Children’s Books for LGBTQ Families

How My Family Came to Be: Daddy, Papa and Me

by Andrew R. Aldrich

A necessary addition to all home, school and public libraries - representing the true diversity of today's families. Reaches out to younger children with fun and expressive illustrations and also to older children with the explanation of how 2 dads went through the process of creating their family!

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Common Types of Adoption in Nevada

Happy couple with little adopted children eating popcorn while watching TV at home

When considering adoption in Nevada, it’s important for an individual or couple to know the common types of adoption available. There are several different forms of adoption, each with its unique rules and procedures. The right form of adoption for those interested in the process will depend on their desires and circumstances.

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How You Should Modify Your Estate Plan After an Adoption

A happy family, parents and a girl

When a person adopts a child, he or she should review and update an estate plan to ensure beneficiaries receive their benefits as smoothly as possible. Modifying the estate plan ensures that major life changes are reflected, the right people are included, and the parents’ wishes are carried out after they’re gone.

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Adoption – Your Forever Home

About Town Deb Presents City Talk: Adoption - Your Forever Home

Say hello to my first sponsor, and guest of this week's #CityTalk, Kimberly Surratt of Surratt Law Practice! November is #NationalAdoptionMonth, and to raise awareness, I will be chatting with Kim about all things adoption. 👨‍👩‍👧 Kim has been working in Family Law for 16 years and it has grown into her passion. Starting in 2004, with her first surrogacy matter, she has immersed herself in assisted reproduction law, surrogacies, and adoption. 👨‍👨‍👦

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Adoption During a Pandemic

An adult's hand holding a different skin color child's hand

An already lengthy adoption process has been impacted by the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 social distancing policies and travel restrictions. The global pandemic has influenced methods of in-home inspection, travel safety, and the need for a safe and consistent home. Though a global crisis presents prospective parents with a new list of challenges to overcome, many states are looking to keep processes moving forward in hopes of safely placing ready to adopt children in homes.

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Top 5 Tips for Appearing in a Nevada Court via Internet Device

Zoom washoe county court case

By: Melissa L. Exline, Esq.

In Nevada, many Courts are continuing operations using “audio/visual” equipment.  In Washoe County, this has included programs such as Zoom.  The Judge, Court Clerk, along with a court reporter are present to run the Court.  This has been a learning process for all involved.  Having participated in Court this way for the past month, here is a top 5 tip list for a person appearing in family court in Washoe County:

  1. Dress as if you are going to Court. You still want to look like a nice, respectable person.  First impressions cannot be re-made – so start out on the right foot.
  2. Practice with your equipment at home and feel free to ask if your lawyer has done this too. You do not want to be figuring this out with the pressure of court looming.
  3. Let your attorney be your guide. He or she still knows the players involved better than you do, and Court etiquette still applies.  It can be hard to figure out when to speak up, so it is good to have a plan with your lawyer on how you want to be heard if everyone is talking.
  4. Have a plan on how to talk to your lawyer. Either use the chat features on the application (practice this in advance), or have a plan to email/text/be on the phone with your lawyer while all the other stuff is going on so you can make a private point with your lawyer (when this is permissible) with your attorney.
  5. Manage your expectations on what you can get out of court. This applies for video court or not – but the point is important.  There is only so much time and your lawyer will know which points to make and in what order.  Not everything gets done the way you want it to be, but getting some things done in a tumultuous time is going to have to suffice for now.

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2020 Adoption Tax Credit

Happy couple with little adopted children eating popcorn while watching TV at home

By Kimberly Surratt, Esq.

If you are thinking about pursuing an adoption, make sure you start to start and document all of your expenses related to the process.  In the United States tax code provides an adoption credit for qualified adoption related expenses for each child adoption.  The IRS just released the 2020 adjusted through their Revenue Procedure 2019-44 report.  The maximum tax credit allowed in 2020 is set at $14,300 per child (in 2019 is was $14,080 and $13,810 in 2018).  In addition to a credit, the IRS does allow an exclusion from income for employer provided adoption assistance.

