Aunt isn’t entitled to visitation rights

Recently, many states have passed laws that give grandparents certain visitation rights with a child after a divorce or after the death of the child’s parent.

Predictably, this has given rise to questions about whether this right should be extended to other close relatives, such as aunts, uncles and cousins.

The issue came up recently in Minnesota, when a woman asked for visitation rights with her niece – the daughter of her recently deceased identical twin sister. [Read more…]

Ex-wife couldn’t change children’s names without husband’s consent

After a New Jersey couple divorced, the wife asked a court to change their two children’s last name to her maiden name. (The children had been given the husband’s last name at birth.)

The judge agreed, saying that since the mother was the primary residential parent, it should be presumed that she was acting in the children’s best interests, and her decision should be respected.

But the father appealed, and a higher court sided with him. [Read more…]

Deceived husband sues biological father for child-rearing costs

A Connecticut woman gave birth to a daughter in 1992. Fifteen years later, her husband discovered that she had had an affair, and that he was not the biological father of the girl he had raised as his own.

After divorcing his wife, the man sued the biological father, seeking reimbursement for the costs of raising the girl from birth to the date of the divorce.

The biological father argued that in general, lawsuits like this shouldn’t be allowed because they could harm children’s emotional well-being. [Read more…]

Father’s gift to ‘y’all’ could be divided at divorce

Be careful with family gifts if the recipient is contemplating a split

A father in Virginia gave his married daughter a check for $15,000, and told her it was a gift for “y’all.” The daughter and her husband used the money to fix up their home, which they jointly owned.

Later, the couple divorced. The husband argued that the money was a joint gift, and thus he was entitled to a share of it in the divorce. The wife argued that it was a gift to her and that she didn’t have to share it. [Read more…]

Some people who think they’re legally married really aren’t

These days, a growing number of couples are opting out of traditional church weddings and are choosing instead to be married in less formal ceremonies, often presided over by a friend or relative rather than a priest or rabbi.

That’s fine if that’s what the couple wants – but the problem is that some such weddings might not be technically valid under state law. A couple could live together for years assuming they’re legally married, and only find out otherwise much later when something unfortunate happens, such as a death or a divorce. [Read more…]

IRS delays basis reporting for bonds and options

The IRS is giving brokers extra time to start reporting the basis in debt instruments and options. This requirement had been scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2013, but brokers and other involved parties complained to the IRS that this did not give them enough time to build and test the systems required to meet this obligation. The IRS has extended the deadline to January 1, 2014. This reporting requirement was the third phase of investment basis reporting included in a 2008 tax law.

IRS announces 2013 HSA limits

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) allow taxpayers with high-deductible health insurance to set aside tax-deductible dollars that can be used tax-free to pay unreimbursed medical expenses.

If you have an HSA, you’ll be able to contribute more in 2013, thanks to the inflation-adjusted limit recently announced by the IRS. The amount you can set aside in 2013 will increase to $3,250 for an individual and to $6,450 for a family. If you’re 55 or older, you’re allowed an additional $1,000 contribution.

For 2013, a high-deductible health plan is one with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,250 for self-only coverage or $2,500 for family coverage. Annual out-of-pocket expenses cannot exceed $6,250 for self-only coverage or $12,500 for family coverage.

IRS eases reporting requirement on health coverage

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 included a provision requiring employers to report the cost of coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan on the employee’s 2012 W-2.

However, employers issuing fewer than 250 W-2s will not need to include the cost of health care on W-2s for 2012. For these employers, the 2012 reporting is optional. And such reporting will not apply for future calendar years until the IRS publishes further guidance.

December deadline for tax-exempt organizations

Here’s an important reminder for small nonprofit organizations: If your organization had its tax-exempt status revoked for failing to file an annual return from 2007 through 2009, the IRS is giving you a chance to get reinstated.

The IRS has issued guidance for small organizations with gross annual receipts of less than $50,000 that will allow them to regain tax-exempt status retroactive to the date of revocation. To qualify for this reinstatement and a reduced application fee of $100, the organization must submit an application postmarked no later than December 31, 2012.

Contact our office if you need details or filing assistance.

Check your tax situation before year-end

December 31, 2012, will be a very important date in the lives of taxpayers, because that is the date that many tax-saving provisions are set to expire. Congress has extended many of these provisions on a year-by-year basis. However, as it stands now, many tax-cutting provisions have already expired or will expire. Here are a few of the more important ones that could apply to you.

  • Employee’s share of social security taxes. The employee’s share of FICA taxes will return to 6.2% after 2012, up from 4.2%.
  • Income tax rates. The 10% tax rate bracket will be eliminated, and the top rate will be 39.6% (up from 35%). [Read more…]