In the first part of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC's series of blog posts on Spousal Maintenance in Texas divorces, we discussed court-ordered spousal maintenance and the situations that warrant it being awarded. I highly recommend that you go back and read that post in case you have not yet done so. There are many misconceptions and half-truths surrounding spousal support in Texas. Honestly, reviewing this information can be incredibly helpful to know where you stand before a divorce.
Today's blog post has to do with Contractual spousal maintenance and will be the final post in our series on this subject. As opposed to court-ordered spousal maintenance, contractual spousal maintenance is voluntary and has its own finer points that ought to be parsed out in detail.
Contractual Spousal Maintenance essentials for the divorcing spouse
As I stated a moment ago, the critical difference between contractual spousal maintenance and court-ordered spousal maintenance is that contractual spousal maintenance is voluntary rather than involuntary. This means that you and your spouse would have to agree for one of you to pay support and the other to receive the support for a designated period. This sort of agreement can often come about during mediation or an informal settlement discussion between your attorney and your spouse.
Nothing in the Texas Family Code or another source of statutory law in Texas requires contractual spousal maintenance to run for a certain length of time or to be for a specific dollar amount.
In yesterday's blog post, we saw that court-ordered spousal maintenance has limits in dollars and duration. Contractual spousal maintenance does not work like that.
A steady income is essential for previously non-working spouses.
Just because you intend to receive spousal maintenance for some time after your divorce does not mean that you do not wish to return to work or plan on "easing" your way back into the workforce. On the contrary, contractual spousal support can help you pay for the costs of supplemental training or school expenses if you need the training to land a job.
Likewise, if it is your agreed-on plan that you would remain in the family home and take on the mortgage indebtedness, a stream of income would most likely be necessary for you to qualify for a refinance of the mortgage. Contractual spousal maintenance can provide a lender with consistent income that may assist you in this regard for refinancing purposes.
Information on the enforcement of contractual spousal maintenance
While most any family law attorney will tell you that it is advisable to settle your divorce case out of court, there are downsides in the area of your ability to enforce an agreement on spousal maintenance potentially.
Suppose you need to go back to court to have a judge hold your spouse to their responsibility under an order to pay you maintenance. In that case, the judge may only do so to the extent that they would be able to have your spousal maintenance been bound by the parameters outlined in the Texas Family Code in terms of duration and dollars.
Let me clarify that last paragraph using an example from a past client of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. A woman hired us after her ex-husband had told her ahead of time that he was going through rough financial times and would no longer be able to pay her the $2000 a month in spousal support that had been included in their Final Decree of Divorce.
The spousal maintenance was to be paid until our former client passed away. The duration of this award was beyond what the Texas Family Code allowed, as trophies of longer than ten years are only allowable if the spouse/herself is disabled or a child is who requires the care of the spouse who receives the support.
Our client was unhappy to learn that a judge could not enforce the portion of the order that dealt with the payments until her death. Eventually, we settled with her ex-husband in mediation on a lump sum figure for the support to be paid.
If there are no durational requirements, how can contractual spousal maintenance be terminated?
The responsibility to pay contractual spousal maintenance comes to an end upon the death of either spouse or the remarriage or cohabitation with a romantic partner by the spouse who receives the spousal maintenance.
Negotiate spousal maintenance after everything else
In many cases, if you and your spouse's community estate is substantial, you can walk away from your divorce with liquid assets that would remove the need for you to collect spousal maintenance as well. Combine this with the possibility of receiving child support, and your concerns over providing for your well-being may be overblown to a certain extent.
With that said, if you do need to negotiate on spousal maintenance, please do so after all of the other financial matters have been sorted out. I can recall a prior case of mine from Montgomery County where an opposing party severely "over-asked" in the area of spousal maintenance during mediation. Once we arrived at the temporary orders hearing, our client laid out the family expenditures and income very well.
With little "wiggle room" in the numbers, the opposing party appeared greedy or, at the very least unrealistic and lost credibility with the judge, in my opinion. That is a wrong impression to make on a court and can be avoided with proper study of your family's financial "numbers."
Representing Southeast Texas families with pride: The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
Thank you for joining us for our discussion of spousal maintenance in Texas. To learn more about the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC doesn't hesitate to get in touch with us today to schedule a free-of-charge consultation. Our office represents clients across southeast Texas, and we would be honored to do the same for you and your family.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Spousal Maintenance: What it is and what that can mean to your Texas divorce
- Modification of Spousal Maintenance in Texas
- Spousal Maintenance in a Texas Divorce: Truths and Untruths
- Spousal Maintenance for a Disabled Spouse in Texas
- Spousal Maintenance in Texas: Maximum payable amounts and length of commitments to pay
- Spousal Maintenance in a Texas Divorce: Should I be worried?
- Spousal Maintenance in a Texas Divorce: Court Ordered Maintenance
- Know-How to Determine Whether Alimony will be Owed and for How Long, When Preparing for Your Texas Divorce
- 3 Important Facts about Texas Alimony and Spousal Support
- Alimony or Spousal Support and a Disabled Spouse in Harris and Montgomery Counties in Texas
- Spousal Support, Spousal Maintenance, and Alimony in Spring and Houston, Texas, and when is it available? Spousal Support Availability in a Texas Divorce
- Military Support Without a Court Order During a Divorce in Texas
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Spring, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.