Can spousal maintenance be ordered after a divorce has been finalized?

Divorce is like a roller coaster ride, isn’t it? The twists, turns, and loop-de-loops can leave your head spinning. But just when you thought the ride was over and the divorce was finalized, life throws you a curveball. Picture this: You’re sipping a cup of coffee, finally breathing a sigh of relief, when out of nowhere, bam! The unexpected strikes, and suddenly you’re unable to work or provide for your basic needs. Talk about a plot twist!

Now, you may be wondering, can spousal maintenance swoop in to save the day even after your divorce is a done deal? Well, my friend, the short answer is no. But don’t click that exit button just yet! There’s so much more to this intriguing tale. So buckle up and keep reading because we’re about to unravel the captivating world of spousal maintenance and its surprising twists and turns.

Reasons to keep reading:

  1. The Factors Behind Spousal Maintenance: We’ll dive deep into the factors that courts consider when deciding whether to award spousal maintenance. Length of the marriage, earning capacity, age, health, and the standard of living during the marriage—all these puzzle pieces will come together to reveal the bigger picture.
  2. The Duration Dilemma: How long can spousal maintenance be awarded for? Is it a never-ending story or just a temporary lifeline? We’ll uncover the secrets behind the duration of spousal maintenance and how it can affect your journey towards self-sufficiency.
  3. Unlocking the Modification Mystery: Can you modify a finalized divorce decree to adjust spousal maintenance? We’ll explore the circumstances under which the court might grant you a second chance. From significant financial changes to unforeseen obstacles, we’ll shine a light on the possibility of rewriting your maintenance story.
  4. The Unexpected Endings: Just like any great story, spousal maintenance has its surprising plot twists. Discover the events or conditions that can lead to the termination of spousal maintenance. Remarriage, financial independence, and other surprising developments might turn your tale upside down.
  5. The Taxing Truth: Hold onto your hats because we’re delving into the tax implications of spousal maintenance. Is it a taxable burden or a deduction delight? Find out how the taxman sneaks into the picture and impacts both the payer and recipient of spousal maintenance.
  6. Beyond Spousal Maintenance: Don’t worry if spousal maintenance isn’t the right fit for your situation. We’ll explore alternative paths to financial support after divorce, from mediation to negotiation. There’s more than one way to write your post-divorce financial chapter.
  7. Jurisdiction Jamboree: Laws, laws, and more laws! We’ll shed light on how jurisdiction-specific laws influence the world of spousal maintenance. Remember, what flies in one state might flop in another, so buckle up for a jurisdiction-specific adventure.

Get Ready

So, my fellow adventurers, you’ve come to the right place if you’ve ever wondered about the enigmatic world of spousal maintenance after a finalized divorce. Get ready to embark on a journey that will answer your burning questions, surprise you with unexpected twists, and equip you with the knowledge to navigate the thrilling ride of post-divorce financial support. Let’s dive into the wild and wonderful realm of spousal maintenance!

The Surprising Truth About Spousal Maintenance After a Divorce

Here’s a question posed to me recently in consultation with a potential client of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC: can spousal maintenance be awarded to a person after their divorce has already been completed? This person that met with me had suffered a stroke two months after her divorce had completed and now was unable to work or provide for her basic needs. She came in to see whether or not she could file a modification of her divorce decree to take her new disability into account. After all the divorce had not been over, she wondered for a couple of months, was this possible?

Unfortunately for this person, the loss of a job or the development of a disability like she had to go through are not reasons enough for a spousal maintenance order to be inserted into the other obligations in the final divorce decree. There is no way that anyone (for any reason) may re-open the divorce to get a spousal maintenance provision included in the divorce decree. This is intended to protect spouses and not attempt to re-litigate a divorce after its conclusion- even if the decision was only a few months ago.

How to enforce the terms of a spousal maintenance order

An enforcement case is a quasi-criminal case that bears the potential for jail time due to failure to abide by the terms of a family law order. In the case of a spousal maintenance award, a court may enforce the order for spousal maintenance whether it was rendered by a judge or agreed to by the parties in mediation.

Whether alimony payments and an order mandating alimony from one spouse to another are enforceable by contempt (jail time). Alimony is a contractual debt paid from one spouse to another instead of spousal maintenance, which is more akin to child support as a form of income. A person who owes another person a debt cannot be jailed for failing to make timely payments, and as such most courts, I imagine, would not allow you to utilize contempt of court as a mechanism to spur settlement.

