Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Divorce vs Annulment: Understanding The Difference

Almost everyone dreams of a long, happy, fulfilling marriage. Fortunately, about half of all married couples get to experience this dream turning into a reality as the years pass. Unfortunately, the other half of all marriages in the United States end because the couples decide that the marriage is no longer working.

Marriage As A Legal Entity

A marriage is more than a relationship between two people. The personal connection of the people involved is the foundation (and most important part) of a marriage, but beyond that, marriage is a legal arrangement. It is a legal contract between two people who have agreed to share their lives together. As such, there are specific procedures that must be followed when a marriage is formed, and similarly specific procedures that must be followed when a marriage is ended. Today, our family law firm in Osage Beach MO is here to examine two ways that marriages may end: divorce and annulment.


With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, this is by far the most common means by which marriages end. Divorce is the official, legal dissolution of a marriage. It acknowledges the relationship and the life that the couple shared, and aims to ensure that each spouse is provided for as they define their lives as separate individuals once again. The court will strive to divide all marital assets as equitably as possible. Depending on the financial situation of each spouse and the specific circumstances surrounding their marriage/divorce, the court may order a higher-earning spouse to provide financial support to the lower-earning spouse in the form of spousal maintenance (also called alimony).

If there are children involved, the court will divide custody in the manner it deems to be in the child's best interests. While each parent will understandably have strong feelings about the custody agreement, the court will focus almost exclusively on the children's needs. The goal is to form the custody order they believe will best provide for these needs.


Like divorce, annulment is another way that a marriage may end. However, an annulment is a very different process from a divorce. Whereas a divorce acknowledges the dissolution of a marital union, an annulment erases a marriage so completely that legally, it is considered to never have even existed.

Because they completely wipe the slate clean, annulments are only allowed under very select circumstances. Specifically, the marriage must have been considered legally void due to some invalidating factor, such as coercion, incest, misrepresentation, concealment, or lack of consent. Only marriages formed under these certain invalid circumstances may qualify for an annulment.

Our Family Attorney Is Here To Help

If you are facing the possibility of dissolving your marriage, we hope you'll consider contacting our Lake of the Ozarks law firm for assistance. Our team will be here to help you prepare for the challenges of ending a marriage, and we would be happy to answer your questions on the legalities of divorce or annulments. For more information about our Missouri family law services, visit our website at You can also call us directly at 573-348-2211.

Remember, your initial consultation with Gibbons Law Firm is always free.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
2820 Bagnell Dam Blvd, Suite B4
Lake Ozark, MO 65049
(573) 348-2211

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Under What Circumstances May Parental Rights Be Terminated?

As a parent, maintaining custody of your child is hopefully your top priority. However, in certain circumstances, a parent may have the option of voluntarily terminating his or her parental rights. This is most commonly seen in cases where parents, for various reasons, decide that they are not able to meet the responsibilities of raising a child and choose to give him/her up for adoption.

Involuntary Termination Of Parental Rights

In some cases, the decision to terminate parental rights is not one made by the parent. If the state believes the parents are putting the child at risk in any way, the court may step in and terminate one or both parents' rights.

This decision is rarely an easy one. Maintaining familial connections is important, and in most situations, everyone agrees that children are best off when kept in the care of their biological parents. If the parents have demonstrated repeatedly that they are unfit to care for their children, however, the state may terminate parental rights if they truly believe this option to be in the children's best interests.

Circumstances That May Warrant Termination Of Parental Rights

There are a variety of circumstances that may lead the state to terminate parental rights. Here is a look at some example situations, courtesy of our family attorney in Osage Beach MO.

Parental rights may be terminated if one or both parents...
  • Inflicts abuse or torture on the child
  • Sexually abuses the child
  • Commits a violent crime against the child or another family member
  • Fails to support or maintain contact with the child
  • Physically abuses the child
  • Abandons the child (or shows severe disinterest in being a parent)

Attempting To Reconnect The Child And Parent

Often, the court will try to reconnect the child and the parent if at all possible. For example, let's imagine that a child was placed in foster care while his alcoholic parent completed a rehabilitation program. In an ideal situation, the child would be reconnected to his parent upon completion of the program. Unfortunately, things may not always work out this way. Here are a few potential reasons why reunification may not be successful:
  • The child would face some sort of risk(s) if he returned home.
  • The parent is not ready to be reunited with the child after at least two years.

Contact Our Family Attorney For Assistance

Terminating parental rights is typically a lifelong decision. Because of how significantly it will impact the children involved, the state generally tries all other options before choosing to terminate parental rights. In some cases, however, it may be the only option that will protect a child's best interests.

