Michelle May O'Neil joins Godwin Lewis, P.C.

I am very excited to announce that effective today, July 1, 2014, I am joining the firm Godwin Lewis, P.C. in downtown Dallas as a shareholder. After 20+ total years of practice, and 10+ years with O'Neil & Attorneys, I am excited for the new opportunities ahead of me. As a firm owner, I have always tried to provide high quality representation in a personal atmosphere.

I believe that joining Godwin Lewis will help me to do a better job by focusing all of my efforts on my clients' best interest, eliminating the administrative tasks involved with owning and running a law firm. Godwin Lewis has offices in Dallas, Houston, and Plano, allowing me to expand my family law litigation and appellate practice beyond the Dallas area, to a statewide focus. The new firm also has lawyers that practice at the top of their field in 39 practice areas, providing depth to the services that I can provide to my clients. From business litigation to tax law, from immigration to estate planning, Godwin Lewis can cover just about every need that my clients may have. Built on a foundation of preparedness, out-of-the-box thinking, creativity and exceptional trial skills, Godwin Lewis PC is a mid-size trial and appellate law firm which has earned a national reputation for handling complex, high-stakes litigation and gaining desired outcomes. By joining forces with the Godwin Lewis team I can enhance the foundation of service to my clients.

I will continue to blog here at www.dallastxdivorce.com, providing readers with updates and insight into family and divorce law as it affects the Dallas, Texas area.

New contact information:

Michelle May O'Neil, Shareholder
Godwin Lewis, P.C.
1201 Elm Street, Suite 1700
Dallas, Texas 75270
Direct: 214-939-4427
Direct fax: 214-527-3123
Main: 214-939-4400
Email: Michelle.Oneil@GodwinLewis.com
website: www.GodwinLewis.com

I didn't know he was already married when we got hitched. What do I do?

I was recently informed about a situation where a woman married a man who happened to already be married.  The blushing bride had no idea about her husband's prior (and still existing) marriage to the other woman, and understandably was quite embarrassed by her situation.  Perhaps more importantly, however, the woman wanted to know what her legal rights were under these strange facts.

This type of situation is what Texas law refers to as a putative marriage.  A putative marriage is a marriage that is entered into in good faith by one of the parties (here the wife given her lack of knowledge about the prior marriage) but that is invalid (in this case because of bigamy).  Although the marriage in this circumstance is void (because of bigamy), Texas law protects the innocent spouse by making the marriage "putative."  A putative marriage gives the innocent spouse who acted in good faith the same rights as a lawful spouse would have had during the marriage. 

Without going into the details as to proving good faith, the legal effects of the putative marriage are quite significant.  Texas courts have held that a putative spouse has the rights of a lawful spouse in property acquired during the marriage - i.e. community property.  As such, once the putative marriage ends, the putative spouse is entitled to a just and right division of the community property, the right to seek temporary support during a suit to dissolve the marriage, and the right to seek spousal maintenance. 

Bottom line, if the putative relationship was entered into in good faith, then the court will treat the dissolution of the relationship very similarly to that of a "normal" divorce.