Posted by Michelle May O’Neil on May 11, 2011

 

Today, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 908, which provides a remedy for wronged spouses when fraud has been committed against the community estate in a divorce.  The law, if signed by the Governor, would allow a Texas divorce attorney to request the judge to account for the fraudulently missing property as if it still existed in the marital estate in conducting a just and right division of property.  The word used in the statute is to “reconstitute” the marital estate with the missing property.  When I think of the word “reconstituted” I think of powdered milk.  Did you ever have to drink reconstituted powdered milk? 

 

So, if the missing funds result in the estate being deficient in sufficient assets to award a just division to the wronged spouse, then the judge can award a money judgment to the wronged spouse with future payments as compensation.

 

One example where this might come to play… think of a situation where Husband has a girlfriend during the marriage and buys the girlfriend a $50,000 car in her name, as a gift, using cash from the marital estate.  Wife finds out and filed for divorce.  Wife wants to account for the car in the division of property.  So, the judge “reconstitutes” the marital estate with the missing $50,000, then awards the Wife a judgment as part of the property division with a monthly payment plan.

 

Another example, Husband and Wife are married, then Husband gets a large bonus from his employer.  Instead of putting the bonus in the joint account, Husband deposits the bonus into his mother’s bank account. Wife sues for divorce and alleges a fraudulent transfer to the mother.  The judge can agree and include the missing funds in the division of the marital estate.

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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.