Our Lake of the Ozarks family attorney has experience working with parental rights and understands the gravity of these situations. If you fear your parental rights may be at risk, or if you know a child who may be endangered while living at home, we urge you to contact our law firm in Osage Beach MO.

Time is of the essence - call 573-348-2211 to schedule your private consultation today.

Remember, your initial consultation with Gibbons Law Firm is always free.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
4075 Osage Beach Parkway, Suite 300
Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2211

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No attorney-client relationship is created by the publication of this blog.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What's the Difference Between a Will and a Revocable Living Trust?

No matter your income, family size, or lifestyle, estate planning is an important process that will require your attention at several different points throughout your life. In layman's terms, estate planning is the act of organizing your affairs so that your assets and liabilities will be properly attended to upon your passing. 

An estate planning attorney will be able to walk you through the process of establishing your initial estate plan and revising it periodically to ensure that it reflects your current wishes. Gibbons Law Firm has experiencing helping people with estate planning at the Lake of the Ozarks, and would be happy to assist you as prepare to move forward with this process. This week, we're here to familiarize you with the process by helping you understand the difference between two common types of estate planning documents.

Wills & Revocable Living Trusts

Wills and trusts are important documents that are commonly used in the estate planning process. They can (and should) both be updated periodically so that they meet your needs as your financial and familial situations change. It is not until your death that these documents become officially set in stone. Though similar, these documents each offer different advantages and serve different purposes. Here is a quick look at some of the primary purposes these documents serve.


A will is an estate planning tool that allows you identify whom should inherit your property after you pass away. It is relatively inexpensive to prepare, but it does not prevent your estate from being passed through probate after your death (which can be an expensive as well as time-consuming process). At the time of your death, your will becomes public record.

One of the most important uses of a will is to appoint a guardian for your children under the age of 18 in the event that something unexpected should happen to you. A will is the only estate planning tool that can be used for this purpose. Minors cannot legally own property, so if you wish to leave property to children under the age of 18, you will have to appoint someone else to manage the property until your children's 18th birthdays.

Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is an alternative estate planning tool. With the exception of appointing a guardian for your children, it serves many of the same purposes that a will does - that is, it can be used to identify whom should inherit your assets. Revocable living trusts allow for much greater detail and control in the planning process, however. For example, you can choose at what age your wish your children to inherit your assets (such as 25 instead of the "default" age of 18).

A revocable living trust can also be used to appoint a trustee and/or power of attorney to manage your assets, healthcare decisions, and other important responsibilities in the event that you become incapacitated. 

A revocable living trust is often more expensive and more time-consuming to prepare than a simple will, but it helps make up for the additional cost by allowing your estate to avoid probate. Instead of being tied up in probate procedures for months or even years, your assets should be able to be distributed directly to your heirs. Another advantage of a revocable living trust is that it remains private after your passing - it does not become public record like a will does.

Contact Gibbons Law Firm For Help Planning Your Estate

While these examples provide a general explanation of the different advantages offered by these estate planning tools, a complete discussion of the different advantages offered by each of these documents is beyond the scope of this blog. If you would like to learn more about the specific features of these documents, contact our Lake of the Ozarks estate planning attorney by calling 573-348-2211.

Because wills and revocable living trusts serve slightly different purposes, most people build estate plans with both of these (and sometimes additional) documents to ensure that all of their needs will be met. Gibbons Law Firm can help you evaluate your situation and build an estate plan that will meet your specific needs. For more information about our estate planning services in Osage Beach MO, visit our website at

Remember, your initial consultation with Gibbons Law Firm is always free.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
4075 Osage Beach Parkway, Suite 300
Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2211

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No attorney-client relationship is created by the publication of this blog.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Buying A House: Do You Need An Attorney?

Buying a house is a thrilling process. It is the start of a brand new chapter in your life, one filled with countless possibilities and responsibilities. Your home will likely be the biggest purchase/investment you make in your lifetime. Not only will you want to be confident that you are making a wise choice financially - you'll want to be confident that your interests and rights are protected.

Buying A House At The Lake 

In a legal sense, buying and selling homes involves the transfer of real property. This transfer process requires that certain extensive procedures must be correctly followed in order for the transaction to be legally valid. Because they are immersed in the processes on a daily basis, most real estate agents are well-versed in the standard negotiations and contracts that are used in typical transactions. However, these standard contracts cannot account for the unique variations that may present within certain individual transactions. Therefore, it may be wise to consult with a Lake of the Ozarks real estate attorney as you prepare to buy or sell a home.

