Income Tax Issues in Divorce

      Tax season is upon us and there are some important tax issues that people , in Arizona who are going through a divorce–and people who are already divorced–should consider.   For people currently divorcing in Arizona, a common question is whether you and your spouse must file a joint return.  The reality is that family courts do not have the jurisdiction to Order parties to file joint or separate returns.  You can file jointly or you can file separately–however there could be significant differences in the outcome based on how you file.  I would encourage anyone in the middle of a divorce to consult with a tax professional.  One other consideration is that while a court cannot Order how you file they can certainly Order the allocation of any refund or amount owed.  So while filing on your own may stick your spouse with a large amount owed to the IRS (with you getting a large refund), the court may certainly Order that you be responsible for half the debt and give your spouse half your refund.   For those who are already divorced, a common tax issue is who will claim the children for Income Tax Dependency Deduction.  Hopefully your Decree has specific Orders about who claims which children in any given year.  However, if you are the Payor of Child Support you must be current on your child support obligation for the given tax year. For example, if you are entitled to claim your child for the tax year 2014 then you must have paid all of your child support for the 2014 calendar year and it must have been paid by December 31, 2014.  If you have arrears from a prior year it does not matter, but you must have paid for 2014.  If your ex-spouse has claimed the children for a tax year that they were not entitled to, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible.  We have seen judges, in Maricopa County either order people to amend returns or order them to reimburse the amount that would have been refunded by the IRS had the spouse properly claimed. If you have any questions about tax issues surrounding your divorce please contact us for a...

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Choosing Surrogacy

Choosing surrogacy often comes after other options to parenting have failed or are simply not available. A surrogate mother carries the child on behalf of the parent or parents. Often surrogacy is chosen over adoption because the parent(s) can have a genetic link to the child. Options include egg and sperm from the couple, donor sperm and egg from mother, donor egg and sperm from the father. What is a surrogate mother? A surrogate mother is a woman who carries a baby for a couple. Traditionally, surrogate mothers are artificially inseminated with the intended father’s sperm. The child is the biological child of the surrogate mother. Growing in popularity is the gestational surrogate who serves only to grow the baby in her womb. The child is biologically that of the couple. In terms of the law, gestational surrogates are a simpler option because the child isn’t biologically tied to the surrogate.   Why choose a surrogate?   The most common reasons couples choose surrogacy as an option to becoming parents are:   • Absence of a womb • Recurring loss of pregnancy • Repeated implantation (IVF) failures   How do you find a surrogate? There are a variety of resources available to people seeking a surrogate. Asking friends or family is an option though it can be stressful and legally complicated because of the potential biological ties. Surrogate agencies are more common especially for gestational surrogates. The agency aids the parent(s) in finding a suitable surrogate, and manages the contractual and financial transactions. While there are some regulations regarding surrogacy, it’s important to have a trusted legal advisor handle your case. At Stuart & Blackwell, we help you understand your surrogacy options so you can make a decision that is right for your...

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Estate Planning Basics

You’re not going to live forever. I know we like to think that we are immortal but that’s just not the case. It’s important to have a plan for what happens to your minor children and assets before your family is left wondering what to do in the event of your death. This is otherwise known as an estate plan and includes a living will, revocable trust, and a will. Dying without a will, also called intestate, means your assets will be distributed by the state through probate court. To ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, the Stuart & Blackwell team can help you create an estate plan. Living Will: Having a living will establishes your wishes in the event of an accident including life support and other medical treatment. Your loves ones and medical caretakers will have a clear outline of your wishes should you not be able to communicate them. This will help lessen the stress of an already stressful situation and is important to establish whether you’re twenty or eighty years old. Revocable Living Trust: This type of trust protects your financial assets in the event of accident, injury or death. It will prevent your family from having to go through the court system to take care of your medical and other expenses. Will: To ensure your assets and belongings are distributed according to your wishes after your death, you must have a will in place. This will also name the choice of guardian for minor children or a pet, in the event of your death. Having a will prevents your family from having to go through the arduous court process to have your assets distributed. Having an estate plan that includes a living will, revocable trust, and will, means peace of mind for you and your loved ones. At Stuart & Blackwell, we provide estate planning and other services. Contact us today to learn...

