If you are someone who has remained in a bad or failing marriage due to concerns over your finances after the divorce, then I want you to pay close attention to today’s blog post. One of the many concerns that are reasonable for you to have at this time of your life relates to post-divorce finances and how you are going to make ends meet during this time. You may have been told horror stories regarding Texas family courts and their unwillingness to award spousal maintenance in a divorce case. Are you going to be left out in the cold, literally and figuratively, after your divorce case?
This is one of the more frustrating aspects have divorce cases. When you are just starting to learn about divorce then you are in a position where the perspective and information provided by someone who has been through a divorce can seem to be extremely attractive. However, the information that you hear from other people needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For one, divorce is such a fact-specific situation that it is almost impossible to try to take another person’s circumstances and directly apply them to your situation. Every family is different, and every divorce is different, too.
On top of that, you need to consider that many people who have gone through divorces have had such unpleasant experiences that their perspective cannot exactly be trusted. I don’t tell you this so that you discount everything a friend or a family member has to say about divorce who had a bad experience. Nobody who goes through a divorce has a pleasant experience. However, when a person had an especially negative experience regarding a divorce then you need to be cautious about assuming that your experience will be the same or even similar.
Rather, your best bet is to do exactly what you’re doing right now. Trying to gather information about a subject you don’t know much about is a wise thing to do. Furthermore, in stressful circumstances, facts are your friends. Resources like our blogs are a great place to begin to discover fact-based material regarding divorces. While I don’t know your exact circumstances, I am giving you a perspective based on our office has served many people in divorce situations. Therefore, while the information provided in this blog post is not specifically tailored to your circumstances it is more likely to be helpful than even a friend’s slanted and biased position on divorce.
Moreover, if you throw into the equation a controversial and tricky subject like alimony and spousal maintenance then you have a potentially combustible situation. As we are about to see, the laws in Texas regarding special agents have changed a considerable amount over the past few decades. As a result, the well-meaning advice he received from a family member or friend may no longer be accurate based on the changes that our Texas family code has undergone regarding this subject.
With all of that said, if perspective on alimony and spousal maintenance is what you seek then you have come to the right place. Today’s blog post is going to focus exclusively on the topic of spousal maintenance, alimony, and details about these subjects. If you have any questions about the subject matter, we cover in today’s blog post then I would recommend you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. We can set up a free-of-charge consultation with you and one of our experienced family law attorneys so that we can walk you through any fact patterns you would like regarding divorce and alimony based on your specific circumstances and issues.
What are the dollars involved with alimony in Texas?
Getting down to the brass tacks of this subject, we can quickly discover that the maximum amount of spousal maintenance that a family court judge can order under the law in Texas is $5000 per month or 20% if your spouse is average monthly gross income whichever number is less. This means that even in divorce cases where your spouse earns a great deal of money that is the most that you can expect to receive. For those of you wondering about being able to maintain a certain lifestyle after your divorce, this should put those kinds of thoughts to rest rather quickly.
There is an additional piece of information that you need to be aware of, as well. It isn’t just any married person who is eligible to receive spousal maintenance or alimony. Rather, in most situations, you and your spouse must have been married for at least ten years before your divorce for you to be eligible to receive spousal maintenance payments at all. This is not a guarantee or to say that if you have been married for 10 years that you are certainly going to receive spousal maintenance. Rather, it is a minimum and basic requirement to receive consideration for spousal maintenance.
Additionally, if you have been a victim of family violence within the past two years then you also may be eligible to receive spousal maintenance. While we certainly hope that this does not relate to you and your circumstances it should give you some hope that spousal maintenance could be a part of your divorce. Certainly, nobody would want you to remain in a marriage where domestic violence is ongoing only because you are concerned about your ability to survive financially after a divorce. Your ability to Receive spousal maintenance even when you have not been married for 10 years does not completely prohibit your ability to receive spousal maintenance.
Is it possible to receive more than $5000 per month in spousal support after a divorce?
After reading the information we just listed for you about special maintenance I realize that some of you may be scratching your heads. Undoubtedly, there are at least a few of you out there who may be wondering about that spousal maintenance limit. For instance, some of you may have friends or even family members who receive more than $5000 per month in spousal support. How could there be a limit like this, you may be asking yourself, if you know someone close to you who is receiving more than that? How did your friend or family member manage to game the system in this way?
The truth is that your friend in family members did not gain the system at all. Rather, it is likely that your friend or a family member has negotiated for contractual alimony during the negotiation phases of your divorce. Typically, contractual alimony is negotiated for during informal settlement negotiations and then put into writing during mediation. A mediated settlement agreement is the document that comes about because of attending mediation. If you and your spouse can settle on any subject matter related to your divorce, then a mediator will insert that language into a mediated settlement agreement. This agreement will be used by the attorneys to draft a final decree of divorce. That final decree of divorce will provide you and your spouse with your orders to be followed in your post-divorce lives. Spousal maintenance and contractual alimony are frequently a part of these orders.
