Texas Spousal Support Lawyers
Spousal Support in Texas
In Texas, spousal support can be divided into three categories: temporary spousal support, spousal maintenance, and alimony. There are strategic reasons for using each one of these. Temporary spousal support is available while the divorce is pending. Spousal maintenance is spousal support that is awarded post-divorce—there are strict legal criteria for who is eligible to receive spousal maintenance in Texas. If a spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance, it can be enforced through income withholding and jail time if the other spouse refuses or fails to pay it. Alimony is a contractual agreement between the spouses that is not mandated by law and cannot be enforced through income withholding or jail time. Alimony can serve a valuable purpose, but can also be difficult to enforce if the monied spouse refuses to pay.
Temporary Spousal Support in Texas
In Texas, each spouse has a legal duty to support the other spouse (spousal support). To this end, the Court may make temporary orders requiring the support to be paid to the other spouse during the pendency of a divorce. The person seeking temporary spousal support in Texas must not object to the existence of a valid marriage. Temporary spousal support in Texas is based on the applicant’s needs and is intended to provide for the spouse’s necessary expenses until the final decree. The amount of temporary spousal support in Texas is based on (1) the degree to which the applicant is unable to pay for his/her necessities during the pendency of the suit, and (2) the ability of the other spouse to pay. In re Fuentes.
Evidence of each spouses’ salaries and other sources of income, assets, and prior obligations, as well as factors affecting earning ability, such as health, age, and education, are all factors to be considered in determining whether temporary spousal support will be granted. Temporary spousal support expires upon the entry of a final decree. Temporary spousal support paid during the pendency of the divorce and a spouse’s failure to make temporary spousal support payments as ordered may be considered by the Court in the final just and right division of property between the spouses.
A spouse may qualify for temporary spousal support in Texas but not spousal maintenance because the factors to qualify for each are different. Strategically, it is important to be aware of the possibility that a spouse may attempt to prolong the divorce process to maintain favorable support payments that they will not otherwise be entitled to after the divorce. When this is the case, excessive spousal support payments may result as be counted as property awarded to the guilty litigant when the court makes the final property division. Hudson v. Hudson.
Spousal Maintenance in Texas
In Texas, spousal maintenance is not the same thing as temporary spousal support. As explained above, temporary spousal support in Texas is to provide for the necessary expenses of a spouse during the pendency of the divorce. Spousal maintenance is a monetary award to one spouse after the divorce is granted for periodic payments for the support of that spouse from the future income of the other spouse.
Eligibility for Spousal Maintenance in Texas
Eligibility for spousal maintenance in Texas is much more narrowly tailored than it is for temporary spousal support. A court may order a spouse to pay spousal maintenance if the other spouse will lack sufficient property, including the spouse’s separate property, upon divorce to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs AND one of the following applies:
Family Violence. A spouse from whom maintenance is requested was convicted or received deferred adjudication for a family violence crime committed during the marriage against the other spouse or other spouse’s child and the offense occurred (a) within 2 years before the divorce suit was filed, or (b) while the divorce was pending, or
The spouse seeking maintenance either:
- Need-Based. Married at least 10 years and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs;
- Spousal Disability. Unable to earn income sufficient to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability; or
- Child Disability. Is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning an income sufficient to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs. Texas Family Code §8.051
Eligibility for spousal maintenance is determined at the time of divorce and not whether he/she will be able to provide for his/her “minimum reasonable needs” at some point in the future with additional training or education. One court found that a spouse seeking spousal maintenance who had been out of the workforce since 1974 and had taken one computer course and signed up for another lacked the ability to earn sufficient income. See Slicker v. Slicker. Another court found that a spouse seeking maintenance who obtained real estate license but needed about one year to get her real estate business “rolling” lacked ability to earn sufficient income” See Deltuva v. Deltuva.
Why Soyars & Morgan Law?
- Direct access to your legal team. Our Texas spousal support lawyers work hard to provide each client with prompt responses. You will have direct access to your team of spousal support lawyers so that you are able to get the answers that you need, when you need them.
- Transparency. Honesty and transparency are critical in building trust with your attorney. You will always know what is going on with your case every step of the way.
