How Is Custody Determined in Nevada

Daughter drawing with her father together

Child custody agreements in Nevada address legal custody, physical custody, and visitation schedules. Typically, joint custody is favored when possible, unless it is not determined to be in the best interests of the child. When separated parents are on amicable terms, parenting agreements are generally constructed by the parents with assistance from a mediator when necessary. If there is a dispute that cannot be resolved outside of court, a Nevada judge will make a custody decision in the best interest of the child.

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Marital Agreements

Marital Agreements Prenup

Surratt Law Practice, PC is a Reno, Nevada firm that can represent you in drafting and/or negotiating a prenuptial or postnuptial marital agreement.  Prenuptial agreements are a tool to address property and asset division before a relationship goes “sours” when the two people still care about each other.

In the state of Nevada, engaged, married, or cohabiting couples may enter into agreements defining their property rights, and depending upon the type of agreement, their support, and other rights and obligations according to Chapter 123A.010 – 100 of the Nevada Revised Statutes.

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act defines a premarital agreement as, “an agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective upon marriage.” Talking about establishing a prenuptial agreement as part of your wedding plans may seem like a negative conversation. The emotional dynamic of “negotiating the divorce while planning the wedding” can be difficult.

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Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act: A Triumph for LGBTQ Rights in 2020

By Travis Clark, Esq.

On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 590 U.S. (2020) – click here for full opinion of the court.  The case involved three separate cases of discrimination against the LGBTQ community:

  • Gerald Bostock was fired from his job for conduct “unbecoming” of a county employee, shortly after he joined a gay softball league. Bostock worked in Clayton County as a child welfare advocate.  Under his leadership, the county won national awards for its work.  After a decade with the county, he was fired shortly after joining the gay softball league.
  • Altitude Express, a skydiving company, fired Donald Zarda days after he mentioned being gay to a client who he thought would feel more at ease due to the tandem skydive, in which their bodies would be very close and touching.
  • Aimee Stephens was fired from Harris Funeral Homes when she transitioned from male to female, after being employed with the funeral home for six years.

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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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Co-Parenting During COVID-19 for Divorced or Separated Families

By: Melissa L. Exline, Esq.

Yes, this is an issue. We have seen an increase in situations where parents are worried for their children and the worry is whether to send the children over to the other parent for normal custodial exchanges during the pandemic. Is it safe? Are the children going to be exposed and bring something here? It is not easy.

In addition, many times, the parenting orders are written so that exchanges are set to take place before/after school. And plans for Spring Break – well, forget about it. All of that went out the window. Already strained communication could be more strained. Since you are reading this, you know this already and you are ready to not let this undermine how you handle the next messy parenting discussion.

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Parents Facing Custody Issues During Coronavirus Pandemic

CORONAVIRUS COVID-19

The pandemic has been especially hard on parents who share custody of their kids. One family attorney has some advice for parents facing the challenge of parental custody in the time of COVID19.

The pandemic has been hard on just about everyone, but especially for parents who share custody of their kids. One family attorney has some advice for parents facing the challenge of parental custody in the time of COVID19.

Surratt Law Practice family attorney Travis Clark, Esq.  says visitation rights have to be observed even with the stay-at-home order. "The problem we are getting right now is one parent disagrees with the other parent on how they are handling this crisis. That is the issue it boils down to," said Clark.

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Child Support Changes

Child Support Colorful Block With Bible And Hammer Over Wooden Desk In Courtroom

By Kimberly M. Surratt, Esq.

The new Nevada Child Support laws will go into effect on February 1, 2020.  The New Regulations in final form are R183-18.  The Regulations refer  to a “low income schedule”.  The Low Income Obligation (2019) will be used on February 1, 2020.

The Low Income Chart may be updated in March or April for the 2020 poverty numbers from the Federal Government.  If the chart changes the regs provide that the chart must be published by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) on or before March 31 of each year.  The AOC will publish the chart in the same manner that they published the updated presumptive maximum chart under the old statutes at www.nvcourts.gov/AOC.