The tax credit is available for must adoptive parents.  However, the credit is not available if the taxpayer’s income exceeds certain values set by the code.  The tax credit begins to phase out for families with modified adjusted gross income in excess of $214,520 and is completely phased out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of $254,520 or more.  The credit is nonrefundable but can be carried forward for up to five years.

The code states that the credit is allowed for “an adoption of a child with special needs”; however, the adoption can be either through private domestic private adoption, international adoption or through the foster care system so long as the child is under the age of 18, or is physically or mentally incapable of self-care.  In contrast, the adoption of your stepchild does not qualify as “special needs”.  The IRS has specifically declared that an adoption by a registered domestic partner who lives in a state that allows same-sex second parent or co-parent to adopt his or her partner’s child does qualify for the credit, as long as those expenses otherwise qualify for the credit.

The expenses that can be used for the credit and the exclusion (the “qualified adoption expenses”) are:

  • Reasonable and necessary adoption fees,
  • Court Costs and attorney fees,
  • Traveling expenses (including amounts spent for meals and lodging while away from home), and
  • Other expenses that are directly related to and for the principal purpose of the legal adoption of an eligible child.

In summary, keep all your receipts and track you any money spent in the process.  The IRS doesn’t require you to have a child identified before the expenses can be used.  Thus, if you start the process and you have had a home study, but you have not been matched with a child you will still be able to use the cost of the home study for your tax credit.  There are extensive rules about what year you can take the credit and they vary based on a domestic adoption versus a foreign adoption.  For more information, the IRS has a published report, Topic No. 607 that lists all of the intricacies to the credit.

State Insurance for Surrogates Bill Passes Thanks to Local Attorney Kimberly Surratt

Focus on pregnant woman touching her belly. Happy married couple are sitting on sofa and embracing on background. Surrogacy concept

Insurance companies in Nevada can no longer discriminate against a woman for acting as a gestational carrier (aka surrogate) when it comes to health insurance.  In the 2019 Nevada Legislative Session, Kimberly Surratt requested a bill to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against surrogates.  Assemblywoman Bea Duran (Democrat, Las Vegas) sheparded AB 472 through the legislative process and worked to ensure its passage.  The bill received significant support from the Nevada Justice Association, the Nevada Association of Health Plans and the Nevada State Medical Association.

The bill passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously.  The new law is effective January 1, 2020.  The new law provides that an insurer offering or issuing health insurance in Nevada including coverage for maternity care shall not deny, limit or seek reimbursement for maternity care because the insured is acting as a gestational carrier.

In 2013, Nevada became a nationwide force in Assisted Reproductive Technology Law when Ms. Surratt and Assemblyman Jason Frierson worked together to pass comprehensive statutes modernizing Nevada’s Assisted Reproductive Technology law.  That law provided for  Surrogacy/Gestational Carrier agreements.  Since then, because some insurance companies declined to cover surrogacy pregnancies, Nevada has seen surrogacy numbers decline.  For individuals shopping for insurance coverage in the individual marketplace in 2019, there were no  options for Nevada women choosing the path of surrogacy.

Ms. Surratt asked the Nevada Legislature to help assure that an insurer may not decline coverage of routine maternity services because the insured woman is acting as a surrogate for another family.  During the process, Sarah Paige of ART Risk Financial & Insurance Solutions was enlisted to provide expert testimony on the issue.  Ms. Paige testified that Nevada went from one of the most progressive States for reproductive law to a State with more challenges because of the limited insurance options.

Getting the bill passed was difficult.  No other State has similar legislation for Nevada to model.  Instead,  a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision interpreting the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) was used as guidance in testimony and discussions with the Legislators.  Mercycare Insurance Co. v. Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance held that excluding surrogates from maternity care was discrimination because it excluded some women from coverage based on how conception occurred.  The insurance commissioner in Wisconsin stated that the inquiry of insurance companies into how a woman conceived was "intensely personal."  He stated, "to give an insurer license to inquire into why a woman is pregnant or whether she intends to keep her baby would be improper."  The Wisconsin Supreme Court found that "An insurer may not make routine maternity services that are generally covered under the policy unavailable to a specific subgroup of insureds, surrogate mothers, based solely on the insured's reasons for becoming pregnant or the method used to achieve pregnancy."