Please note that prior Texas cases where your ability to enforce a maintenance order by contempt is not absolute. In Texas, the courts’ overarching (general) practice is to allow for contempt as a punishment for the failure to abide by a court’s order regarding spousal maintenance. To ensure that you are in a position to do so, I would recommend that your order be drafted very meticulously. This means the language utilized to cover spousal maintenance should be specific with precise terminology that can tell the judge in plain language what the expectations are for the party obligated to pay the maintenance.

Potential defenses in an enforcement case involving the failure to pay spousal maintenance

If you are in a position where you need to defend yourself against a spousal maintenance-related enforcement case, you do some defenses that you can present to a court. For instance, you should offer the court this defense if you could not pay the spousal maintenance as ordered. Did you lose a job and been unable to find replacement work? Did you become disabled (even temporarily) and therefore find yourself unable to work? If so, then you should be sure to specify this for the court.

Short of having cash on hand, a court would look to the resources that you have available to you to pay your spousal maintenance obligation. If you lack property that could be sold to develop the funds to pay the spousal maintenance as ordered, you can present this type of defense in an enforcement case.

The final two defenses commonly utilized in a spousal maintenance enforcement case are either being unable to locate a person from whom you can borrow money to pay spousal maintenance, or you could not borrow money from a source you had previously identified. Suppose a court is willing to say that you should borrow money to pay the maintenance. In that case, you can see that you must exhaust every resource available- including taking out loans and selling property- to meet the obligation.

Can your wages be withheld from your spousal maintenance obligation?

Much like when it comes to child support, a wage withholding order can be filed with the court and sent to your employer to take out a specific amount from your paycheck regularly to pay spousal maintenance. This is especially the case if you have fallen behind in your payments before, and it is shown to a court that filing a wage withholding order is necessary to meet your obligation.

Temporary Spousal Support while your divorce is ongoing

You can ask a court to have spousal support be paid to you temporarily during the pendency of your divorce. A court can also order this on its own even if you have not done so yourself. This is a lifeline of sorts that will protect you and your ability to live a basic lifestyle while your divorce is in progress. Remember that this is no guarantee of future payments after the divorce. This frequently occurs in divorces where one spouse controls the finances and earns the community income. In contrast, the other does not make any income and has no control over the family finances.

If you believe that you will require temporary spousal support, you should request it in your petition for divorce or in the answer filed in response to the petition for divorce. The key here is that a detailed and accurate financial statement will need to be presented to the judge before any hearing on this subject in order so that you can capture the present state of your finances.

A court will determine your specific need for temporary support and will make an award as such. Both your needs and the ability of your spouse to pay the license will be considered. Spousal support is not intended to help you live the same lifestyle as your spouse during the divorce but instead to help you exist until a later date when you can work and earn a sufficient income to provide for yourself. Finding a job is a great idea even if you just won a temporary spousal support award.

Factors Considered in Awarding Spousal Maintenance

When it comes to the complex world of divorce, one question often arises: Can spousal maintenance be ordered after a divorce has been finalized? The answer to this question may not be as straightforward as one might think. This article will explore the various aspects of spousal maintenance, shedding light on important factors that courts typically consider when determining whether to award such support.

In a finalized divorce, where all the legal proceedings have ended, a person might find themselves in a situation where they face unexpected challenges that make it difficult to meet their basic needs. Take the example of someone who suffered a stroke merely two months after their divorce was completed. Suddenly, they are unable to work and provide for themselves. Naturally, they might wonder if it is possible to file a modification of their divorce decree to take their new disability into account.

However, unfortunately for this individual, the loss of a job or the development of a disability alone are insufficient grounds for a court to insert a spousal maintenance order into the final divorce decree. Finalizing a divorce is to provide closure and ensure that both parties can move forward with their lives. Reopening a divorce to obtain a spousal maintenance provision is not typically allowed, regardless of the circumstances or the time elapsed since the divorce was finalized.



Length of the Marriage

The duration of the marriage is taken into account.

Earning Capacity

The earning capacity of each spouse is evaluated.

Age and Health

The age and health of both parties are considered.

