The Dallas Court of Appeals recently decided a case regarding the provisions of a retirement award and entry of a QDRO. In that case, husband worked for his employer for 20 years, all of which occurred during the marriage. The divorce decree provided that wife received % award of the retirement benefits.  QDRO was entered concurrently with the divorce decree, specifying that the wife was to be named as and treated as the surviving spouse of husband for purposes of the retirement benefits, giving her a surviving spouse annuity.

When husband approached retirement, he learned from his company that, because wife was named as his surviving spouse in the prior QDRO, he was required to choose an annuity option that provided for Wife to receive a benefit after his death. The cost of the survivor benefit reduced the monthly benefit husband would otherwise receive. Husband also could not name his current spouse as his surviving spouse for purposes of receiving a benefit after his death.

Husband filed a motion to vacate the prior QDRO because it failed to comply with the terms of the decree.  The divorce decree was silent as to the survivor benefits, so husband argued that the QDRO improperly included it. The trial court agreed with husband and entered a new QDRO stating that wife was not husband’s surviving spouse etc. The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court because the QDRO must comply with the terms of the decree.  Because the decree did not award wife the surviving spouse annuity specifically, the prior QDRO’s award was improper and must be vacated. The new QDRO entered by the trial court was proper.

Beshears v. Beshears, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2014 WL 345651 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2014, no pet. h.) (1/30/14).

 

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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.