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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Debt and Divorce

Devt, Divorce, Law, Surratt Law

By: Melissa L. Exline, Esq.

Divorce can be an expensive endeavor. It can be worse when the married couple is drowning in debt. Paying for the lawyer and setting up a new household after divorce, are just a couple of the big things that siphon proceeds from your pocket as well. Legal bills and court costs come even before a person gets their share of property, child support or alimony. Because of this, it is very helpful to make sure to take care of the financial expenses by way of proper planning. While it is stressful, the freedom you will get down the line will be worth the struggle.

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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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Do You Have to Pay Alimony or Spousal Support if You Get a Divorce in Reno, Nevada?

Word ALIMONY composed of wooden letters. Closeup

By: Melissa L. Exline, Esq.

This is one of those “touchy topics” that I find clients get stressed out about.  There are emotions loaded in this term that make asking for, and paying, alimony particularly difficult to deal with. In Nevada, there are situations where family law attorneys can tell if a case is an “alimony case” or not. First, alimony is not required.  There is no law that mandates this must be put in place. However, if the divorcing couple’s particular circumstances warrant consideration for alimony, it would be odd not to consider it when it factually makes sense.

A long-term marriage, where one spouse makes much more money, is a situation where alimony is generally up for discussion. But, the amount of money or assets each spouse is taking from the divided community estate, and whether someone sacrificed a career or job to enable the other to make more money, are also key factors in an “alimony case.” In shorter marriages, with some income imbalance, is not necessarily a case where alimony is required, or, it would be less significant. For example, Nevada Revised Statute 125.150, asks the judges to consider relevant factors, which include:

(a) The financial condition of each spouse;

(b) The nature and value of the respective property of each spouse;

(c) The contribution of each spouse to any property held by the spouses pursuant to NRS 123.030;

(d) The duration of the marriage;

(e) The income, earning capacity, age and health of each spouse;

(f) The standard of living during the marriage;

(g) The career before the marriage of the spouse who would receive the alimony;

(h) The existence of specialized education or training or the level of marketable skills attained by each spouse during the marriage;

(i) The contribution of either spouse as homemaker;

(j) The award of property granted by the court in the divorce, other than child support and alimony, to the spouse who would receive the alimony; and

(k) The physical and mental condition of each party as it relates to the financial condition, health and ability to work of that spouse.

A Nevada court can also consider ordering support to a spouse in order to get training or education related to a job, career or profession. The goal, overall, is to make sure one spouse is able to “stand on their own feet” so-to-speak, by being financially situated to take care of themselves. If a spouse was out of work or made significantly less money for many years while married, the Court is not inclined to cut that person loose and hope they land on their feet financially speaking. A helping hand from the person that promised to take care of their spouse “for richer or poorer” should be expected, at least to some degree.

Questions to ask include:

How many of these factors apply to your situation?

Can you provide other support that might help, like promising to pay off debts or giving other assets to ease the financial burden?

Taking the time to realize alimony might apply, rather than being surprised that it is something any lawyer or court would expect in your situation, is important so your expectations match with reality.

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.

To Deed or Not to Deed? That is the Question.

Man singning marriage settlement, rich woman pulling into it

By: Melissa L. Exline, Esq.

For married couples, an issue that arises often is this:  One party might have better credit, or, a property was purchased with help from family.  Later, a new loan is needed to get more favorable terms or remove the family members from title or the loan.  Thus, one spouse asks the other to sign a deed prepared by the title company, at the request of a lender, so that a new loan or refinance can be acquired.  If you sign a deed on a property giving your interest to another, spouse or otherwise – be prepared for the court to force you to honor the terms of the deed.  It will not matter if you did not intend to give away your interest.  Absent a clear contract signed by both parties spelling out the reasons for the deed, it will likely be considered a gift – period.

In Nevada, community property acquired during the marriage must be divided equally at divorce. However, when one spouse signs a deed granting, releasing or deeding away his or her interest to the other, then it creates a presumption under Nevada law that the grantor is gifting the property.  In order to overturn the presumption that the deeded property was a gift from one spouse to the other, one must show clear and convincing evidence a gift was not intended.  This is exceedingly difficult.

If you are ever approached with an request to sign a deed releasing your interest in real property – be aware – even if you don’t mean it, even if a gift was never discussed, you could be found to have given away all of your interest in that property.

Does the use of Cannabis affect parenting? The “highs” and lows of using marijuana as a parent.

Father with his daughter playing with blocks together at home, sitting on the floor in the living room.

By Travis Clark, Esq.