Standard of Living

The standard of living during the marriage is assessed.

Duration of Spousal Maintenance

Another crucial aspect of spousal maintenance that the previous article fails to address is the duration for which it may be awarded. Spousal maintenance is often granted for a specific period, allowing the recipient spouse time to regain financial independence and self-support. The duration of spousal maintenance can be influenced by factors such as the length of the marriage and the recipient’s ability to secure a sustainable income.

Courts carefully evaluate each case’s circumstances to determine an appropriate duration for spousal maintenance. For instance, in long-term marriages where one spouse has been out of the workforce for an extended period, the court may award spousal maintenance for longer. On the other hand, spousal maintenance might be awarded for a shorter period in shorter marriages where the recipient spouse has marketable skills and the ability to secure employment.

Modification of Spousal Maintenance

While the previous article briefly touched upon modifying a divorce decree to account for new disabilities, it failed to explain the circumstances under which spousal maintenance can be modified. It is essential to understand that spousal maintenance orders are not set in stone and can be subject to modification under certain circumstances.

A significant change in financial circumstances or the inability to become self-supporting can potentially warrant a modification of spousal maintenance. If a recipient spouse experiences a substantial decrease in income or faces unexpected expenses that hinder their ability to support themselves, they may seek a modification of the spousal maintenance order.

The court will carefully evaluate the evidence and circumstances presented by both parties to determine if a modification is justified. It is crucial to consult with a legal professional to navigate the complexities of modifying a spousal maintenance order.

Termination of Spousal Maintenance

The article in question fails to discuss the circumstances under which spousal maintenance can be terminated. In many cases, spousal maintenance is not intended to be a lifelong obligation. Some specific events or conditions can result in the termination of spousal maintenance.

For example, if the recipient spouse remarries, it is generally understood that they now have a new source of support and, as a result, spousal maintenance may be terminated. Similarly, if the recipient spouse becomes financially self-sufficient, the court may decide that ongoing spousal maintenance is no longer necessary.

It is important to note that the termination of spousal maintenance requires a formal legal process. It is not simply a matter of one party deciding to stop making payments. To terminate spousal maintenance, either party must petition the court and provide evidence to support their request.

Tax Implications of Spousal Maintenance

One critical aspect overlooked by the previous article is the tax implications of spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance can have significant tax consequences for both the paying and receiving spouse. Understanding these implications is crucial to avoid potential pitfalls and ensure compliance with tax laws.

For the recipient spouse, it is important to determine whether spousal maintenance is considered taxable income. In some jurisdictions, spousal maintenance is treated as taxable income, requiring the recipient to report it on their tax return and potentially pay taxes on the received amount.

On the other hand, for the paying spouse, it is essential to understand whether spousal maintenance qualifies as a tax-deductible expense. Depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances, the paying spouse may be able to deduct spousal maintenance payments from their taxable income.

It is highly recommended to consult with a tax professional or a qualified attorney to navigate the complex tax implications of spousal maintenance accurately.

Different Types of Spousal Support

While the previous article primarily focused on spousal maintenance, it failed to mention other types of spousal support that may be available. In addition to spousal maintenance, there are alternative forms of support that courts may consider based on the specific circumstances and objectives of the case.

Rehabilitative support, for example, aims to provide temporary financial assistance to a spouse while they acquire new skills or education to become self-supporting. This type of support is often granted when a spouse needs time to enhance their earning capacity or secure suitable employment.

Another form of spousal support is reimbursement support. This type of support may be awarded when one spouse has made significant financial contributions to the other spouse’s education or career advancement during the marriage. The court may order reimbursement support to compensate for the financial sacrifices made by one spouse to support the other’s professional development.

It is important to note that the availability and applicability of these alternative forms of spousal support can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of each case.

Spousal Support Guidelines

The previous article failed to mention an important aspect of spousal support: the existence of guidelines or formulas in some jurisdictions to calculate the amount of support. These guidelines are similar to child support guidelines and aim to provide a consistent and predictable approach to determining spousal support.

Spousal support guidelines take various factors into account, including the income of each spouse, their respective expenses, and the duration of the marriage. By considering these factors, the guidelines help establish a fair and reasonable amount of spousal support that reflects the financial realities of both parties.