Additionally, the ACA mandates maternity care.  Opponents to the bill initially argued that the ACA doesn’t mandate maternity care for surrogates.  We were steady in our position, with critical assistance from Sarah Paige, that the ACA mandates maternity care for all women without an exclusion for women who are pregnant as a surrogate.

During the legislative process, a concern was raised that the Nevada bill would add an additional mandate on Nevada insurers.  The Nevada Division of Insurance ultimately agreed with Ms. Surratt and Ms. Paige that it was not additional but rather an already mandated benefit that needed to be applied equally to all insureds.  This was significant because consequently the bill did not include a fiscal note.

The passage of this bill is significant for Nevada.  Even if the ACA is modified or eliminated, Nevada insurers will still be required to cover an insured when she is acting as a surrogate.

The new law also states that an insurer cannot seek reimbursement for maternity care provided to an insured acting as a surrogate.  In other words, insurers cannot rely on subrogation or a lien on the surrogate or the intended parents to circumvent the intent of the statute by going after a surrogate’s compensation.

Although public entities are not required under the new law to cover maternity care for surrogates, many of these entities currently cover an insured’s maternity care without discrimination.  Public entities may continue to cover an insured’s maternity care without inquiry into why she is pregnant.

Unfortunately, the law does not require an insurer to cover reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization, only the costs of prenatal care and delivery equally to any woman who is pregnant whether she is carrying her own child, or another family’s child.

There isn’t a reason why other States can not now follow suite

Important Changes with the Second Judicial District Court

Second Judicial District Court, State of Nevada, Washoe County

By Travis Clark, Esq.

From time-to-time the Second Judicial District Court makes fundamental changes to its operation that impact each and every litigant.  This includes all parties filing joint petitions for summary divorce, stipulations on custody, or filing for a review of child support.

In October of 2018, the Chief Judge Scott Freeman issued an Administrative Order making it mandatory for all litigants and attorneys to become “e-filers” in all cases.  The deadline to meet this requirement was October 18, 2018.  Thus, all new litigants after October 18, 2018, and all existing litigants without attorneys, are required to sign up for the Washoe County E-Flex System. This order comes on the tail end of a previous Administrative Order issued in October of 2015, mandating electronic filing in all Criminal, most Civil and Juvenile cases.  After a successful change from “paper” filing to “e-filing” the Chief Judge and Court administration implemented the sweeping change across all cases in the Second J.D.

This change comes at a time when most of modern society has gone “paperless.” However, the Judicial system is always slow to the uptake and this change comes at a time when the use of online services such as this aren’t just requested, they are demanded.

With that said, signing up is easy and quick.  The Court’s website makes it simple to apply for an account. Attached here is a link for quick access to sign up for a new account.

Learning how to e-file is a little more complicated; however, the Court does provide a PDF of Frequently Asked Questions for your review, and has a hotline to assist you with your filing needs, click here. 

Prudent attorneys will include detailed instructions for their clients in corresponding with their clients.  At Surratt Law Practice, we began including the following instructions in our communications with our clients:

E-filing is now mandatory at the Washoe County District Court.  The Court will not send out paper copies of orders or other documents.  Copies will only be provided from the Court electronically through the e-filing system. Since our firm has withdrawn from your case, we will not receive notice of future filings in your matter.  In order to receive notice of future filings, you must sign up for e-filing using a dependable email address. Here is the link to the Court’s e-filing page.  If you do not sign up for an e-filing account in your name, you will not be informed of orders and other important documents filed in your case in the future.  It is your responsibility to ensure you receive future notice by establishing an e-filing account as soon as possible

Use this article as a basis to update your matter and sign up for e-filing. Remember that when your legal issue is concluded, personal service may no longer be necessary for future filings, and becoming a registered E-filer is the only way to ensure you are promptly noticed of any issues in your matter.

