2018-2019 change represents the new year

The Texas Legislature convenes every two years, with 2019 being one of those. Each session, proposed new laws get introduced that will affect family law in Texas. It is expected that a bill will be introduced to remove no fault divorce and require proof of fault grounds for all Texas divorce and extend the waiting period to finalize a divorce (currently 60 days). Neither of these proposals are expected to gain much traction. Reform of the child protective services system will, however, be a hot topic for the legislative session given all of the litigation there has been criticizing how CPS handles matters ineffectively.

From 2018, most of the big changes in Texas family law came from the courts. The Texas Supreme Court clarified a conflict between the courts of appeals in various parts of the state on the right of a nonparent to intervene and ask for custody of a child. In re H.S. involved grandparents who sought standing to sue for custody due to the actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months. The Texas Supreme Court gave a broader definition of “control” than some of the intermediate courts had been using, making it easier for a nonparent (like grandparent, step-parent, etc) to sue for custody.

Another significant change in 2018, also from the Texas Supreme Court, reinforced the binding nature of a premarital agreement. In re Marriage of I.C. determined that a clause allowing for forfeiture of all rights under a premarital agreement if a spouse challenged the agreement was a valid and enforceable provision.

The Texas Supreme Court has two justices with family law backgrounds, unusual in the history of the Court. The effect is that the justices are more comfortable hearing family law matters and are accepting discretionary review more often in family law cases. We expect this trend to continue for 2019.

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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.