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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Same Sex Divorce in Arizona

Same sex marriage has finally become possible in Arizona, after the landmark Oberfell vs. Hodges Supreme Court ruling in 2015. Arizona’s prior definition of marriage as “between a man and a woman” was struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. In another two cases, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedgewick gave favorable ruling recognizing rights of same sex couples as the same as rights of heterosexual couples.

While this is all good news for the LGBTQ community in the state, not all marriages survive, and that includes same sex marriages. Some marriages inevitably end in divorces.  If you are seeking to divorce your same sex spouse in Arizona, you can discuss legal options with our firm.

In September 2017 the Arizona Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling in McLaughlin v. Jones which now mandates that same sex female co-parents be granted identical legal and custodial rights in a divorce between a same sex female couple.

Rights of Divorcing Same Sex Couples

In Arizona, same sex couples now have the same rights as heterosexual  couples when divorcing. The separating couple will also have the same obligations when dividing property and paying alimony or child support. Child custody will be determined the same as in the case of hetero couples, with priority given to the child’s health and wellbeing.  It no longer matters which Mother “carried the baby to term” when allocating rights to both Mothers in a divorce.   This is a significant shift in the legal landscape as of late 2017.

Residency Requirements

Arizona’s residency requirement applies to same sex couples just like any other couple. At least one party of the divorcing couple must have resided in the state for 90 days at least before filing the divorce papers. This can be a somewhat difficult requirement to fulfill for same sex couples who may have recently moved. Because federal law now recognizes same sex marriage in all 50 states, you will have to check with your local divorce attorney on the jurisdictional time limits in your state.

Grounds for Divorce

Arizona does not require couples in non-covenant marriages to provide any grounds for divorce when filing a case. As same sex couples fall into this category, the only ground required is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. One spouse can successfully claim so even if the other doesn’t want to divorce. In case either one of the spouses wants to live apart, it’s possible to file for a legal separation as well.  Some people pursue legal separation so that they can remain on each other’s health insurance after the fact.

Child Custody

Determining child custody in a contentious divorce can be as difficult for a same sex couple as it is for any couple. Because of the 2017 McLaughlin decision, the requirements, rules, and the family law that apply to hetero couples apply equally to same sex couples.  As always, it’s strongly recommended for the couple to resolve custody disputes amicably with the aid of a mediator if possible. It’s best to negotiate shared parenting time in advance with the help of lawyers instead of going to battle in front of a judge.

Same sex couples in Arizona have no reason to believe that a divorce case will be handled much differently than divorce cases for heterosexual couples. If the divorce is particularly contentious, then getting advice from an experienced attorney will be a must. You will have to consult with a family law expert to learn more about child custody.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Common Misconceptions about Divorce in Arizona

We all have our own ideas about divorce. When it comes to the legal aspects of divorce, most people have significant misunderstandings. The legal process to divorce in Arizona is straightforward, but cases that go before a judge can become really complicated. If you are considering a divorce, it’s very important to realistically understand the legal process and consequences. Here is a list of common misconceptions about divorce most Arizonians have:

Does Filing a Court Petition Equal a Divorce?

When you file for a divorce in a court, you are required to file a petition. Some people believe this petition to be equal to a legal divorce. It is not. You are legally divorced when a judge says so and issues a ruling which recognizes the formal Date of Separation. From that day on, your civil status will be officially divorced and single, but not a day before. This date is very important because your income and property ownership (that you retain after the proceedings) only become non-marital property after this date is set by the court.

Can Child Custody be Arranged According to a Prenup?

This is an absolutely inaccurate idea. Prenups can set provisions for things like asset division in a divorce. However, child custody is solely up to a family court to decide. Child custody is largely a matter of public policy that ensures the well-being of a child. That requires judicial assessment of a child’s current living situation. Therefore, having provisions for child custody is highly improper in a prenup agreement. It could possibly render the whole agreement void. To make sure your prenup agreement has no chance of being voided by a court, consult with a divorce attorney in Scottsdale.

Can A Spouse be Ordered to Pay My Attorney’s Fees?

