation to discuss your specific situation.

Finding an Adoption Lawyer for Your Growing Family

Families today come in a mosaic of traditional, blended, biological and single-parent structures with the core ideology of a caring, supportive family unit. Beyond marriage and birth certificates, a traditional nuclear family requires little legal intervention to form.  However, today sometimes families form through adoptions that require significant legal action to partake in all the rights and standing that the traditional nuclear family has.

Common types of adoptions

  • Intercountry Adoptions: Governed by U.S. federal law, the laws of the child’s country of residence, and the laws of your U.S. state of residence.
  • Adopting from Foster Care: Adoption of a child in foster care who cannot return to their biological family, with and without fostering first.
  • Second-Parent Adoptions: adoption by a second parent in the home who is not married to the legal parent of the child and allows a second parent to adopt a child without the “first parent” losing any parental rights.
  • Stepparent Adoptions: legal adoption of a child by the spouse of the child’s birth parent.
  • Single-Parent Adoptions: adoption of a child by a single person.
  • Grandparent/Familial Adoptions: adoption of a biologically related child by an extended family member.

There are also unique situations where adoption defines legal relationships such as the adoption of an adult child. McMurdie Law Office helped a fully-grown man to be adopted by his step mother of several decades as a showing of love for her on Mother’s Day.

Whether you may be expanding your family, or perhaps merging a blended family, defining the parental rights of same-sex spouses or adopting through foster care, legal technicalities can have long-lasting consequences.

If you’re looking at adoption to grow or define your family, finding the right adoption lawyer can help you navigate the complex legalities of adoption. Online resources, such as this article from Child Welfare Information Gateway, can help point you in the right direction. We highly recommend you have a consultation with a family lawyer experienced in adoption to make your best choices and understand how adoption apply to of your unique situation.

Collaborative Divorce – An Alternative to Traditional Divorce Court

The ending of a marriage is never easy. There are always more issues to confront than anyone realized including property distribution decisions, new estate planning, support issues, and, of course, if there are children, parenting plans bring up the most anxiety and stress.

Good news, though — there are different ways to approach divorce that might better fit your family and estate.  One is Collaborative Divorce that approaches your issues with a professional team committed to keep you from going to court.

 

The Four Most Common Types of Divorce

Litigated Divorce – the most common type of divorce where each individual is represented by their own attorney to negotiate the terms of property distribution, child custody, and division of liabilities.

Do-It-Yourself Divorce – because of the legal complexities of divorce, this is never recommended and only a viable option when the couple has been married only a short time, has no children, and little to no assets or debt to be divided.  Mistakes are common (and permanent) with DIY divorces.

Mediation – a mediated divorce is overseen by a “neutral mediator who helps both parties come to an agreement on all aspects of their divorce. The mediator may or may not be a lawyer, but he/she must be extremely well-versed in divorce and family law.”

Each party may consult with their own attorney, but in a mediated divorce, the couple is making decisions on settlement terms, not the court.  The mediator’s role is to facilitate reaching an agreement. However, in order for the agreements to be fair and the settlement binding, the parties involved should be reasonable and amicable (not often the case with divorcing couples).

Collaborative Divorce – This process of reaching a divorce settlement without going to court, is fairly novel and brings 3-4 professionals to the fore front of your case at the very beginning.  Each spouse is represented by their own attorney, trained in the collaborative process. The other neutral professionals may include a certified financial planner and a coach with therapist certification who will help with child custody decisions and other emotionally charged issues and who often guides the full team meetings.

Learn more about collaborative divorce: How Collaborative Divorce Works: FAQs

In Arizona, couples who choose mediation or a collaborative divorce, avoid going to court altogether, because those types allow for Consent Decree filing once a settlement is reached.

As an experienced mediator and collaborative law professional Cristi McMurdie will help divorcing couples examine all available types of divorce and determine the best approach for their specific circumstances.  Contact McMurdie Law to schedule a consultation.

January is “Divorce Month”?

While December is full of holiday and good cheer, January is known for less happy tidings, such as an increase in divorce filings.

As explains in her article This Is Why January Is the Biggest Month for Divorce:

“Since January is a time for making resolutions and planning for the year ahead, couples may also want to take that time to reevaluate their marriage.”

If it looks like divorce will be part of your new year, whether by your choice, or your spouse’s, there are some immediate steps you can take to ring in these emotional, impending changes.

The Beginning Checklist: Planning to File for Divorce emphasizes these and other practical steps including:

  • Hire an attorney
  • Organize your financial paperwork
  • Consider mediators or collaborative divorce

In his article 40 Best Ways to Prepare for Divorce, author Grant Stoddard expands on these ideas, such as:

12. Enlist professional help: “…you’re going to benefit from professional help which, at a minimum, is going to take the shape of a divorce attorney or a mediator.”

14. Do everything you can to mediate: “If you think you and your spouse can come to a consensus on what’s fair, a mediator might be the best bet for both you and your bottom line.”

18. Familiarize yourself with the family finances: If you’re not the person in the marriage who handles the money stuff, “you’ll need to get yourself up to speed with the situation if you want a fair settlement.”

Read all 40 Ways in the full article.

However you approach it, divorce can be a messy, emotional transition for all involved. You’ll do well to familiarize yourself with the process, seek professional advice and get organized in advance as you ring in the new year and a fresh start.

 

All I want for Christmas is…a divorce?

Said no one ever!

