"My wish is that children be treated as people, and not as property; that their rights as human beings on the planet, to food, shelter, education, and health, be taken seriously."
"He who can reach a child's heart can reach the world's heart."
"Somehow destiny comes into play. These children end up with you and you end up with them. It's something quite magical."
As quoted from the book "Adoption Is Another Word for Love"
Meet our Reno, Nevada Family Law Attorneys & Staff
- Kimberly M. Surratt, Attorney
Creating what has come to be known as Surratt Law Practice has been natural for us. It started with a desire to work in a law firm environment that was free from chaos. Then it developed into a desire to give my staff the same quality of life that I strived for. To achieve that goal we realized that our happiness was defined by who our clients were. We had to have clients that we believed in and that we could be proud of the work we produced. If we compromised on that then the entire system would go down. I'm proud of my office. I'm proud of my staff. I'm proud to say that our ethics are never compromised. The dream has come true and we know that the environment we have in our office carries over to the experience that our Client's have with our office. It is pure and it is honest.
I started my career in insurance defense and then moved into family law. Insurance defense work was not for me although some days I do miss the complexity of learning about a new product for a product liability case or getting to interview numerous miners regarding their mining practices. However, I have a good relationship with family law that is here to stay.
In 2004, during my first couple of months in family law, I took on my first surrogacy matter. It was a thrill. My Clients are still friends of mine and I receive a Christmas card each year with a picture of the two siblings that I helped create. I knew at that point that I wanted a practice that concentrated in family formation. In the mean time, if I was going to continue contested family law matters I knew there had to be a better way for the clients. So, I formed the first meeting ever in Northern Nevada to develop Collaborative Law, an amicable no court divorce method. Within a few short months, we had a large group of professionals trained and we developed a non-profit called Collaborative Professionals of Nevada.
Today, I am a fellow with the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology, American Society of Reproductive Medicine, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National LGBT Bar Association, Nevada Justice Association, and the National Family Law Advisory Council. I have been lobbying with the Nevada Justice Association since 2004. I have lobbied for the passage of the Nevada Domestic Partnership Bill, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act and numerous other family law and adoption statutes. I often speak on LGBT family law, assisted reproductive and parentage matters at conferences such as Lavendar Law and the Family Law Institute for the National LGBT Bar Association and National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys and the Nevada State Bar Family Law Conference.
My dream path for my career in family law has not faltered. I now work with three of the most amazing attorneys I could ever ask for and a staff that makes me smile when I arrive at work every day. My paralegal, Dawn Kaufman, has been by my side every step of the way, which is a sign that I can't live without her and that the Client's adore her.
- Melissa L. Exline, Attorney
Melissa L. Exline, Esq. joined Surratt Law in September 2008. She earned her dual undergraduate degrees from the University of Nevada. Ms. Exline received her J.D. from Golden Gate University, School of Law. She was author and associate editor for the Golden Gate University Law Review.
Ms. Exline is admitted to practice in Nevada and California. Her prior legal expertise includes working at the U.S. Department of Labor providing benefits assistance and enforcing employee benefit plans. Ms. Exline's experience includes consumer product law, employment law, construction defect litigation and general tort liability. Currently, Ms. Exline's legal focus is working with families to resolve conflict and representing clients in Reno, Nevada family law and estate planning matters.
Ms. Exline is a member of the State Bar of Nevada (Family Law and Construction Law Section Member), State Bare of California, American Bar Association, Phi Alpha Delta International Law Fraterntiy, and Washoe County Bar Association.
- Rayna Brachmann, Attorney
When I decided to go to law school, like many young, idealistic folks, I was certain that I would be able to use my law degree for lofty goals. I would have an impact, I would change things, I would make the legal system more accessible to more people. My cases would matter! Three years of law school and the crushing debt that came with it made me a little more realistic about my options. I was not in a financial position to work on impact litigation for a non-profit and still afford to pay my bills. I accepted a position with a judge at the Family Court telling her in no uncertain terms that my long term goals did not include practicing family law.
After being reassured that a desire to practice family law was not a pre-requisite to working as a law clerk in the Family Court, I accepted a job with Judge Schumacher. I extended my clerkship for two years and learned a tremendous amount from a thoughtful, articulate, intelligent and skilled jurist. I left the Family Court bound for any area of law other than family law.
