The Unique Aspects of Alimony (Spousal Maintenance) In Texas

Has anyone ever told you that Texas is like its own country? Anyone who went through middle school in Texas must have taken Texas history. In that class, among other places, you would have learned that Texas was once an independent nation. From 1836 through 1845, Texas was a Republic not part of Mexico or the United States. I don’t think it would shock anyone to learn that much of the independent nature that we Texans have has been shown to have come about because of our existence as an independent nation at one point in history.

Another area where we can see the impacts of Texas being its own country is in our laws. The laws in Texas have been shaped both by the English common law, which most of the United States has based its various laws on and On Spanish in Mexican civil law. We are left with an amalgamation of state codes and judicial opinions, which interpret these codes to mean that sometimes it can feel like Texas is doing its own thing regarding many different areas of society.

Notably, Texas family law is one of those areas where the laws of our state differ somewhat significantly from the laws of other states on a similar subject matter. Let’s take alimony as an example. Even if you do not know exactly what alimony is, you probably have a decent idea based on movies and television shows exposure. Alimony is how one spouse can receive payment from their other spouse after a divorce. Typically, this is done when one spouse cannot pay for the basics of their life due to financial hardship. This happens in situations where, for example, you have been out of the workforce for years after caring for your children and your home.

It can be quite a shock to your system to need to reenter the workforce after an extended period of not working. However, when we talk about needing to earn an income and reenter the economy, that does not mean that it can always be done and fast order. For instance, your best bet to earn a livable wage may be to go back to school and earn a degree. Well, I am not saying that you need to make a four-year degree by any means; it could be that you need a couple of years to earn an associate degree. Even then, we are talking about a two-year lag time between when you start the degree in when it is finished. Unless you plan on eating nonperishable foods for the entirety of that two-year staying Community College, you would need some income to help tide you over.

Next, we need to consider whether you have either completed some job training or certification or need to look for income, or you need to complete a degree path matching started at some point. In these cases, you may be able to reasonably quickly complete whatever education or training is necessary for you to start working on a full-time basis. Either way, the point isn’t to force you to enter the workforce before you are ready or make you work a job that you hate. The reality is that a family court judge would not be waiting for you to find the perfect job but instead find a job that will allow your spouse to have no longer pay you spousal maintenance.

Additionally, as so many people do after a divorce, you may end up entering into a long-term relationship soon after your divorce is over with. Even if you choose not to remarry immediately, if you begin to cohabitate with a person with whom you are in a dating relationship, your spouse has the right to go back to court and ask that their responsibility to pay you special maintenance be terminated. However, they would have the burden of proving to the court that you are in a cohabitation arrangement with this person. If they can argue that this is ongoing, you would be in a difficult position regarding maintaining spousal maintenance.

In short, there are no guarantees of spousal maintenance or anything close to it in a Texas divorce case. Even for those of you who have been married for many years and have not worked for many years, there is no way to guarantee that you will be able to receive spousal maintenance in your divorce. We need to discuss the possibility of you receiving spousal maintenance in your divorce based on the specific facts of your case and your ability to prove a need to receive the support.

As with any area of family law, this question is especially fact-dependent. You cannot base your opinion on the likelihood of receiving or maintaining special maintenance upon factors that I list here in a blog post or on those listed by friends of yours from their own experiences. Instead, we need to examine specific circumstances to learn more about what you stand to receive as far as fossil maintenance is concerned. Without a doubt, we would not be doing you any favors by making it seem like it was a sure thing one way or the other that you would or would not receive spousal maintenance. Instead, let’s answer some basic questions about spousal maintenance that will hopefully apply to your situation.

How can the state of Texas expect you to return to the workforce immediately after divorce?

It is one thing to be worried about re-entering the workforce on a full-time basis when you have been working part-time for many years. Likewise, if you operate an hourly wage job, it can be a little intimidating for you to consider what it means to work in a position where you are paid a salary that would ostensibly pay you more money. However, it is an entirely different discussion altogether for you to be concerned about going back into the workforce after being out of the force for many years. Not only may you have concerns about adjusting your life to working full time, but you probably have valid concerns about how well your job skills hold up. This is assuming that you have any job skills, to begin with.

In most situations, if your divorce case makes it to a trial, a judge will likely determine that you can reenter the workforce even if you have not been working for some time. Unless you are of advanced age, suffer from a disability, or care for a child with a disability, then you should expect a family court judge to be unmoved by an argument that you have not worked in some time. This is especially true if you have work experience or even a college or associate degree. In that case, you should expect that, even if you receive a special maintenance award, that it will be minimal, and you will be expected to start working on a full-time basis rather quickly after your divorce.