In Arizona, the laws allow for a divorce court to order one spouse to pay the legal fees of the other in whole or part. However, this is very much subject to a judge’s independent review. The aim of these laws is to eliminate any income disparity between the spouses from hindering access to similar legal representation (going to court on “a level playing field” so to speak). However, the judge will see how “reasonable” both parties are. In other words, your spouse will be ordered to pay your legal fees if only the request is evaluated as reasonable and that your positions are in fact reasonable as presented in court.

Is Alimony is Forever in Arizona?

Courts in Arizona typically set alimony for a specific period of time, such as until a child comes of age. The purpose of alimony is to provisionally support a spouse in need. But alimony is not financial life support. If the receiving spouse dies, remarries or cohabits with another, then alimony can be terminated.   Generally speaking, the longer the duration of the underlying marriage, the longer the potential duration of payout on spousal maintenance.

Creditors will Only Go After the Spouse for Debts He or She Agrees to Pay Off

Arizona is a “community property” state. That means that any debts incurred during a marriage become the presumptive responsibility of both spouses. The actual person who signed the loan agreement may not always matter. This status applies even after a divorce. Your spouse could agree to pay off a credit card loan or the home equity line of credit in the divorce agreement, but you won’t be completely off the hook. If the spouse fails to pay, the third party creditors could come after you. Any agreement in a divorce is between you and the spouse, not the creditor.

Hopefully, now you are a bit more enlightened about what getting a divorce means in Arizona.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

 How to Divide Property When Getting a Divorce in Arizona

Property division can become challenging for divorcing couples. However, this need not be a challenge.  And If you and the soon-to-be-ex cannot come to good terms on your own, a court will have to do it for you. Under Arizona’s community property law, debts and assets accumulated during a marriage belong to both parties 50/50 in the absence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that says otherwise.  Arizonian family courts emphasize fairness when dividing up a property. Unlike in some states, the property may not be divided equally 50/50, but equitably in the eyes of the judge assigned to your case.  This can sometimes mean 55/45 or 60/40 or 40/60—every case is unique.

No matter what the facts, you will have to hire a talented divorce attorney in Scottsdale, Phoenix or your local area in the state. Absent years of litigation experience, you likely won’t be able to capably represent your interests in court without a deep knowledge of divorce and property laws in the state. If you are undergoing a process of dividing property in a divorce, here are some important items you should be aware of:

Determine if the Property Belongs to the Community or the Separate Category

There is a very clear distinction between community and separate property under Arizona law. Separate property is assets a spouse owned before marriage, inherited solely during the marriage, was gifted solely during the marriage, or purchased alone during the marriage with sole and separate finances. A prenuptial or postnuptial contract may also designate that certain items are to be treated as separate property.  Absent these facts, the law presumes all property and all debt, acquired or originated during the marriage, is community property.

Courts in Arizona only have jurisdiction over community property, not either spouse’s sole and separate property. Each party will have to provide evidence for separate property claims in the form of financial documents. It is possible that property that was originally separate later becomes community property during the marriage. For example, a house purchased by one spouse before marriage may become community property following the marriage if both spouses names are later placed on the recorded deed.

The reason that each is different is that the distinction between community and separate property during the marriage can be blurry. Some spouses may have unknowingly turned separate assets into community property by the “commingling” process, where two assets are combined. A bank account owned by one spouse before marriage becomes marital property if the other spouse makes deposits to it later with community income. Sometimes assets are partially community and partially separate, such as houses and retirement accounts. A business that one spouse operated but later received contributions from the other spouse after marriage can fall into this category.   A seasoned lawyer can walk you through these issues, and advance them in a court of law.

Set Values for Property

Regardless of whether community or separate property, all assets and debts must be assigned a monetary value before equitable division. The two spouses can do this themselves, or a court can do it in case the parties cannot agree on values. Typically appraisals are used to set values of real assets, like houses, antiques, or vehicles. The toughest asset to value can sometimes be retirement accounts.  You may have to hire a financial professional like an actuary to ascertain the value of a retirement account and the growth in value of such retirement assets since the original marriage date.