I spent two years with a well respected law firm practicing a variety of civil law including development, real estate work and construction defect. The intellectual rigors of the work were very satisfying to me. But something was missing. That something was the feeling that the work I was doing mattered on a personal, human level. So I decided to return to family law. I did so with some hesitation. When I finished my clerkship, I was unsettled about the tone of the dialogue by some members of the family law bar. I was underwhelmed by the aspects of people that I saw highlighted in some of the most contentious family law cases. And I was worried that I would not be able to bridge the gap between the way I wanted to practice law and a way that would be effective for my clients. Despite my concerns, I returned to family law.
I have been licensed to practice family law since 2003 and have exclusively practicing family law since then for all but two years, including my two year clerkship with the Family Court. I never leave the office at the end of the day wondering if the work that I do matters. I know with certainty that it does. It matters to my clients, to their children, and to their extended families. I try to be thoughtful in my approach to cases, always keeping in mind that even though I represent one side of a case, in every instance there is a family at the center of the dispute. Where there are children involved, the family, albeit a post-divorce altered family, will need to cooperate with one another for the benefit of the children. I do not believe that the most effective family lawyer is the one who takes a scorched earth approach. Most of my cases settle. I believe that most cases can and should be settled rather than litigated. I always remind my clients that there are actual costs (higher attorney's fees) and emotional costs of litigating a family law matter. I have a strong working relationship with many of my colleagues and I always explore settlement options on the front end of my cases because I believe that it is to the benefit of most of my clients most the time.
However, when a case cannot be resolved without a fight, I am a strong, honest, thorough and effective advocate for my clients. I do not hesitate to go to Court if the other party or their counsel is unreasonable in their expectations. I am respected by the Judges because I have demonstrated that I will take reasonable positions on behalf of my clients and I endeavor to never make things worse for my clients.
Family law clients trust us with some of the most personal, stressful and intimate details of their lives. I am respectful of the people who share those details of their lives and I work hard to help my clients get through a difficult and challenging process with good advice and realistic expectations.
I know that even though I do not try issues that end up in headlines or law school textbooks, the work that I do absolutely does make a difference. It makes a difference on a case by case basis for my clients and their children and for that reason, I am happy I ended up practicing family law in Reno, Nevada.
- Diana A. Zuccarini, Attorney
Diana A. Zuccarini, Esq. joined Surratt Law Practice in January 2012. Diana earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Nevada and her JD from Golden Gate University, School of Law. During law school, Diana received awards in Family Law Practice, Wills and Trusts, Contracts and Torts.
Diana is admitted to practice in Nevada and California. After law school, Diana served as law clerk for the Honorable Judge Linda Gardner for two and a half years. Diana also briefly clerked for the Honorable Judge Bridgett Peck prior to joining Surratt Law Practice.
Diana is a member of the State Bar of Nevada (Family Law Section Member), State Bar of California, Washoe County Bar Association, and the National Justice Association.
- Dawn E. Kaufmann
I am Kim Surratt's paralegal. I have spent most of my life in the Truckee Meadows. I have been married for over 20 years and have a daughter and a son. I have been working as a legal assistant/paralegal since 2001. Prior to that I was a bookkeeper for 14 years when I decided to change careers in my thirties. I worked full time as a receptionist/legal assistant in a law office while attending TMCC's paralegal program part time along with caring for my family. It was a struggle at times but it has been well worth it, I enjoy and appreciate my career, and the professional growth it has offered me.
I began working with Kim Surratt in 2004 and had the privilege of being asked to accompany her when she started Surratt Law Practice in 2007. Since then Surratt Law has grown into the wonderful and caring family law office that it is today. Our attorneys and staff work very hard to provide the best service for our clients. We approach each case individually and craft solutions tailored to meet the needs of each client.
- Charlotte "Charlie" Spears
My roots are in Nebraska, but because I'm an Army brat, I have many "homes." I became a Reno transplant in 2000. Reno has since become my chosen home. I am Melissa Exline's paralegal and began working with her in 2004. I gladly accepted her invitation to join her when she moved to Surratt Law Practice.
My hope is that my life experiences (including four children and five grandchildren) allow me to empathize with our clients, while my varied legal background, beginning 40+ years ago, enables me to provide valuable assistance our attorneys.
- Heather Lemmons
I have been a paralegal working in Family Law for the past five years. I am experienced and committed to handling your sensitive family law matters with professionalism and competence. I do my best to ensure that clients are kept up to date on all issues concerning their cases with open and honest communication. It is my job to assist clients in any way possible to make stressful, emotional and confusing situations less so. I look forward to meeting and assisting you.