This means that you need to start applying for work during your divorce or make plans to reenter the workforce during your divorce. Some planning is to do this, primarily if you have not worked in some time. It may be difficult for you to adjust to applying for work online versus submitting personal applications as you may have when you last worked. Personal relationships with people at places of employment are essential but may not be as crucial as they were in years prior. Working with a company to help you find work or at least contact employers about opportunities for you may be something to investigate.

One of the points that people have made to me about going back into the work after or even during a divorce is that after being out of the workforce for so long, it is difficult to obtain employment in their “old” field of work. For instance, if you last worked a generation ago, you may find that your former line of work has been wrapped up into other lines of work, outsourced to persons abroad, or completely negated by technology. In this case, you may need to expand your search to occupations that are outside of your work experience or “comfort zone.”

Occupations that may be classified or considered as “unskilled” are somewhat easier to secure. Office helpers, cleaners, housekeepers, clerking positions, and jobs like those may be more accessible than jobs for which you need a specific amount of experience or education. These may not be the occupations you had in mind when you were a child, but you must secure employment in short order. This is both for your mental well-being and any case that you wish to make to a judge for spousal maintenance.

Do not rely on the assumption that a judge will feel sorry for you and assign you an award of spousal maintenance simply because you are older, a former stay-at-home parent, going through a challenging situation, or otherwise impaired. Judges want you to work because they understand that spousal maintenance may not be a consistent source of income for you. Even the most upstanding persons have issues with paying child support or spousal maintenance. Your ex-spouse could lose their job, suffer an injury, or have any number of problems arise that could impact their ability to pay you spousal maintenance.

As a result, your attorney will need to counsel you on where you can start a job search and the particular importance of your doing so based on the circumstances of your case. Your attorney will also have had experience in helping others in your situation. As such, they can probably help guide you towards work ideas that are suited to your needs. When you have an opportunity to seek people out for advice with some degree of experience can be significant.

It is a much more appealing argument to make for you to be able to tell a family court judge that you have a set plan in mind when it comes to requesting spousal maintenance. Being able to show a judge that you were being as intentional as possible but need some degree of support for a regular period that is short can increase the chances of making a solid point for the family court judge. On the other hand, simply assuming that you are owed spousal maintenance for no reason other than you feel that you have been wrong in your divorce is not an excellent plan for you. The more intentional, direct, and realistic you can be when asking for spousal maintenance, the better position you will be in to be granted the relief you are seeking.

When does spousal maintenance come to an end?

This is the question that family attorneys are asked with some degree of regularity. As with all things, good or bad, spousal maintenance will end. For instance, if you pass away, your spousal maintenance payments will end. Your estate cannot collect spousal maintenance on your behalf. However, if your spouse passes away, their estate can be on the hook for spousal maintenance. For that reason, many people in your situation negotiate to have the spouse paying spousal maintenance take out a life insurance policy to cover any difference if they pass away.

In most divorce scenarios, the obligation for your ex-spouse to pay you spousal maintenance ends when you remarry or begin to cohabitate with another person with whom you are engaged in a dating relationship. As I’m sure you could imagine, it can become a little tricky for your ex-spouse to prove that you are living with the person that you are engaged in a physical relationship with. Often, people in your shoes will argue that they do not live full time with the person or that other misunderstandings have arisen that led to the belief that you are engaged in this kind of relationship.

On the other hand, let’s take a situation where you are the spouse paying spousal maintenance. Without a doubt, spousal maintenance can be burdensome for the party who has to pay the maintenance each month. Bear in mind that you may also be on the hook to pay child support as well as other bills in your household. As such, spousal maintenance can quickly take on a demanding role in your life. It is almost like having to pay two mortgages at the same time when all things are considered. With that being said, we can think about special maintenance being reduced when you can show a material and substantial change to your income.

Many times, high-income earners can see their incomes fluctuate from month to month or even year to year. As such, the idea that your income makes decreases substantially from what it was during a divorce to where it is in the years after a divorce is not out of the realm of possibilities. With that in mind, you would need to show a family court judge then a modification of specials maintenance is warranted based on a decrease in your income. You were going from A6 figure job to one where you earned substantially less, or even one where your income is inconsistent would almost certainly be grounds to reduce the amount of spousal maintenance that you have to pay.

However, if you decide to remarry and have additional costs because of that marriage, this does not do away with your responsibility to pay spousal maintenance. The court would look at this as a choice that you have made to increase costs in your household; it would not necessarily be something where this would represent the material reason why you could not be expected to pay spousal maintenance at the same rate that you were previously.

Another option for you, especially if you believe that your income will fluctuate a great deal over the next few years, is to offer a lump sum payment to your spouse after your divorce. this would allow you to sever ties with your spouse directly and let your ex-spouse be able to invest or utilize the funds in an upfront fashion as they see fit.

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 in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of divorce for child custody cases.

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