The Process of Dividing Property

You can see the first section above that determining whether a property is community or separate can be complicated. Ideally, both parties come to an agreement out of court. But this rarely happens when multiple assets are in question and the stakes involve hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

Courts may divide up property in multiple ways. In the case of property that is partially separate, the court may offer a spouse the option of buying out the remaining portion from the other. In some cases, it may be recommended to mutually sell the assets and divide the proceeds. Some property, like family homes, can be co-owned even following a divorce if children are living there or visiting each year.

Arizona courts typically divide property approximately equally among the divorcing partners. There are only a handful of exceptions to the rule. For example, if one spouse is known to have squandered money through irresponsible activities like gambling or drug use, the court may rule in favor of the other. In the case of property under massive debt, the court may rule against the spouse responsible for the debt.  At the end of the day, you will need the guidance and stewardship of experienced legal counsel to navigate these issues for you.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Common Questions about Divorce in Arizona Answered

In Arizona, divorce refers to a legal “dissolution” of marriage. You will go through a procedure in court to formally end your marriage. If you are the one who goes to court for a divorce, you will be identified as the “petitioner.” The other spouse will be identified as the “respondent.” Divorce in Arizona is not the same as in other states. Here are some answers to common questions most people have about divorce in Arizona.

Can I File for Divorce Anytime?

Either you or your spouse must have resided in the state for a minimum of 90 days before filing for a divorce at a local Arizona court. That is a legal requirement.  If there are children, they must typically be in the state for 180 days to vest custody jurisdiction, depending on the facts of the case.

Do I Need a Divorce Attorney?

Technically, you can represent yourself in court. However, it is highly recommended to get your attorney from your local area, like a divorce attorney in Phoenix. If you choose to self-represent, the court will assume that you know all the laws and rules pertaining to your case. You will have to follow court procedures on your own. A judge may disallow you to take certain actions if you do not properly follow court procedure. No one at court will be able to give you legal aid because they are barred by law from doing so.

You can seek legal aid if you cannot afford an attorney for your divorce. You can also petition the court to have the spouse pay for your attorney’s fees if your spouse makes substantially more income than you do.  Every case is unique.  

Do I Need to Give a Reason for Divorce?

Not in Arizona. The state has a so-called “no fault” clause, which means neither party needs to give a reason for the divorce. Moreover, the romantic escapades of Husband or Wife will have no relevance in the underlying dissolution action.  The mere desire to get a divorce is enough. In the court, only one spouse needs to claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken “to finalize a divorce. The only exception is if the spouses have previously chosen a “covenant marriage”. Then, the petitioning spouse must provide ground or reasons for the divorce under state law.

What are A.R.S. and A.R.F.L.P.?

You will see these acronyms in the papers your divorce lawyer in Scottsdale or elsewhere files. The letters stand for particular legal statutes, or laws, in Arizona. A.R.S. refers to Arizona Revised Statutes, and A.R.F.L.P. refers to Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. You can go to the Arizona court or state websites to get access to these legal documents and rules if needed.  Ideally, you simply hire counsel and let them do their job to advocate for your rights in the underlying divorce.

What Do I Do if My Spouse Doesn’t Want a Divorce?

Too bad.  It’s going to happen anyway.  In cases where a spouse is morally against the divorce from advancing, there is little they can do to stop the case.  At best, the objecting spouse can request the court order a mandatory reconciliation counseling session which typically only pauses the case for 30 to 60 days. If at the end of reconciliation session, the spouses have not come to an agreement to postpone the divorce, the proceedings will go forward. Conciliation meetings are free of charge and rarely derail a case.  

If you have children, then your proceedings will be subject to a wide range of family laws in Arizona. The legal aspects you should consider will depend on the type of custody you seek. For more information, you should contact an attorney in your area.  Your children are your most treasured asset and case strategy and approach to maximize your custody is critical and experienced legal counsel even more important in such instances.  