In this blog article, I attempt to look objectively at the use of cannabis as a parent.  It should come as no surprise that as a family law lawyer, I make arguments on both sides of this issue depending upon the case and its particular facts.  Judges in Nevada are not necessarily united on the issue either.  For example, if a parent is prescribed cannabis for anxiety or seizures, it has come out that the parent may continue to ingest or smoke cannabis under the prescribed dosages even while exercising custody.  Yet other judges take the hardline approach of no intoxicants while caring for a child.  However, this view does not necessarily square with, for example, opioids which are routinely prescribed for pain and which parents take while caring for children.

Anecdotally, pro cannabis parents provide that cannabis helps them relax from the stresses of the day and “come down” to their child’s level in such a manner that the parent expresses more patience for the conversations of young children; or it assists them in focusing on the child more, for example with games the child enjoys.

One parent relayed to me that smoking one or two puffs after work helps them focus on the child’s desire to play a game that the parent finds utterly boring prior to smoking.  However, after inhaling the few draws of cannabis, the parent slows down, focuses and is present for the child, who responds more positively than when the parent is only half-engaged.

Routinely, I make the argument in court that a parent must be a “present parent” meaning that the parent is engaged with the children – not simply exercising custody – but actually getting down to their level, playing games, doing homework and being actively involved in the child’s life.  Parents who take a more selfish approach to their day and dealings with their children are not “present” and therefore not rising to the occasion of engaging their children.

Cannabis, according to the parents I spoke with, improves patience, and listening.  It does not take a stretch of the imagination to see that slowing your racing thoughts helps one focus and pay attention to the “here and now.”

The obvious questions are: “What about emergencies?” and “How is smoking cannabis different than a glass of wine each night or the beer at a BBQ?”  If cannabis slows the mind, how can a parent respond to  an emergency?   What about use versus abuse?  How is smoking cannabis different than the issue raised above where opioids are prescribed and not abused?  I do not have an answer for these questions, however, these are the arguments offered during a custody case or divorce trial and are the same questions our Nevada Judges grapple with every day.

Despite the anecdotes, this blog in no way advocates the use of cannabis and parenting.  Simply, it attempts to shed a little light on how the Courts in Nevada, and parents who use cannabis, feel about the issue.  I regularly appear in front of the Washoe County Bench and the issue is not clear cut for our Judges.  Some err on the side of caution, others state there is not enough evidence to rule either way, while still others provide an entire prohibition on any intoxicants during custody time.

As the use of cannabis becomes more wide-spread these and many other issues will be more fully vetted with scientific research and findings.  All we can do now is wait for the research to come in.

National LGBT Bar Association Conference

Kim Surratt is participating in the National LGBT Bar Association Conference in Washington DC this week.  She is at the Family Law Institute right now.  She will be speaking at both the Family Law Institute and at Lavendar Law on assisted reproductive technology matters.

Same Sex Married Couples may not be able to get divorced

As a greater number of jurisdictions grant same sex marriage, there are a growing number of couples in non-recognition states traveling to those states for marriage. They then return to their non-recognition state of residence. Upon needing a divorce, they are then learning that their state may not be willing to grant the divorce and they do not meet the residency rules to obtain a divorce in any other location. It is a growing problem. In response to the growing problem, many states and countries, Canada, have started to modify their jurisdiction rules to provide exceptions for these couples.

In general, the exceptions state that if the couple was married in that state and they are not able to obtain a divorce in any other buy proscar canada jurisdiction they can get divorced in the state they were married in. In most cases they will only receive the status of divorce and not additional assistance with division of assets and debts. That is problematic but not as problematic as being permanently. National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has a great memorandum that summarizes each of the jurisdictions that have exceptions. If you are desperate for a divorce – read up and find out if you have a chance of returning to the state/country that you originally were married it.

Read more: Divorce for Same-Sex Couples Who Live in Non-Recognition States (PDF Download).

Adoption Tax Credit Survives the “Fiscal Cliff”

A compromise was reached and the President signed the “Fiscal Cliff” bill today, January 2, 2013, which had a provision for th eAdoption Tax Credit.  The new law makes the Adoption Tax Credit a permanent part of the Internal REvenue Code.  In the past, the Adoption Tax Credit was not permanent and it included a sunset provision that caused it to “expire” for lack of a better term.

The Adoption Tax Credit best generic proscar allows families to claim a tax deduction for their adoption expenses.  Adoption experts around the country had pushed for it to be a refundable tax credit but that fature did not survive negotiations and the bill was passed withoiut the refundanble language as a compromise.  The tax credit is claimed to be a benefit of billions of dollars to families who will adopt in the future.

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