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Happy Adoptive Parents

January was a wonderful month for Stuart and Blackwell as we made two successful matches between Adoptive Parents and Birth Parents. During the course of an average month our firm handles many more adoptions than that but matches can be much harder. Our most recent success came on Friday at the end of January when a Birth Mother contacted us through her attorney. We immediately called some of our Adoptive Parent clients to confirm they were happy to have their profile presented to this particular Birth Mother. We then provided her and her attorney with several profiles that same day. On Saturday she selected one of our Adoptive Parent clients, and everything was signed by the next day by both Birth Parents! The wonderful news is that the baby is doing great. He is still in the hospital but will go home to the Adoptive Parents in the next 3-5 days. There will be letters and pictures to the Birth Parents and Birth Grandparents from the adoptive family (this is sometimes referred to as a ‘semi-open’ adoption). The Adoptive Family is forever grateful for this selfless and life changing gift. The Birth Mom and Birth Father are happy to have found their child a wonderful home. The formal adoption hearing will take place in about 90 days which is great as adoptions don’t always happen this fast or this simple, but they can and it did this time… It’s great to help put families together. We were so delighted to receive these flowers as a gift from our client but the real reward was seeing this process go so smoothly.  ...

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5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

As family law attorneys, we handle emotionally sensitive, and often stressful, situations. Whether it is a family deciding who should adopt the child of another relative, or a couple making the decision to end their marriage, there are often no simple answers. Many times the parties involved will be uncooperative, making it challenging to come to a solution. Here are 5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People: Understand the Why: Most often people are difficult because they are afraid. They don’t understand what is happening or how to deal with it. Their best way to control that situation is to be unwilling to compromise. At Stuart & Blackwell, we are dedicated to helping you get the resources and knowledge needed to help you through this difficult time. Understand the What: Difficult people are often reaction junkies. They thrive on saying or doing things just to get a reaction from other people. It helps to stop reacting when they push your buttons. Even if you’re angry inside, don’t let them see it, it will only fuel their actions. Understand the What: They aren’t going to change even if you order them to do so. What you can control is what you know about your family law situation and how you react. Anything else is noise that you can choose to ignore. Understand the Why: If your goal is an amicable divorce, then focus on that goal especially if there are children involved. Choose to be amicable, as well as fair, and you will be able to settle your case with the difficult person. Understand You’re Not a Superhero: The difficult person is not going to change no matter how much you want or need them to change. Understanding that difficult people are the way they are and aren’t changing is key to working with them. Keep your goal in mind as you navigate this family law matter. Make choices that are in line with what you want and what is best for the situation and you will come out better at the end. For more information about our services and resources, please contact us...

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Reasons Adoption is a Good Choice

Whether you’re a birth mother seeking to adopt out your child, a couple or family member seeking to adopt a child, the team at Stuart and Blackwell is here to help you through the process. Our private adoptions are confidential and we are committed to helping your family through the adoption process. Here are some reasons adoption is a good choice: For the Birth Mother Choosing to give a child up for adoption is a brave choice to make for you and for your child. Our team is a leader in the state of Arizona for helping women create a personalized adoption plan that is best for them. Our team includes counselors and other resources available to birth mothers free of charge. We help connect certified adoptive families with birth mothers in a confidential agreement. Visit our Birth Mother FAQ for additional information. For a Stepparent or Relative Adoption There are cases where a stepparent will want to adopt a child. Those reasons includes a deceased natural parent, the natural parent signs a consent for adoption or has their rights terminated by a court of law. Choosing to adopt a stepchild or relative will help the child feel like they are a complete part of the family, allowing them to have the same last name as the rest of their family. The stepparent or relative will have the same rights as natural parent when it comes to making decisions about schools, daycare, and emergency care. Lastly, adoption will make it possible for the child to be part of inheritance and other death benefits of the stepparent or relative. For more information, please visit the Adoption by Stepparent or Relative section of our website. For Families Couples may opt to adopt a child for a variety of reasons, expanding their family to include children. Whether adopting in an agreement with a birth mother or a child from foster care, the team at Stuart & Blackwell can help. We help match couples and children in the private adoption process. For more information, please visit the Family Adoption section of our website. We are committed to guiding you and your family through the adoption process Contact us for additional information. We look forward to helping you....

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