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Child Custody in Arizona

Custody in legal terms refers to the person a court has appointed as the parent or guardian of a child. The person retaining child custody manages the well-being of that child. The legal custodial parent will have the right to make decisions about the child’s education, religious teachings, and healthcare. There are different types of custody, but courts in Arizona do not favor one over the other. The decisions will be based on what’s ultimately good for the child. If you are a parent currently seeking custody of the child, or if you are already a custodial parent, here are answers to some of the questions frequently asked on the subject:

What is the different between “sole,” “joint,” and “legal” decision making authority?

These are three ways in which a court can grant custody of a child. Sole Legal Decision Making means that one single parent has complete legal custody of the child’s legal decision moving forward. The court has granted this parent the express authority to make major decisions regarding the child’s life. Parents can discuss these issues together, but the sole Legal Decision Making parent will always have the final say.

In contrast, in Joint Legal Decision Making situations, both parents have legal decision making authority over a child. However, in order to reach a final decision, both parent must agree—or divert the case to mediation or back to the court if no agreement can be reached. 

Can the court declare one parent’s rights superior to another’s in a Joint Legal Decision Making case?

No. Generally, when a court grants joint Legal Decision Making authority, both parents have equal rights to make decisions regarding the child’s well-being. No one parent is deemed superior to another. However, in special cases, one parent may get the sole right to make decisions regarding a certain aspect of the child’s life if the court decides it’s the best for the child. You should refer to an attorney to seek more family law and child custody information with regards to your situation.

Is there a difference between legal decision making powers and physical custody?

Absolutely yes.  Legal Decision Making authority relates to granting a parent the authority to make decisions about the child’s wellbeing, e.g. where the child goes to school. Physical custody, also called Parenting Time, determines where the child lives from day to day. A parent can have legal custody, but not physical Parenting Time, although this is rare. If a child is to live with both parents for equal amounts of time, then the court will have to grant both parents joint physical Parenting Time. Some parents may prefer for the child to live in one place without moving around, and have one parent with physical virtually all Parenting Time. But both parents, in this case, can have legal custody as well. Refer to Family Law help in Scottsdale, or your local area, for specific information.  Legal assistance is recommended to navigate these complex legal channels. 

Are court custody orders final?

The court decides custody when the parents cannot agree upon themselves, how to share custody of a child. A court may grant early custody orders when divorce or separation filings are in process. Once the divorce or a legal separation becomes final, the court may make modify prior orders which are dramatically changed at the time of trial. This custody decision by the court will stand, subject to certain exceptions, for at least one year, or upon a showing of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances thereafter.

If you want a custody ruling to be modified after trial, you can petition the court to make changes to the order. You will have to present strong evidence that the changes requested are in the best interest of the child. You are very likely going to need the able assistance of legal counsel at that time. 

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Divorce Tips from Attorneys

Getting a divorce can be a messy affair, financially and emotionally speaking. Contested divorces can be particularly hard on both parties, as experienced divorce attorneys will quickly point out. Divorce has a way of bringing out the worst in even the nicest people. While emotions can play a role, it’s critical to maintain clear emotions when dividing assets in a divorce and reaching a custody agreement if there are any children. Here are several tips for Arizona divorcing couples from divorce lawyers who have seen it all:

Keep Your Feelings out of the dispute

Divorce can be a very emotional affair, no matter how hardened one tries to be during the process. It’s very important to keep personal feelings out of it when dividing assets and negotiating during divorce proceedings. Emotions can unnecessarily complicate the process. You must aim to get the best out of divorce proceedings to ensure your long-term well-being. Getting caught up in petty fights in the moment will not go well for either party.  Let your lawyer do their job, stand back and watch, and ideally everything will be handled.

Pick Your Battles Wisely

According to a divorce lawyers in Scottsdale, some people pay attorneys a lot of money to recover assets that do not matter. For example, it makes no financial sense to get your divorce attorney to send a letter to retrieve a $100 piece of furniture from the ex, especially when attorney letters can cost as much as $500. Divorce can be costly. So wise petitioners pick battles that are worth spending money to win.