Why Should You Consider An Attorney?

Since multiple people buy and sell homes without involving an attorney, you may be wondering what purpose an attorney can serve in the process. Here are a few of the different reasons why involving an attorney may be beneficial.

Listing Your Home
Unless you choose to For Sale By Owner, contacting a real estate agent to list your home will likely be your first step when you choose to sell your home. An attorney can help you evaluate the standard broker contract to ensure that it will meet your needs in the event that any unexpected situations should arise or in the event that a transaction ultimately does not occur. Your attorney can also explain the terms of the contract to you and help you to negotiate changes within the contract (before it is signed) if certain aspects do not meet your needs.

Buying A Home
As the buyer, you hope to purchase a title that is free and clear - one without any title issues, liens, or extraneous factors that may inhibit your use or enjoyment of your new property. For example, there may be tenants that are currently leasing part of your new property, or you may learn about property damage or hazardous material on the property after the transaction has been finalized. An attorney can help you navigate any unusual situations that may occur. Your attorney can also help evaluate the appropriate contracts to ensure that they meet your needs.

Finalizing The Transaction Process
There is countless paperwork and a seemingly endless list of details that must be attended to during the transfer of real property. If you are financing a significant portion of the transaction via a mortgage loan, there will be even more paperwork involved. An attorney can help ensure that every document is prepared correctly and can advise you on the legal implications of each step of the process. 

Contact Gibbons Law Firm To Begin The Process

Buying a home is a complex and involved process. There are multiple ways that a real estate attorney may be of assistance during the transaction process, but it is impossible to discuss the full scope of a real estate attorney's role in a single article such as this.

If you are contemplating buying or selling a house at the Lake of the Ozarks and would like more information about how a real estate attorney may be of assistance, contact Gibbons Law Firm in Osage Beach. Our experienced real estate attorney has helped facilitate multiple real estate transactions, and our team would be honored to put our experience to work for you. 

Call us at 573-348-2211 to schedule your free consultation.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
4075 Osage Beach Parkway, Suite 300
Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2211

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No attorney-client relationship is created by the publication of this blog.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

How Is Marital Property Divided In A Divorce?

Apart from child custody issues, dividing assets, property, and debts is the most time-consuming and challenging aspect of divorce. After years of treating everything as marital property, couples must decide how to divvy up their assets and liabilities so it will all become individual property. While every divorce is different, there are a few general guidelines that direct how property shall be divided in a divorce. Keep reading to learn more about dividing assets in a Missouri divorce.

What Are The Couple's Assets?

The first step is to identify the couple's collective assets. The ultimate goal will be to divide the total assets fairly and equitably, but in order to do that, the Court must first have a realistic understanding of the assets involved in the divorce. Marital assets may include:
  • Cars
  • Homes
  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Clothing
  • Cash
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Life insurance

it's important to note that as a general rule, the only property that will be up for division is that which is considered "marital property." Generally, any assets acquired after the wedding date is automatically considered marital property unless specifically designated otherwise. 

Dividing Property In A Divorce

Generally, couples who are facing divorce have two primary options for dividing their property. They can either reach an agreement on their own, or they can let the Court decide.

Reaching Your Own Agreement
If you and your spouse are able to be amicable and cooperative, designating your own plan for dividing assets may be an ideal solution. This generally the most desirable option since it allows both you and your spouse to have complete control over the division of your property. You can work together to devise an agreement that will accommodate both of your needs.

Letting The Court Decide
If you and your spouse are not able to come to an agreement, the only alternative is to allow the Court to decide. The Court will divide your marital assets in an equitable (but not necessarily equal) manner. When determining how to divide the assets, the Court will consider a variety of different factors including both spouses' current income, both spouses' earning potential, and how each spouse handled their finances during the marriage. Based on these (and other) factors, the Court will determine an arrangement that will meet each spouse's needs in a way that is fair and equitable.

Securing Representation For Your Divorce

If you are facing the possibility of divorce, we recommend that you seek representation from a qualified Missouri divorce attorney. Our firm has experience representing hundreds of divorce cases, we would be honored to help you and your spouse reach an equitable solution that meets both of your needs. If you would like more information about filing for divorce in the state of Missouri, feel free to contact Gibbons Law Firm for assistance. We would be happy to guide you through the process.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
4075 Osage Beach Parkway, Suite 300
Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2211

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No attorney-client relationship is created by the publication of this blog.