Divorce can be a messy business, especially here in Nevada. Nevada and Maine have the highest rates of divorce in the country, although Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Oregon come close. Nevada had a 14% rate of divorce recorded last year.
One of the most challenging aspects of a divorce is working out who is going to gain custody of children and who is responsible for paying for spouse and child support after the divorce has been finalized. Preferably, the two separating partners come to a mutual agreement about what to do about shared assets, and who looks after the kids but this doesn’t always happen. It can fall to the courts to make a decision about the more difficult challenges facing a divorcing couple and that’s when a knowledgeable and sympathetic family law attorney can help represent one or the other of the two.
Many couples these days have already married for a second or even a third time. A second or third divorce can bring its own complications when it comes to child support.
Take an example. Imagine that a man gets married to someone who already has two children from a previous marriage. This marriage lasts for four years, in which time the man assumes the role of a father to the two children and does his best to fulfill the role.
The female partner then finds another man and divorces the one she was with, taking her two kids with her, who are still dependents. She files for child support from the last husband even though they were not his biological children. Is she likely to succeed?
Child support decisions are never clear cut but because of a law that is little known outside of legal circles, she may be able to do just that. It’s because of something called “Equitable Adoption”. This law applies to child support cases as described above as well as inheritance decisions.
Basically the law says that someone who is not the biological parent of a child but to all intents and purposes acts as a parent for several years cannot deny that they have effectively “adopted” the child. The law then may apply to the former husband in the example above because he has looked after the children as if they were his own for four years even if he hasn’t formally adopted them. In the example, if he tries to challenge the child support request he may lose the challenge based on the law of equitable adoption, i.e. that he is legally responsible for them as if they were his own children.
The law of equitable adoption may also apply when a non biological “parent” dies and there is a question of inheritance by one of the children that he may have been looking after as a result of a marriage to someone with children from a former marriage. Even if there has been no formal adoption, the children may be considered in their right to claim inheritance from their step father.
Like many laws of this type, there is no clear cut application to every situation where it might be thought t apply. In Nevada, case law helps a court to come to a decision about whether equitable adoption should be applied in a specific case. In the case of child support it appears from previous leading cases, the non biological parent may have had to show evidence that they intended to adopt the child to show that they had sufficient responsibility for the child under equitable adoption to prevent them from denying responsibility for child support in the event that a divorce takes place. (See Frye vs. Frye, Nevada Supreme Court decision, 1987).
This and other legal decisions in Nevada indicate that if you have acquired step children as a result of a second or third marriage and you have built a strong relationship with them, you may be responsible for child support if your marriage breaks down and the mother of the children moves on. But this is not cast in stone and if you have not even gone through the motions of attempting to formally adopt the children ten the law of equitable adoption may not apply.
As with other complications of divorce, it pays to have an experienced family law attorney to help you through the process of asset division, spousal and child support as well as child custody. You can contact a family law attorney at Pintar Albiston in Las Vegas, Nevada on 702-685-5255.
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