- Tamara Bunt
Tamara is the Office Assistant for Surratt Law Practice. She is experienced in coordinating the ins and outs of our office. She will be your first point of contact upon reaching out to our firm.
I wanted for you to know how much I appreciate the professional assistance that yourself and the office staff provided to me during my recent custody case. Finances are typically strained in a divorce case and mine certainly were not the exception. Therefore the ability to represent my self as much as possible was important for preserving funds which indirectly go to the children in one form or another.
Thank you and your staff for helping me secure full custody of the minor children as well, the ability to relocate out of state away from the non custodial parent. A feat typically not easily awarded to a male parent.
- -Tim T
- The reasons why I retained Surratt law practice are:
The Nevada family court system is difficult to navigate without an attorney, I know because I tried for almost 3 years. Finally, it occurred to me that my daughter's well being was at stake and I was willing to pay any amount of money necessary to ensure that my ex (who has a history of abusing drugs and abandoning our child) was not granted "rights" I was sure my ex did not deserve.
I was pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive the peace of mind I received at Surratt law was attained, especially considering how truly priceless it is. Unlike other attorney's offices, there is no exorbitant cost for copies or phone calls, no advice without explanation, and never a cold shoulder.
- I learned more from my consultation at Surratt law than I learned in my five previous consultations with other law offices combined.
- Once I retained them there came this feeling of comfort because this group of lawyers and paralegals really knew what they were talking about.
I knew my child's life would never be turned upside down by one of my exes whims, I knew that I would never have to drop my child off to people I believed were on drugs because it was my exes ordered time, and I knew that my ex would not be able to exhaust my limited resources by petitioning whenever my ex wanted to a part of our child's life.Surratt law was the only light on a dark and foggy night and for that I owe them a debt of gratitude that will never be repaid.
- Should you be considering other lawyers or going it alone like I did, I implore you to please stop. This is the exact law practice I needed and I am confident it will meet and exceed your all of your expectations.
- We hired Kim to help us with a same-sex couple second-parent adoption for our infant twins. Kim was fantastic to work with--she knew the law, the issues, the judges, and everything in between. Everything went smoothly throughout the process (even the judge commented on how perfect all of the paperwork was), and in the end, we were able to make legal what we already felt--that we are a family. We would highly recommend Kim to anyone in need of an adoption attorney in Reno or elsewhere in Nevada, and will definitely use her in the future if we decide to expand our family.
- Rayna represented me when I was going through one of the most difficult times of my life, a broken marriage that involved separation of property but more importantly visitation rights with my daughter. I found myself weak minded and heartbroken over the thought of my daughter relocating out of town with her mother. Rayna's multiple qualities were apparent upon first visit, she listened, she cared, and she told me we'll get through this and we did. Rayna's calming personality carried over into the most difficult negotiations always keeping the issue in perspective. I found Rayna to be reliable, even tempered and professional throughout this period and this includes to all parties involved. Her actions and follow-up were timely which gave me the confidence that she was on top of it. Her supportive nature was constant throughout the litigation. She was there to support me and I could believe in her. Standing in front of a judge is not to be taken lightly, when this moment of truth arrives in one's life you want the best representation you can find, her preparation and professionalism were key to a favorable ruling. If you are in need of enlisting family law representation in Reno, Nevada I strongly encourage you to speak with Rayna first. I can tell you that you will be speaking with a real professional, a great attorney, and a very good person.
- Making a major decision in choosing an attorney can often cause one to give up. I knew I wanted to increase custody with my son and I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I'd given up two years prior when a male attorney told me I didn't have a chance. Perhaps the best decision of my life was when I made arrangements to meet with Rayna Brachmann. I remember how nervous and uncertain I was as I waited in the lobby to meet her for the first time. I still recall my immediate impression of a winner! Rayna had a confidence and supportive demeanor that instantly settled me down and gave me hope. I left that day with a skip in my step. Rayna's passion for parental rights, and her experience and knowledge of the law were evident in her consistent communication throughout my case. She is very confident in her application of the law and her presence in the courtroom. As my case prolonged, Rayna kept me assured that I was fighting for a good thing. I still knew I might not win and Rayna never made any promises. She just made me feel optimistic. I felt good that hot September day, as we approached the courthouse and filed into the courtroom. Rayna's competitive character defended and promoted my parental rights in the courtroom. She challenged the opposing attorney throughout their side's entire testimony. She asked pertinent questions to showcase and highlight my parental involvement which expands into coaching. It was apparent our judge had a difficult decision to make. Three weeks later I got some of the best news since being a father. Rayna's hard work, determination and perseverance helped win my child custody case. I know with confidence that Rayna Brachmann, and her experience and knowledge of the law played a major role in procuring a victory for me and my son.