Deciding Between Surrogacy and Adoption

Happy interracial family playing on floor

By: Kim Surratt, Esq.

It is common for our clients to have gone through heartbreaking stories of infertility.  They spend years trying infertility treatments.  They pour their hearts and money into treatment after treatment to no success.  Each and every time that a treatment fails, our clients experience a grieving period. They have the procedure and then wait to see if it worked. Over and over again. It is exhausting, physically on woman’s body, and emotionally on the couple.

During each waiting period, “baby fever” would set in and they shop for baby items.  However, the baby fever wears off and it turns to a fear of shopping for baby items.  They become bitter and slowly they decide to discontinue treatments and to stop pouring money into infertility treatments as they are mentally and financially exhausted from the process.

Most of our clients say that they want children, no matter the circumstances. It is an overwhelming power in the core of a person that says “I want to be a parent.”  They believe love for a child is unconditional and it does not matter to them whether the child was birthed by them, birthed by a third party or adopted.  They believe that they would love them all the same.   Yes, they are still drawn to the idea of genetics.  They are drawn to knowing their child will have characteristics similar to them.

These parents are often presented with the idea of surrogacy by their fertility doctor.   However, they are more familiar with the concept of adoption as it is a better understood concept in society.  They have to research both options and try to weigh the pros and cons of each, knowing that they just pray they will be parents one day.  Sometimes our job is to help them weigh the pros and cons to make a decision between adoption and surrogacy.

Obviously, an adopted child is not genetically that of the adoptive parents.  That is an easy differentiation to make between the two options and if the potential parents are set on having a genetically related child, then they have no choice but to look at surrogacy.

If genetics isn’t a selling point for the potential parents, then the next weighing point is the fear of the potential parents that the process will fail and they will not have a child as a result of the adoption process.  The risk tolerance level of the potential parents can easily be traced back to how many failed fertility treatments they have had in the past and their exhaustion level.

In surrogacy, if the surrogate achieves a pregnancy then there is a guarantee under Nevada and California law, if they followed the requirements of the law for a surrogacy, that a court of law will find that the intended parents are the legal parents of the child, not the surrogate.  The risk comes from whether the surrogate can get pregnant or not.  There is a failure rate associated with the process.  It is better explained by the doctors than by the lawyers.  However, the rate of success is controlled by things such as great screening of the surrogate, both physically and mentally, and the doctors use of a high-quality embryo.

In adoption, the risk of failure is high.  If the potential parents are looking at adopting an infant then they can sit on waiting lists for significant periods of time before birth mothers match with them.

Even after a match, the birth parents have a time period within which to revoke consent, usually 48 to 72 hours after birth, unless the they are in a state that follows the Uniform Adoption Act that gives eight days after birth for revocation of consent.   It is a devastating blow to the potential adoptive parents that mimics the effects of failed fertility treatment in which there is a build up and excitement of “baby fever” with no child in the end.  Another route to adoption is foster-to-adopt in which the potential parents become foster parents with the hope of adopting.  In those cases, the same buildup and disappoint that happens in infertility happens here.  A child is placed with the foster parents for a significant amount of time, but reunification of the child with their family is always the goal.  The children may be removed from the foster parents versus being made available for adoption.  The roller coaster feelings that happened during infertility come back into play.

There is nothing easy about this decision.  However, we find that parents who have not endured the exhaustion of infertility treatments tend to fair better in the adoption process.  They have the endurance and stamina to hang in there.  The adoption process can be incredibly rewarding.  However, if you are already exhausted from the roller coaster ride of infertility you may want to take a hard look at surrogacy as an option.

No matter what your journey – seek help!  Don’t do it on your own!  There are many people in the same boat as you with experience to share.  You can learn a lot in a one-hour meeting with an experienced attorney.  Our firm is here for you.  We give parentage advice all the time.  It is our goal to help you make the right decision for you.

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