hotel california
Texas is the Hotel California of same sex marriage.

The Eagles sang about the Hotel California in their 1977 song: “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!”. The current state of same sex marriage in Texas is similar. Couples can go to other states and get married, but if they live in Texas, dissolving the marriage is impossible.

Currently, 36 states plus the District of Columbia, and certain counties in Missouri allow same sex couples the freedom to marry. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released in March 2015 found that 59% of Americans favored same sex marriages and only 30% opposed them. Never the less, Texas denies same sex couples not only the right to marry, but also the ability to get a divorce from a marriage legally entered into in a sister state.

As author Joan Jenkins said in her article Texas Conundrum: Married With No Way Out (Texas Lawyer, April 20, 2015), this creates a conundrum. Without the ability to divorce, same sex married couples living in Texas cannot equitably divide their jointly owned property the way that heterosexual married couples can. They cannot address jointly created debts in the same way. And, there is no option for alimony between same sex couples, as when a heterosexual married couple might need it.

Similarly, LGBT couples who are married from another state cannot inherit property through Texas inheritance laws as a married couple, cannot make decisions for their spouse, and do not have the same parenting presumptions as heterosexual couples.

So, at least for the time being, LGBT couples who get married in other states face the “Hotel California” situation where they can physically check out of the marriage by separating but they can never leave with a divorce. Maybe this summer the Supreme Court will change this and force Texas to recognize the same sex marriages and also give LGBT couples the ability to get a divorce.

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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.