Assets in One Spouse’s Name Can be Divided

In divorces, basically everything can be divided between the spouses. This includes assets that are specifically under either spouse’s name. Debt, extra income, royalties, a lottery win—all of these and much more can be divided in divorce proceedings. Divorce attorneys warn clients not to assume that assets under one’s own name are not up for grabs. The only protection against dividing assets is a prenup or a postnup agreement. But these agreements should be handled early on in the marriage.   Even if you signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, it could be deemed void by the court depending on the circumstances during which you signed such paperwork. Consult an experienced lawyer to determine your rights. 

Be Careful of Generous Income Reporting Before Divorce

It’s common for people to overstate incomes in credit card or loan applications. A spouse that discovers such generous disclosures of income can present these documents in court in a divorce case. Under those circumstances, the court could assume that you make as much money as you boasted in your loan application under penalty of perjury in a prior loan application, warns a divorce attorney in Scottsdale. On the other hand, if you find similar overstatements by your spouse, you can be the one to use them in court against them.

Take Time to Gather Evidence for the Divorce

Divorce lawyers advise clients not to walk out the door before proceedings begin, unless an abusive situation is present. It’s highly advantageous to stay behind and gather evidence for the divorce, such as photographing assets, property and gathering documents. Make copies of account statements of the spouse as well to present your case with solid evidence once the proceedings begin.

Divorcing is not easy on anyone. But following the above suggestions will help you present the best case in court.  Hiring a seasoned legal professional to guide you through this complex process is self-evident.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Preparing for Divorce in the New Year

The Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group have represented hundreds of clients in Scottsdale divorce cases.  Although every case is unique, there are certain steps that every potential divorcee should take:

  • Do not try to hurt your soon-to-be ex –   Do not let your emptions get the best of you.  Especially if you and your spouse have children together, you need to try to take the higher road and attempt to part on decent terms. The court may frown upon any type of negativity or drastic misconduct against the other spouse. 
  • Confidently know your joint finances – It is estimated that 40% of divorce proceedings are about money. Be well informed in advance about your shared accounts.  Specifically, you should know all online passwords to bank accounts, which accounts have automatic payments and where money is invested, including the names of all accounts, the account numbers and the investment advisors.  Many times one spouse knows everything and the other spouse knows nothing about finances.  The law provides that both spouses be provided 100% financial disclosures while the divorce is pending. 
  • Find a trusted legal team – A lawyer who is knowledgeable in family law in your state can likely get you a better settlement because they understand the state-law nuances and understand local judges’ tendencies and opposing lawyers. If you and your spouse have complicated family assets, you likely need a legal team with additional expertise.  Take into consideration every possible avenue and plan accordingly.
  • Know your future living expenses – Your future financial well-being should be your top priority.  Thoroughly understand your current cost of living before the divorce proceedings start, so you can ask for a fair amount in the divorce settlement.
  • Also remember that anything written online about an ex-spouse will exist forever—when the children are old enough to read.  Although you may be hurt now, you don’t want to hurt your children even more in the future.  Texts and emails can also be used against you at trial.  Think twice before hitting ‘send’ on that nasty message to your spouse. 

The Scottsdale divorce attorneys at Canterbury Law Group have represented women and men, young and old, in their complicated and simple divorce cases.  To discuss your options in a Scottsdale divorce, call today to schedule a consultation.  480-744-7711.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Child Custody Questions in Scottsdale

There is typically an increase in divorces in the New Year. The Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group know that divorce often brings about child custody concerns. A popular question in Scottsdale divorce cases is whether or not a parent can take a child away from the other parent if there is currently no legal decision-making and parenting time orders in place.

In Arizona, a person can be charged with the crime of custodial interference even before there is a court order regarding legal decision-making and parenting time or if he/ she takes, entices (persuades) or withholds any child from the other parent and denies that parent access to any child. If the parent takes the child(ren) to another state, the penalties are even more severe.

However, there are some exceptions in the law, which involve a case where the parent has filed an emergency petition regarding custodial rights with the superior court and has received a hearing date from the court. The law is complicated and the risks are high, so the best option is to get the advice of a lawyer before leaving with your child if at all possible. You should never leave the state with your children without first speaking to a licensed attorney.