And yet, just after the holidays we see a spike in divorce filings.  Maybe it’s because couples don’t want to tarnish holiday memories with talk of divorce.  Maybe it’s more about starting the new year fresh.  But whatever the reason, there’s a definite uptick in the number of filings, which peaks a few months later.

If divorce is part of your New Year’s Resolution, there are some important things you can do now to prepare mentally, emotionally and financially to navigate this difficult process.

WomansDivorce.com mentions these Positive Steps You Can Take Now:

  • Seek divorce advice as soon as possible, from an attorney, mediator, and/or financial planner
  • Begin financial preparations immediately
  • Take care of yourself by talking to a neutral party such as a therapist, a family counselor, or a close personal friend (if they can remain neutral).

The Divorce Preparation Checklist published by marriage.com offers these additional practical steps:

  • Change your passwords
  • Get a PO box
  • Start putting money aside

Click here to read the entire article: Divorce Preparation Checklist – 12 Non-Negotiable Components

Divorce is an emotional process, no matter what time of year, and can be especially difficult just after the holidays. An experienced divorce attorney can be a trusted ally and help you plan for and execute an equitable divorce.

Call McMurdie Law today to schedule a consultation: 480-777-5500

We’re in Love, Do We Really Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

Prenuptial agreements (prenups) are something for the rich and famous of Hollywood, but does Average Jane or Joe really need one?  Most fiances are afraid that if they need a prenup it’s a prediction of things to come and they will surely end up divorced. Today half of all marriages do end in divorce and prenups when done correctly will lay the ground work for smoother transition if it does.

Prenuptial agreements help protect the assets that you had before marriage, and even those your acquire during marriage.  It can preplan alimony so that you don’t fight about it in court. It can protect income that you receive during marriage from other assets you had before marriage. It can protect businesses and keep them outside the marriage. Read more in this article “Engaged? This is why you need to sign a prenuptial agreement.

Estate planning is another way to protect your assets during marriage, too. Sometimes for older couples, or in the case of second marriages, it may be better to attend to the estate planning rather than a prenup to ensure your own children inherit your separate estate. Learn more about legal considerations for late-life marriages.

Answering the question, “do I need a prenup?”, Is one that is best answered by meeting with your recommended family attorney.

Call McMurdie Law today to schedule a consultation: 480-777-5500   https://mcmurdielaw.com

Dos and Don’ts before the Holidays Arrive

We are in the middle of August and the count down to the holiday season is here. Has your co-parenting been smooth or rocky this year?  Take the time now to reflect and let go of what you can and address what you can with your co-parent in advance of the year-end holiday season.

Successful co-parenting relies on good communication, upholding your arrangements and allowing the other parent’s unique parenting style.  Your intention is important in how you deal with them…are you still upset underneath it all?

This article on liveabout.com describes 10 Co-parenting Styles … With Tips to Fix What Isn’t Working. Even the best-intentioned co-parents sometimes clash, but utilizing a parenting coach or mediator with coaching training can assist you in better approaches in person and more effective email communication.

Consider these 7 “Don’ts” to avoid when co-parenting, outlined in this article: Cooperative Co-Parenting: Keys To Making It Work (click to read the full article). Pretty obvious if you go take a look….like the first one:

Don’t deny your child personal time with both of their parents.

Now how about some “Dos”!:

  • Do obtain ongoing counsel from a mediator/professional coach like me who can guide the divorce/post divorce to effective outcomes
  • Do communicate more often in all ways. Making and communicating plans in advance keeps your ex in the loop and gives you plenty of time for mediation should disagreements arise.
  • Do always remember to put your children’s interests first when planning your time together. This helps keep them engaged and creates memorable experiences with each parent.
  • Do be willing to be flexible. Many holidays fall on fixed days that might not fit into the normal co-parenting schedule. The highest goal is to create positive experiences for your kids, and especially if you ask for extra or off-schedule time.

If you need help reviewing and discussing your own parenting plan or think mediation could resolve your challenging co-parenting dynamic, now is the time to act.  Call (480) 777-5500 to schedule a consultation.

Most people plan their weddings a year to two years in advance.  Why don’t we do the same thing for divorce?

Divorce is a complex and often intimidating process, even for uncontested cases.

The most challenging aspects usually involve how to divide parenting time and responsibilities, the close second is protecting and preserving your assets while trying to divide them at the same time.

Advanced planning, often utilizing the assistance of a certified divorce financial planner, is a great way to prepare. In collaborative practice, our team can help you plan in advance so that you minimize the expense of undue fighting in court or at the table.

Finances – Your investment and retirement accounts will likely be divided, along with all of your bank accounts. Check out this post from nerdwallet for 7 Ways to Ready Your Finances for Divorce

Parenting – with an eye toward what is best for your children, you will want to minimize their time in the car transferring them to the other home, so it is important to plan living closer to work and to schools.   Planning this in advance can minimize the costs of relocation and stress from coming changes.

Insurance – Your automobile, home and life insurance policies and their beneficiary designations must be reconsidered and changed by the time you are divorced. In Arizona you are required to provide medical insurance coverage for children if it is available to you.

This article takes a unique look at a pre-divorce checklist, identifying common mistakes and how to avoid them: Simple Divorce Checklist Can Keep You From Making These 10 Common Mistakes.

If divorce may be in your future, there is no time like now to begin learning about your best options. Call McMurdie Law Office, PC at (480) 777-5500 for a pre-divorce planning consultation about your specific needs.

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.  

 

Source: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/0/OpinionFiles/Div1/2018/1%20CA-CV%2017-0069%20FC.pdf