- Personalized approach. Our team understands that no two cases are the same. Your strategy will be tailored specifically to you and your family’s goals. Soyars & Morgan Law sees your case through from start to finish.
When you retain the services of Soyars & Morgan Law, you can be assured that your Texas spousal support lawyers are fully qualified to take on your case. Let our Texas spousal support lawyers work with you to address your legal concerns.
Meet Our Texas Spousal Support Lawyers
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Spousal Support and Spousal Maintenance in Texas FAQs
How much Spousal Maintenance can you get?
The amount that a court can order a spouse to pay in spousal maintenance has been capped statutorily under Texas Family Code §8.055. After September 1, 2011, a court may not order maintenance that requires the obligor to pay monthly more than the lesser of: (a) $5,000 or (b) 20 percent of the spouse’s average monthly income. Courts frequently consider the requesting spouses’ monthly expenses, income, and any shortfall in determining how much to award in spousal maintenance, however, a court is not required to entirely eliminate a shortfall.
How long can you get Spousal Maintenance?
The maximum duration for spousal maintenance in Texas depends on the length of the marriage, UNLESS the spouse seeking maintenance is disabled or cannot work because he/she is caring for a disabled child. Texas Family Code §8.054
Maximum Duration for Spousal Maintenance
When a spouse or child is disabled, the “shortest reasonable period” requirement does not apply and the court may order maintenance for as long as the spouse continues to satisfy the eligibility criteria. In this instance, it is important that an attorney take special care in drafting the final decree because the decree language will determine whether the obligee may seek continued maintenance under the disability based criteria or have capped durations under the family violence and need-based criteria.
Can Spousal Maintenance be terminated?
Yes, an obligation to pay spousal maintenance terminates upon either parties’ death or when the obligee remarries. If the court finds that a oblige cohabits with another person with whom the obligee has a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing bases, the court must terminate the maintenance obligation. Texas Family Code §8.506.
Can Spousal Maintenance be modified?
Yes, spousal maintenance orders can be modified by filing a motion to modify with the court that rendered the order. The party seeking modification must show a material and substantial change of circumstances of either party under the factors set out in Texas Family Code §8.506.
How do I show material and substantial change in circumstance to modify Spousal Maintenance?
Can Spousal Maintenance be enforced?
Yes, if the spousal maintenance orders comply with Texas Family Code Chapter 8 requirements can be accomplished through contempt (jail) proceedings, money judgments, and income withholding. Spousal maintenance orders that comply with Texas Family Code Chapter 8 are better than contractual alimony orders that are not enforceable by contempt (jail) proceedings or income withholding.
Alimony in Texas
Alimony is a contractual agreement to pay spousal support, not a court-ordered obligation. In this regard, alimony is far less desirable than spousal maintenance in terms of enforcement—because the law makes it is easier to collect on spousal maintenance than it does on alimony. If an ex-spouse fails to pay spousal maintenance, the ex-spouse can be held in contempt of court and face jail time and fines. If an ex-spouse fails to pay alimony, it is considered a breach of contract claim. This is significant because the injured party is only able to collect a money judgement against the offending party. If the offending party does not have sufficient assets upon which the injured party can enforce the judgement, there is no effective way to compensate the injured party. The law does not allow the failure to pay alimony to be enforced through contempt of court or jail time (like it does spousal maintenance).
On the other hand, if a party has sufficient assets that can be seized to satisfy a money judgment, alimony can be an effective tool to achieving resolution in a divorce where the asset division, earning potential or other issues make it difficult for the parties to effectuate a just and right division of the marital estate. We often see alimony as a viable option when the parties have large assets (like real estate) that are not easy to liquidate but there is a steady stream of income (with no large amounts of cash on hand).
When a court order incorporates an agreement to pay spousal maintenance or spousal support but does not meet the legal criteria for spousal maintenance criteria, the agreement creates a debt that is enforceable as a contract but it DOES NOT CREATE A COURT-ORDERED OBLIGATION that is enforceable by contempt or income.
Before setting up an agreement for Alimony, be sure and contact a knowledgeable divorce lawyer that can structure the deal to protect your interests and advise you on the various ways to avoid complications down the road.