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Family Law Attorney in Thayer, Missouri

When people hear the term “family law,” the first thought that comes to mind is often “divorce.” However, family law encompasses a broad range of issues, including prenuptial agreements, marriage, adoption, child custody, as well as divorce. These issues are often highly emotional, with life-changing consequences.

Big changes in life should not be undertaken without careful consideration, including a consideration of the legal aspects. Individuals may rush into a marriage only to discover down the road that their relationship isn’t working, and then they face legal proceedings for divorce, child custody, and division of assets.

If you’re facing one of those life-altering moments in life and you’re located in or around Thayer, Missouri, or in West Plains, The Ozarks, or anywhere in North Central Arkansas, contact me at The Law Office of Fred O’Neill. I have more than three decades of experience in helping others in situations like yours. I will bring experience and compassion to your situation to help you resolve matters in the best way possible.

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Making Changes to Your Family Structure

Whether it’s deciding to adopt, getting divorced, or seeking changes to a custodial relationship, these decisions can entail great emotions and sometimes leave you with a feeling of trepidation.

A family law attorney can provide the support and clarification you need when you meet face-to-face with these life-changing moments. You don’t want to jump into a decision without considering all your options, legal and otherwise. Reach out to an attorney to explore your rights, responsibilities, and options.

Divorce and Custody

Divorce in Missouri is actually called “dissolution.” To dissolve the bonds of matrimony, you must file in a Family Court in the county where you or your spouse reside. The only legal ground for dissolution is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” In other words, Missouri is a no-fault divorce state.

Missouri is also not a community property state, but rather, one of equitable distribution of assets. If the couple can agree on a division of assets, they can present that to the court for approval.

Otherwise, the court will use several factors in determining distribution, including the financial status of each partner, whether there are children to be taken care of, and other considerations. In some cases, one spouse will be required to pay spousal support (alimony) or child support to help the other manage their affairs and take care of the children.

As for child custody issues, Missouri law favors joint custody, in which both parents share physical and legal custody. Joint custody allows both parents to share in decision-making regarding their children and also share time with the children, although it might not be equal time.

If the parents cannot resolve custody issues on their own, each parent will be asked to submit their version of a parenting plan, and a judge will review them and decide on an arrangement that is in the “best interests” of the child or children.

Adding to Your Family

If you wish to adopt, Missouri has legal requirements on the books similar to most other states. The first requirement is that you must be 21 years of age or older. In addition, you must:

  • Be in good health, mentally and physically

  • Pass a background check for child abuse and/or domestic violence

  • Have a relatively stable income

  • Live in a house or apartment that meetings licensing standards

  • Be willing to work with the child’s birth family, if applicable

  • Complete a training and assessment process

Contact me to get started with the adoption process in Missouri, as well as North Central Arkansas.

Before You Marry: The Prenuptial Agreement

People often associate prenuptial agreements with wealthy people who marry someone not as financially endowed in order to protect their assets. While this may be true in many situations, a prenuptial is also a practical and wise tool to pre-determine the division of assets should divorce ever occur. The agreement can allow each spouse to retain assets they owned before marriage. It can also pre-determine how assets acquired during the marriage will be divided.

What a prenuptial agreement cannot do is pre-assign custody of children should there be a divorce. Custody must be determined at the time of divorce with the primary consideration being given for the “best interests” of the child or children.

For the prenuptial agreement to be enforceable, there are two legal requirements. First, both parties must enter into the agreement "freely, fairly, willingly, understandingly, in good faith, and with full disclosure." Second, the agreement must be “conscionable,” or not so one-sided that it cheats one spouse.

Family Law Attorney
in Thayer, Missouri

Whether adopting, formulating a prenuptial agreement, or dissolving a marriage, there are legal requirements that must be met. An experienced family law attorney can help you meet these legal standards and obligations. Whatever your family law issue, contact me at The Law Office of Fred O’Neill. I will help you navigate the legal system to seek the results you desire. I proudly serve clients in and around Thayer, Missouri.