ACT 2 volunteer helps young adoptive parents eliminate tax debt

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Elyria family Kody, Tina and Phoenix no longer worry about tax debt.

Elyria residents Kody and Tina had not anticipated becoming foster parents to pre-teens.

“We went from being a young couple in our early 20s with no roommates, to all of a sudden having to be responsible,” Tina said as she remembered what it was like to take in her husband’s nephews.

Though their hearts expanded with their household, the couple found life to be busy and finances tight. With permission from the boys’ parent, Kody claimed them on his tax return for two years without incident.

But when the IRS decided to audit, the family struggled to provide proof that the boys were under their care. Facing $10,000 in back taxes, Kody reached out to Legal Aid, where ACT 2 in-house volunteer John Kirn helped the couple identify and obtain the documents they needed.

“It was a mess, but our attorney was awesome. He really helped us a lot, calling us each week to update us,” Tina said. “And now we know what documents we need in the future.”

As an adoptive father himself, Kirn holds his pro bono clients in high esteem. “They’re such admirable people,” Kirn said. “The problem was that at least until the court granted custody, they had to establish that they really had them in their care, and we guided them through the process.”

Over the next several months, Kirn helped the couple obtain and submit the documentation they needed for the IRS. They also acquired another bright spot in their life. “Along came number three, the youngest nephew,” Kirn said.

With Legal Aid’s representation and guidance, the family received the news that they no longer owed the staggering debt. And while Kody’s oldest nephews have been reunited with their biological parent, the couple is in the final stages of becoming forever parents and a safe, stable home to Kody’s youngest nephew.

Special thanks to The Cleveland Foundation’s Encore Prize and the Legal Services Corporation Pro Bono Innovation Fund for supporting Legal Aid’s ACT 2 volunteer program for retired and late-career attorneys.

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