It is essential to understand that spousal support guidelines are not universally applicable. Each jurisdiction may have its own set of guidelines or formulas, or they may not have any guidelines at all. It is crucial to consult with a legal professional familiar with the laws of your specific jurisdiction to determine if spousal support guidelines apply in your case.

Interplay with Child Support

Another important aspect omitted by the previous article is the interplay between spousal maintenance and child support obligations. In many cases, the amount of spousal maintenance awarded may be influenced by the amount of child support being paid or received.

Courts strive to ensure fairness and equity when it comes to dividing financial responsibilities between spouses. If one spouse is already obligated to pay a significant amount of child support, the court may take that into consideration when determining the amount of spousal maintenance.

Understanding that child support obligations generally take priority over spousal maintenance is crucial. This means that child support payments must be satisfied first before spousal maintenance payments are made.

Alternatives to Spousal Maintenance

While spousal maintenance is often the focus of discussions regarding financial support after divorce, exploring alternative ways to address these needs is essential. Mediation, negotiation, or other dispute resolution methods can provide alternatives to spousal maintenance, allowing parties to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

For example, parties can consider entering into a voluntary settlement agreement that outlines the financial responsibilities of each party without the need for court intervention. This agreement can address financial support in a way that is tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of the individuals involved.

Exploring alternatives to spousal maintenance can provide greater flexibility and control over the outcome, allowing parties to craft a solution that best meets their circumstances.

Jurisdiction-Specific Laws

The previous article failed to specify whether the information provided was specific to a particular jurisdiction or if it applied generally. Understanding that laws regarding spousal maintenance can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another is crucial.

Each jurisdiction has its own statutes, regulations, and case law that govern spousal maintenance. These laws outline the factors to be considered, the duration of support, the circumstances under which modification or termination may occur, and other important aspects of spousal maintenance.

To ensure accurate and relevant information, it is crucial to consult with a legal professional who is familiar with the laws of the specific jurisdiction where your case is being heard. They can provide the necessary guidance and expertise to navigate the intricacies of spousal maintenance within that jurisdiction.

In conclusion, finalizing a divorce does not necessarily mean that the door is completely closed regarding spousal maintenance. Factors such as the length of the marriage, the ability to become self-supporting, and significant changes in financial circumstances can all play a role in determining whether spousal maintenance may be awarded, modified, or terminated. Understanding the tax implications, different types of support available, and jurisdiction-specific laws is crucial to navigate the complexities of spousal maintenance effectively. By seeking professional guidance and considering alternatives, individuals can find a resolution that best suits their needs and circumstances.


Well, dear readers, we’ve reached the end of our exhilarating ride through the captivating world of spousal maintenance after a finalized divorce. We’ve explored the factors, durations, modifications, terminations, taxes, alternatives, and even jurisdiction-specific twists. But before we bid adieu, let’s recap our thrilling adventure.

Short answer: Can spousal maintenance be ordered after a divorce? The answer is no, but the story doesn’t end there!

Imagine you’re on a roller coaster, the wind rushing through your hair, and your heart pounding excitedly. Divorce is like that roller coaster ride, full of unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes, life throws a curveball just when you thought the ride was over. But fear not! While spousal maintenance might not be the hero that swoops in after your divorce, there are still chapters to be written, solutions to be found, and financial stability to be achieved.

Exploring New Chapters

The secret factors courts consider have been revealed, the duration dilemma has been explored, and the mystery of modification has been unraveled. Surprising endings have been witnessed, and the taxing truth of taxes has been braved. Beyond spousal maintenance, we’ve ventured to discover alternative paths to financial support.

Remember, your journey doesn’t end here. If you find yourself on this post-divorce adventure, seek guidance from legal professionals who can help you navigate the twists and turns specific to your jurisdiction. Whether it’s a story of resilience, rediscovery, or rewriting your financial future, you can shape your post-divorce narrative.

So, my brave readers, as you step off this thrilling ride, armed with newfound knowledge and a sense of possibility, embrace the next chapter of your story. Keep your spirits high, your heart open, and remember that even after a finalized divorce, the tale of your financial well-being is far from over.

Here’s to resilience, empowerment, and the exciting journey ahead. Cheers to navigating the captivating world of spousal maintenance and crafting your own happily ever after. Bon voyage!


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