If a domestic violence victim is accused of wrongfully absconding with the children, he/she can seek to counter these allegations by:

  • He / she has begun the process to get an order of protection or files a petition for legal decision-making within a reasonable period of time and the order of protection or legal decision-making petition states his/her belief that the child was at risk if left with the other parent

The parent either:

  • has a good faith and reasonable belief that the taking, enticing or withholding of the child is necessary to protect the child from immediate danger; OR
  • the parent is a victim of domestic violence by the other parent and has a good faith and reasonable belief that the child will be in immediate danger if the child is left with the other parent.

However, it is still best to get legal advice before leaving to make sure that your planned behavior would not violate the law.

The family law attorneys at Canterbury Law Group have significant expertise in child custody issues and can capably guide you through the legal process. Your children are counting on you to make the right decision both before and after the divorce case has been filed. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Tips if Divorce Is Your Resolution in the New Year

If you are considering filing for divorce in the near future, you are not alone. The month of January has long been marked down in the calendars of family law attorneys, including the Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group, as “Divorce Month.” In fact, many firms see an increase in the number of consultations upwards of 30 percent beginning the Monday after New Year’s.

While contributing factors vary, the fact remains that many couples will begin this year with a resolution to end their marriage. No matter the reason, there are many things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know that will help them get through the process smoothly while protecting their rights:

1. Do not move out of the marital home – If you wish to keep yourself in a good position to obtain a fair custody arrangement and also want to mitigate potential financial burdens, do not pack up and move out of the marital home. This is one of the top mistakes that many spouses continue to make, and it can start you off at a disadvantage out of the gate.

2. Research divorce laws for your specific state – There are very few, if any at all, states that have identical laws regarding the various aspects of divorce. You will want to do plenty of research over areas that you know may come up if you and your spouse decide to split specific to your local jurisdiction.

3. Set up a consultation with an attorney – Even if you aren’t certain you will need to retain an attorney or that you will even end up filing for divorce at all, it is a really good idea to meet with an expert familiar with your state’s divorce laws. Many attorneys and firms offer initial consultations, though even when there is a charge, it is well worth the fee to get accurate information you can trust as you plan your next move.
If you’re looking for a Scottsdale divorce attorney and / or family law attorney, contact us today. Any delay can affect your future and the wellbeing of you and your children.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

4 Child Custody Tips to Incorporate Into The Holiday Season

A key driver of any divorce with children, after the dust settles, is a court enforceable joint parenting plan. Typically when parents cannot mutually agree on a child-rearing plan, the court will often establish a written plan and court order that both parents must follow concerning the children’s health and welfare. Arizona law requires that the best interest of the child be the lead consideration above any other.

At Canterbury Law Group, the family law attorneys in Scottsdale have helped thousands of parents achieve mutually agreeable custody road maps, and help navigate the changes needed when children’s schedules fluctuate as they grow and mature. Here are some common ways that parents divide and share holiday time under the law:

Alternate holidays every other year. You can assign holidays to each parent for even years and then swap the holidays in odd years. With this arrangement, you won’t miss spending a holiday with your child more than one year in a row. For example, this year she gets Thanksgiving and next year he gets it.

Split the holiday in half. You can split the day of the holiday so that your child spends part of the day with each parent. This arrangement requires planning and coordination because you don’t want your child to spend holidays traveling all day. However for longer holidays like Spring Break you can get the front 5 days and they get the other 5 days, and you reverse the time exchange the year after.

Schedule a holiday twice. You can schedule time for each parent to celebrate a holiday with your child. For example, one parent can celebrate Christmas with the child on Dec. 20th and the other parent on the 25th. The following year would reverse the order. Younger children, in particular may not even notice!

Assign fixed holidays. You can have each parent celebrate the same holidays with the child every year. If parents have different holidays that they think are important, each parent can have those holidays every year. For example, military spouses may want Veterans Day or Fourth of July every year and the other parent, in exchange would get Labor Day and Memorial Day every year.

The Scottsdale family law attorneys at Canterbury Law Group can help you keep the legal peace with your ex and enjoy a great vacation with your kids. If you need legal advice, call us today (480-744-7711) to schedule your consultation.

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