Here at O’Neil & Attorneys (Dallas Texas Family Lawyers), we try to keep our blog readers as well as those from Facebook and Twitter abreast of new laws that are going on. Did you know some BIG new rules snuck up on us effective January 1st? The Texas Supreme Court released new amendments to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure effective January 1st . These rules will greatly impact civil and family lawyers alike. A couple of the changes we know about already – mandatory e-filing (here’s a list of counties that have mandatory e-filing now) and searchable pdf format – we’ve known that was coming. But, here’s a couple of rules that took me by surprise:

  • Service by e-mail: Holy cow! Now, when you e-file a document, if your opposing counsel(s) are signed up to receive e-service, you can serve them through the provider. That’s not that huge – we’ve had this ability for some time, just few signed up for it. But NOW, you can legally serve a lawyer through e-mail outside of the e-filing service provider!!! To me, this creates many potentialities for problems. Sometimes e-mail isn’t reliable. Sometimes e-mail goes to spam filters and is therefore not seen. But, alas, we have now officially moved into the electronic age!   
  • Service by fax no longer extends the deadline: How many lawyers are going to get caught with late discovery (and waived objections) by this rule? Not you, if you are reading my blog! The new rules amend Rule 4 and Rule 21a to remove the provision that added 3 days to deadline when the service is by fax. The 3-day extension only applies now when service is accomplished by old-fashioned snail mail. (Who sends stuff by snail mail anymore? Maybe only people who are trying to be sneaky?)
  • Commercial Delivery Services are now accepted: For the first time, the procedure rules acknowledge the existence of commercial delivery services like behemoths FedEx and UPS, and actually permit service via one of those services. This probably includes local courier services, since they are “commercial” if they charge you.
  • Completion of service: Service by mail has always been completed when depositing the document with the USPS. Now, the mailbox rule has been extended to commercial delivery services – service is completed when delivered to a commercial delivery service. Faxes remain delivered upon receipt by the opposing fax machine, unless it’s after 5:00 p.m. Electronic service is completed upon delivery of the e-mail to the serving party’s service provider.  A document electronically filed is timely if filed by midnight, and filings on weekends and holidays are deemed filed on the next business day.
  • Electronic signatures: Signing a pleading can now be done electronically with either an image of the signature of by typing a “/s/” followed by the lawyer’s name. Example: /s/ Michelle May O’Neil. 
  • Signature blocks: Now signature blocks must contain the email address of the lawyer.
  • Sensitive data redacted: New rule 21c requires redaction of “sensitive data” unless the information is required by statute. This includes: social security numbers, drivers license numbers, passport numbers, tax ID numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or a minor’s name and DOB. So, this new rule will prohibit family lawyers from including names of minors in captions and pleadings.

If you want to read the new rules for yourself, be my guest: Texas Supreme Court’s New Civil Rules of Procedure effective January 1st.

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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.