- Having gone through two divorces fifteen years apart, and having been the target of animosity during the first one for no less than five (5) different divorce lawyers in Reno, I feel I've come to know a little bit about the community of Family Law practitioners in Reno. Of all those I've come to know, to some degree or other, you are the one I'd recommend. You're ability to work professionally and cooperatively with the other side is a strength and quality that often goes unappreciated or overlooked. During my first divorce, it seemed like the attorneys on both sides took a genuine disliking toward one another. This did me and my ex-wife more harm than good. When people go through divorce they need help.... not someone who is going to make things worse. You really helped.
- Reno, NV Family Law Attorneys of Surratt Law Practice, PC: Filing for divorce is one of the toughest challenges of your life, especially when children are involved. Rayna Brachmann's professionalism, exhibited by her caring nature, attention to detail, and her ability to walk us through this difficult process was much appreciated. I have recommended Rayna's services to friends who have found themselves in the same position, as I know they will be treated with respect and dignity.
- Dear Kim, I don't even know where to start thanking you...being the money woman? The Q&A sessions? Setting up? Coaching ...? Your amazing legislative testimony? Lord, woman! In Nevada's long journey to equality, you're like a whole flight of stairs! Having you there to intro and gift Dave made the night. A huge thanks personally & professionally from all of us at ACLU. You're smart, sane, moral & awesome. It was an honor to work together.
- Thank you, Melissa! For the outstanding job you did fighting for me and protecting my daughter. For your professionalism, compassion, and for being so damn smart. My circumstance was highly precarious to say the least but as the captain of the ship, you guided me through the angst ridden maze, and I am forever grateful to you…
- -Royal Kuchoff
- Kim is an aggressive, knowledgeable and caring attorney who worked hard to protect my interests. I highly recommend her for any personal legal needs.
- -Ira M. Gostin, MBA
- Kim Surratt is a very special person to me. From the moment Kim took on my son's case, she worked so hard to achieve the right outcome. I believe that Kim saved my son's life, and strengthened our entire family. Our custody case was very difficult and lasted eight years. Kim was by my side, always giving me good advice, helping me have the strength to continue the battle, and saw our case to a proper final conclusion. I will always be grateful that I had Kim as my attorney.
- -Stephanie M.
- Our experience with Kim was outstanding! She is very personable, was well prepared and just made us feel at ease and confident with the situation. She prepared us well for our court experience and we were thrilled with our result.
- -Mindy Cannady & Dusty Moyle
- When I embarked on the journey of becoming a parent using a gestational carrier, I was terrified and confused about the process. Kimberly Surratt and her assistants at Surratt Law Practice helped me through the process step by step. They are detail oriented, extremely thorough and always answered my questions in a timely manner. From the moment I stepped into Mrs. Surratt's office, I felt she truly cared about me and my future child. I am so grateful to Mrs. Surratt for her efforts in making my dream come true
- -Kim Gervasoni
- Kim is wonderful famly law attorney who assisted us in becoming a family. We were very fortunate to work with Kim and her professional staff throughout our adoption process. Kim and her staff are always readily available to assist with the paperwork that can be arduous to complete. With her knowledge, the process was very smooth and with out difficulties. Thanks, Kim and Staff...you are the best!
- -Marla Brennan
- Kim is a highly dedicated, experienced attorney with a common-sense approach to solving legal issues. She's responsive and available with an outstanding support staff. I give my highest recommendation to retaining her services!
- -Terry Sullivan
- Kim Surratt was the best lawyer I've ever dealt with. Unfortunately, with two divorces behind me, I consider myself a bit of an expert. I fired several less qualified and much less caring attorneys before I was referred to Kim. She was amazing on my second divorce and I wish I'd had her on my first. With her advice and care, I probably would not have had two.
- Ms. Surratt appeared on my behalf at two (2) court appearances, during which it was made apparent that her professionalism is highly respected by Judge(s), court staff and other attorneys. Her legal staff is also knowledgeable and understanding.