In July, Congress approved the overhaul of financial regulations protecting borrowers against abuses in credit card, mortgage, and other types of lending. However, the new law failed to reform a 2005 bankruptcy law that hurts single mothers and benefits the credit card industry. This law makes it easier for delinquent dads to avoid paying child support and alimony.

Until 2005, bankruptcy wiped out credit card debts while leaving child support and alimony obligations intact. This helped women because their ex-husbands had more funds available to fulfill their support obligations after bankruptcy. Now the credit card debts can’t be discharged, so women find themselves competing with Visa and MasterCard for a share of their ex-husband’s paychecks. And, women don’t have the sophisticated collection departments credit card companies do.

The bankruptcy law provides a means test to determine how much income a debtor has available to pay creditors after they pay their basic living expenses. People who earn more than the median income in their states and can pay their creditors at least $6,000 spread out over 5 years are put in Chapter 13 bankruptcy rather than the traditional Chapter 7 category. Chapter 7 allows full discharge of all debts. On the other hand, Chapter 13 requires debtors to pay a portion of their credit card balances, medical bills, and other debts for 3-5 years.

The result is that divorced women are getting hit two ways by the new law — by the new hurdles it places in the way of collecting their child support payments and by their own exposure to the provisions that make it harder to completely discharge their debts.

Special hat tip to Scott David Stewart for the lead on this important issue.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.