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Phoenix Family Law and Estate Planning Law Blog

Helping your kids stay connected to your co-parent on vacation

Many families take their first post-divorce vacations over their kids' winter break. If your children are going away with your co-parent, if you're taking them on vacation to visit family or if you're taking them to enjoy some skiing up north or other adventure, it's essential to help your kids stay connected with their other parent while they're away.

This is all new for them, too. They're used to vacationing with both parents. They'll naturally want to share their adventures with the nontraveling parent. Both parents need to play a role in helping their kids stay connected to the parent who's not along for the trip. The parent they're traveling with, however, generally has the greater responsibility.

How to divorce-proof assets you leave to your children

Many people develop estate plans that are designed to ensure that the family's assets remain in the family. Divorce can take a big chunk out of a family's wealth when a spouse gets a share of an adult child's money. That's why some parents choose to leave money to their children using trust funds.

Those trusts need to be carefully set up. Further, the beneficiaries need to avoid commingling the assets in those trusts with marital assets. It's best not to touch the funds in the trust, even if you're able to. However, if you do, don't place them in a joint account or use them to redecorate a home that you own together if you want to keep your trust assets separate. Doing so can make the entire trust marital property that the spouse can seek a portion of in the divorce.

Estate planning concerns for new parents

As a new parent, you probably do everything you can to protect your child. You may research the healthiest formulas and foods and avoid anything that could cause harm. When it comes to childcare, you are weighing your options carefully and thoroughly. Leaving nothing to chance, you may already have a savings account started for your baby's college tuition.

With all these precautions in place, have you considered what would happen to your child if a tragic accident or illness should take you away? Would all your plans and protections go by the wayside? Do you know how you can ensure your child will continue to receive the kind of care you desire for him or her?

Rebuilding your relationship with your kids in recovery

When divorced parents who've struggled with alcohol or drug dependency have been in recovery for a time, they often seek increased custody and visitation rights. It's essential to realize, however, that just because you believe that you can now be the parent your children need you to be, that doesn't mean that they're ready to let you.

The effects of a parent who's an alcoholic or addict can remain with a child for many years. They may still feel resentful about having to take on added responsibilities because you weren't able to handle them. They may blame you for things you did while you were drinking or using and for the divorce itself.

What should you look for in a family law attorney?

One of the first and most important decisions you'll make in your divorce is your choice of a family law attorney. As you talk to attorneys you're considering retaining, you'll be looking for someone who understands your priorities, such as keeping a fair share of the marital assets, getting the child custody rights you're seeking and/or obtaining the support agreement you need.

Experience is a key factor in choosing an attorney. You want someone with a good deal of experience in this field of law and who has earned a good reputation as an ethical, effective professional. However, that may not mean going with the most sought-after attorney in your area. You also want someone who has the time to devote to your case and who won't hand many of the duties off to a junior person in the firm.

Don't forget your 'hard' assets in your estate plan

When doing their estate planning, people often focus on how their bank, investment and retirement accounts, as well as other liquid assets, will be split up among their heirs. They likely think of what will happen to their home as well.

However, sometimes they give little thought to illiquid or "hard" assets like jewelry and artwork. These may have both considerable monetary and sentimental value. Among the things that comedian/actor Robin Williams' widow and her stepchildren fought over after his death were his watch and bicycle collections.

Gift giving mistakes that too many divorced parents make

Holiday gift giving can be a minefield for divorced parents and their children. Some kids might view receiving two sets of presents as one of the few upsides of their parents' divorce. However, if parents don't handle their gift giving in a mature and unselfish way, they can create highly stressful, unhappy situations for their kids. Following are a couple of situations to avoid.

Competing to give the best gifts. Too many divorced parents try to outdo each other — either to compete for their children's love or to try to make their co-parent look bad. That can be particularly difficult if one parent has less money than the other.

Alcohol monitoring systems can increase holiday visitation time

If your spouse's alcohol abuse was an issue in your divorce and child custody negotiations, you may have concerns about your kids spending time with your co-parent over the holidays. Even if your ex has entered a recovery program and appears to have gotten control of their problem, the holidays can be a difficult time for those who have struggled — or continue to struggle — with alcohol.

The holidays can be an emotional and even depressing time for many people — particularly for parents who don't get to spend as much time as they'd like with their kids. Relapses occur all too frequently this time of year. That can be a frightening prospect both for the parent who's afraid to trust their kids with the ex even for visits over their winter break and the parent who's working to stay sober.

Tips for introducing your new partner to your kids

During the holidays, many children of divorced parents meet those parents' new significant others for the first time. If your kids live some distance away and are visiting you over winter break, you likely want to introduce them to your new partner. Even if your kids live with you, with everyone off of school and work, it might seem like a good time to plan an outing. Perhaps you want your new partner to share in some of your family holiday festivities.

If this relationship is serious enough that you're comfortable with your kids getting to know and possibly becoming attached to the new person in your life, the next step is to determine what this first meeting will involve. Keep in mind the following things:

  • Designate a clear time frame. Don't plan a daylong event. If things don't go well, that can be excruciating for everyone. Plan something with a designated start and end time.
  • Make the activity age-appropriate and enjoyable for your child(ren). If you've got kids of different ages, find something they'll all enjoy. If they're doing something they like, whether it's watching a favorite movie for the hundredth time, playing a board game or going to a local arcade, and your partner seems to be enjoying it, they're more likely to warm to this new person. If they're being dragged along to an art exhibit you both want to see, they're more likely to resent it -- and this person.

How to handle debts in probate

If a loved one designated you executor of his or her estate or the court appointed you to handle the loved one's probate, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed, and rightly so. Probate can be complex and last for months, requiring your careful attention and diligence.

The most time-consuming and sensitive part of probate is handling the debt left by the deceased. Arizona law has a particular hierarchy of creditors you must pay from the assets of the estate, and it is critical to take care of these before you distribute any assets to the beneficiaries.

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