cartoon troA new law effective 9/1/15 expands the scope of prohibited actions that may be contained in a temporary restraining order granted during a Texas divorce proceeding. The laundry list of prohibited actions comes further into the 21st century, prohibiting parties from communicating and threatening each other via electronic voice transmission, video chat, or electronic messaging such as email, social media, etc. The definition of property now includes intellectual property and electronically stored or recorded information.

Once a divorce is filed and these orders are put in place, divorcing parties are prohibited from cussing each other out in email, opening the other spouse’s email and reading it, forwarding the other spouse’s email to anyone, deleting any email or other electronic evidence, using the password of the other spouse to access any electronic information, and/or deleting anything off of social media.

So, here is the laundry list of standard divorce orders effective 9/1/15. Many counties, including Dallas County divorce proceedings, will incorporate this list into a Standing Order that will apply mutually to all parties upon the filing of a divorce.

(1) intentionally communicating in person or in any other manner, including by telephone or another electronic voice transmission, video chat, in writing, or electronic messaging, with the other party by use of vulgar, profane, obscene, or indecent language or in a coarse or offensive manner, with intent to annoy or alarm the other party;

(2) threatening the other party in person or in any other manner, including by telephone or another electronic voice transmission, video chat, in writing, or electronic messaging, to take unlawful action against any person, intending by this action to annoy or alarm the other party;

(3) placing a telephone call, anonymously, at an unreasonable hour, in an offensive and repetitious manner, or without a legitimate purpose of communication with the intent to annoy or alarm the other party;

(4) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to the other party or to a child of either party;

(5) threatening the other party or a child of either party with imminent bodily injury;

(6) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly destroying, removing, concealing, encumbering, transferring, or otherwise harming or reducing the value of the property of the parties or either party with intent to obstruct the authority of the court to order a division of the estate of the parties in a manner that the court deems just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage;

(7) intentionally falsifying a writing or record, including an electronic record, relating to the property of either party;

(8) intentionally misrepresenting or refusing to disclose to the other party or to the court, on proper request, the existence, amount, or location of any tangible or intellectual property of the parties or either party, including electronically stored or recorded information;

(9) intentionally or knowingly damaging or destroying the tangible or intellectual property of the parties or either party, including electronically stored or recorded information;

(10) intentionally or knowingly tampering with the tangible or intellectual property of the parties or either party, including electronically stored or recorded information, and causing pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience to the other party;

(11) except as specifically authorized by the court:

(A) selling, transferring, assigning, mortgaging, encumbering, or in any other manner alienating any of the property of the parties or either party, regardless of whether the property is:

(i) personal property, real property, or intellectual property; or

(ii) separate or community property;

(B) incurring any debt, other than legal expenses in connection with the suit for dissolution of marriage;

(C) withdrawing money from any checking or savings account in a financial institution for any purpose;

(D) spending any money in either party’s possession or subject to either party’s control for any purpose;

(E) withdrawing or borrowing money in any manner for any purpose from a retirement, profit sharing, pension, death, or other employee benefit plan, employee savings plan, individual retirement account, or Keogh account of either party; or

(F) withdrawing or borrowing in any manner all or any part of the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy on the life of either party or a child of the parties;

(12) entering any safe deposit box in the name of or subject to the control of the parties or either party, whether individually or jointly with others;

(13) changing or in any manner altering the beneficiary designation on any life insurance policy on the life of either party or a child of the parties;

(14) canceling, altering, failing to renew or pay premiums on, or in any manner affecting the level of coverage that existed at the time the suit was filed of, any life, casualty, automobile, or health insurance policy insuring the parties’ property or persons, including a child of the parties;

(15) opening or diverting mail or e-mail or any other electronic communication addressed to the other party;

(16) signing or endorsing the other party’s name on any negotiable instrument, check, or draft, including a tax refund, insurance payment, and dividend, or attempting to negotiate any negotiable instrument payable to the other party without the personal signature of the other party;

(17) taking any action to terminate or limit credit or charge credit cards in the name of the other party;

(18) discontinuing or reducing the withholding for federal income taxes from either party’s wages or salary;

(19) destroying, disposing of, or altering any financial records of the parties, including a canceled check, deposit slip, and other records from a financial institution, a record of credit purchases or cash advances, a tax return, and a financial statement;

(20) destroying, disposing of, or altering any e-mail, text message, video message, or chat message or other electronic data or electronically stored information relevant to the subject matter of the suit for dissolution of marriage, regardless of whether the information is stored on a hard drive, in a removable storage device, in cloud storage, or in another electronic storage medium;

(21) modifying, changing, or altering the native format or metadata of any electronic data or electronically stored information relevant to the subject matter of the suit for dissolution of marriage, regardless of whether the information is stored on a hard drive, in a removable storage device, in cloud storage, or in another electronic storage medium;

(22) deleting any data or content from any social network profile used or created by either party or a child of the parties;

(23) using any password or personal identification number to gain access to the other party’s e-mail account, bank account, social media account, or any other electronic account;

(24) terminating or in any manner affecting the service of water, electricity, gas, telephone, cable television, or any other contractual service, including security, pest control, landscaping, or yard maintenance at the residence of either party, or in any manner attempting to withdraw any deposit paid in connection with any of those services;

(25) excluding the other party from the use and enjoyment of a specifically identified residence of the other party; or

(26) entering, operating, or exercising control over a motor vehicle in the possession of the other party.

See enrolled version of the bill here.

top-10THANK YOU TO KEVIN O’KEEFE AT LEXBLOG FOR AWARDING THIS BLOG POST A LXBN NETWORK TOP 10 BLOG POST OF THE DAY FOR OCTOBER 20, 2015.

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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.