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No Fault Divorce

By Rayna Brachmann, Esq.

Nevada is a “No Fault” Divorce State.  What that means is that one party must assert that the parties are incompatible in marriage, and they can no longer remain married.  The Court rarely, if ever, inquires further.  It is enough to say that we cannot be married anymore and the Court will make a finding that the parties are incompatible and grant a divorce.  This is not the case in every State.

I was recently in South Carolina attending a continuing legal education course taught by an attorney from Florida, who had also practiced family law in South Carolina.  She told me that South Carolina is a “Fault Divorce” State.

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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.

How to Navigate Troubled Waters – Helpful Strategies in Dark Times

By Travis Clark, Esq.

There are times in everyone’s life where strife, sadness, depression, anger and grief are in abundance.  The question is not “if” this will occur, it is “when” it will occur.  In a room full of people, imagine who is standing or raising their hand after the questions below are asked:

Please stand, or raise your hand if you:

  • Lost a loved one to an illness, or random act of fate?
  • Experienced a divorce?
  • Had tragedy strike you or your family?
  • Failed at an interview, or test?
  • Ever had your heart broken?
  • Been the victim of infidelity?
  • Been bullied?
  • Lived through a natural disaster?
  • Struggled through infertility, or lost a child in birth?
  • Have you had to cope with suicide?

If you asked these questions to this hypothetical room, the entire room would be standing or raising their hands by the end.

What does this tell us?

That adversity does not discriminate.  If you are alive, you will experience adversity at some point.  If this is a universal truth, then what? Well, then the question becomes: How do we handle this? How do we deal with such adversity?

How to handle adversity is dubbed “resilience” research.  There are whole fields of study on this topic.  Experts in this area study how humans cope with great tragedy when it strikes them.  What causes some to succeed in overcoming their grief, while others do not?  The ability of one to cope with adversity may be inherent in some and not others, but it can be learned, it can be taught.

There are three activities suggested by experts, that any one of us can engage, to get us through our most trying times.  These simple activities are meant to reframe the mind and cause us to see the world through different eyes.  This reframing is powerful, and when practiced with regularity it becomes a bulwark against our darkest moments.

When you find yourself going through an acrimonious divorce, or any adversity, try these three things:

  • Accept, and understand, that suffering is a part of every human life. Terrible things happen to you, just like anyone else.  Understanding that you are not unique in your suffering, helps you not feel a victim of your circumstance and accept the events you are dealing with.
  • Count three good things, each day. Good things that happen to you, or that you are blessed with, or are thankful for.  Switch your mental focus to the good, not the bad.  This is called “benefit finding.”
  • Lastly, ask yourself: “Is what I am doing helping me, or hindering me?” For example, if you have gone through a divorce or heartbreak, it is easy to count all the things you will be missing out on.  You would say to yourself things like: “I will never get to see his/her dog again; we won’t be going on that trip to Hawaii; look at all our pictures together, we won’t be…. etc. etc.”   When you take action during your time of suffering, ask yourself, “are the actions I am engaged in, helping me? Or hindering me?”  A good way not to “fool” yourself is to look at the outcome of your action, e. g. is your action causing you to cry, or be joyful, are you happy or sad?  If the answer is negative, then you are hindering yourself.

The fact is adversity happens to all of us.  Instagram, Facebook, and social media are NOT reality, life is not butterflies and rainbows all of the time. Life is messy and difficult.  Being resilient means understanding that you are not being singled out when tragedy strikes.  It means that you are normal and experiencing life just like everyone else.  Keeping this mind frame will help you navigate your troubled waters and know that good times are just around the corner.  My moto: “This too, shall pass.”

For more see: “The three secrets of resilient people.” by Lucy Hone, Ph.D. and author– TedX Talk

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