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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What Happens If I Sell the House AFTER We Divorce?

hand giving money for housing on a gray background

By: Melissa L. Exline, Esq.

Be aware, if you sell the marital home after you divorce, the spouse that keeps the home in his or her name only may not be getting exactly what he or she bargained for.  What does that mean?  Well, this means you should take into consideration your long terms goals – i.e. if you are going to keep the house and live in it for some time, or, if you are planning to sell it in the not too distant future.

The reason this is important is because there could be a capital gain tax issue.  Generally, if one spouse moves out and the other keeps the home, the spouse that moved out, i.e. the non-resident spouse, gets “bought out” of his or her interest in the property.  That event is not going to create a tax issue.  However, if the spouse that remains decides to sell the house a year later, the spouse residing in the home might face a capital gains tax.  This will depend on how much gain or increase there is on the original purchase price, among other factors.  Each spouse gets a $250,000 exclusion amount before the capital gain tax kicks in.  So, if a home was sold by both parties (or at least was titled in both parties’ names) there would be a $500,000 total exclusion when using the non-resident spouse’s portion of the exclusion too.  This double exclusion amount could be key to avoiding a tax consequence.

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What is a QDRO?

Hand putting Coins in glass jar with retro alarm clock for time to money saving for retirement concept

And Why do we need it?

By Travis Clark, Esq.

If you are going through a divorce, contemplating a divorce, or have gone through a divorce, you may have experienced, or are learning that your retirement savings and accounts are subject to an equal division by the court, up to one half the monies deposited and the incomes generated during marriage.  (If you engaged a prenuptial agreement and addressed this issue, this article may not apply to you.)

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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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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.

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