Deion and Pilar Sanders’ divorce began on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 in Collin County and is anticipated to continue through this upcoming week. Deion Sanders filed for divorce from his Wife, Pilar, in 2011 and the last two years of litigation has culminated into a jury trial of their peers.

Texas permits jury trials in divorce actions on very limited issues. In the Sanders divorce, the issues to be decided by the jury is which parent should be the “primary” conservator of the children and whether there should be a restriction on where the children may reside. In Texas, there is a presumption that two parents should be Joint Managing Conservators which means that they have equal rights and duties to the children. What makes a parent the “primary” conservator is that the parent has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children. The jury in the Sanders divorce will decide whether Deion or Pilar should have the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary residence.

The second issue the jury will decide is whether there should be a geographic restriction placed on the residence of the children. There is a presumption in Texas Family Law that continuing contact with a child by both parents is in a child’s best interest. The best way to ensure continuing contact with a child by both parents is to impose a geographic restriction on where a child will reside. The Sanders jury will not only decide which parent should have the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary residence but also whether that primary residence should be restricted to a geographical area. In Texas, depending on the evidence that is presented to a judge or jury, geographic restrictions range from a certain county, to a certain county and any county contiguous to that county, to the state of Texas or no restriction at all.

Both of the issues of who should be the primary conservator and whether there should be a geographic restriction on the residence of a child generally involve the same types of evidence. Important issues to address with a judge or jury is each parent’s level of involvement in a child’s life from education to extracurricular activities to medical as well as a parent’s ability to co-parent with the other parent. The Sanders jury has heard and will continue to hear evidence regarding each parent’s involvement in these areas and it is anticipated that the jury will begin deliberations by the end of this week
 

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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.