Where spousal maintenance and contractual alimony differ is regarding the size of the payments that can be made from your spouse to you. Specifically, there is no legal limit within the world of contractual alimony as far as how much money you can be paid each month or how much money a spouse can be ordered to pay to you. In most situations where you read about celebrity alimony payments being huge numbers, this is what you are likely hearing about. Even family court judges, are still bound by the law and likely would not order some of the more extreme figures in spousal maintenance. Rather, it is more likely that this celebrity in their spouse negotiated a contractual alimony payment or something similar based on the family laws in their state.
An additional factor to consider when it comes to contractual alimony is that you may also be able to negotiate for contractual alimony to last far longer than a typical spousal maintenance payment. This may put you at ease as a spouse going through a divorce who has young children, for example. If you plan to return to the workforce but have no formal education, then you may need some time to attend school on your schedule based on your need to care for your children during the day. If it is going to take you some years to adjust to living on your own and relying upon your income, then contractual alimony may provide you with the financial flexibility and security that gives you the confidence that you need to move forward after a divorce.
In a typical spousal maintenance order, the duration and frequency of payments tend to be static. This means that you would expect to receive the same amount of special maintenance every month for a set period. The difference in contractual alimony payments can be significant. Many times, people in your position will work with their spouse to negotiate for varying amounts of spousal maintenance based on specific circumstances in their case, times of the year, and the changing needs of you or your family.
Let’s consider a situation where the amount changes after the first year of your divorce and maybe decreased every year after your divorce until you reach five years post-divorce. This would allow you to receive some degree of financial support for an extended period after your divorce but would not lock your spouse into paying the same amount of money to you over a long period. Ostensibly, this would be since you would have earned whatever kind of degree or certifications that you weren’t expecting to while the divorce was ongoing and have less of a need for spousal maintenance or contractual alimony as a source of income. This is the type of flexibility that you would not be able to take advantage of when it comes to spousal maintenance.
However, the flexibility of contractual alimony when compared to spousal maintenance does not come without some drawbacks. Just as we have discussed, contractual alimony allows you and your spouse to negotiate directly with one another and create a more personalized experience for both of you. You are not bound by the Texas family code or the judgment of a family court judge. If the expectations are clear, and your agreement does not violate Texas public policy then you are likely in a strong position to negotiate for whatever you would like regarding spousal maintenance and contractual alimony. However, the tricky part comes into play regarding attempting to modify contractual alimony in the future.
this can be a major concern down the line in your divorce. Years after your divorce is over with you may find that your need to receive contractual alimony has grown rather than gotten smaller. It could be that the degree you thought would be the key to greater earning potential did not pan out as you expected. Or it could be that other situations have come into play that has created a greater need for income in your life. Whatever the case may be understand that you cannot attempt to go back and have the amount of contractual alimony you had agreed to increase. Rather, you are likely bound by the terms of contractual alimony that you had set forth with your spouse in the divorce.
One of the reasons why this is the case is that contractual alimony is treated as being a contract between you and your spouse. Therefore, principles of contract law typically are what factor into issues regarding enforcement and modification of contractual alimony. The family courts do not have a direct mechanism to support the modification of contractual alimony. As a result, you need to be very certain that the amount of contractual alimony that you negotiate suits you well now and in the future.
What about spousal maintenance? How long can you receive spousal maintenance after a Texas divorce?
A family court judge will determine how long you can expect to receive special maintenance following your Texas divorce. The family judge will have a great deal of discretion when determining the length of time that you were able to receive spousal maintenance. Bear in mind, however, that there are limits to their authority when it comes to awarding spousal maintenance. Seven years is the length of time you could receive spousal maintenance if you were married between 20 and 30 years. Next, you can receive up to 10 years of special maintenance if married for 30 years or more. Finally, for those people married between 10 and 20 years before the divorce you can receive five years of spousal maintenance.
This should give you some perspective as to how you can start to plan for your divorce right now. there is no sense in assuming that you will have no chance of receiving spousal maintenance in a divorce. There is also no sense in assuming that you will be able to receive an unlimited amount of spousal maintenance in your divorce. Now you know the basics of duration, amount, and circumstances surrounding special maintenance. What you do with that information it’s completely up to you. I would recommend that you consider what special maintenance does if anything to change the way you think about divorce. If you have been hesitant to get a divorce because of concerns over supporting yourself after a divorce then hopefully this information can provide you with some peace of mind.
I also think that most people who are considering divorce in Texas may be unaware of how contractual alimony fits within this conversation. The flexibility of contractual alimony, when compared to spousal maintenance, can be a game-changer for many families. This is especially true if you find yourself in a position where you have not been married for at least ten years but still have a demonstrated need to receive some degree of post-divorce spousal maintenance or support.
Spousal maintenance is based on need. If you can show a need to receive spousal maintenance, that you are unable to meet your minimal basic needs without it, then you will have an opportunity to receive it. Additionally, if you can negotiate with your spouse then you can receive contractual alimony instead of spousal maintenance. Facts are your friends. Options are your friends. I hope today’s blog post provided you with information about both of these things.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way to learn not only about the world of family law but also about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas 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 important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston 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 Houston, Texas, Cypress, 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.