When it comes to Texas divorces, spousal support after the divorce is a completely independent topic from either property division or child support. You would have to negotiate for the payment of spousal maintenance or contractual alimony in mediation. Specifically, spousal maintenance is an award that can be handed down only by a family court judge. On the other hand, contractual maintenance is done by agreement in either mediation or informal settlement negotiation between you and your spouse. However, the result is that one spouse pays, and the other spouse receives payment from the other for a certain duration of time after the divorce comes to an end.
Additionally, you may also be in a position where, during the divorce, you pay spousal support to your spouse temporarily. This is known as temporary spousal support. This temporary spousal support is supposed to be able to help your spouse meet their minimal, basic needs in terms of paying bills and getting by until she can complete a degree, find a job or otherwise be able to support herself. While temporary spousal support is not uncommon in Texas divorce cases ongoing spousal maintenance orders from a judge are relatively rare. This is due in no small part to the fact that many people do not have the ability within their budget to pay their ex-spouse money and subsist themselves.
It is important to note that spousal support or contractual alimony oftentimes represents a critical source of income for a spouse in your wife’s position. If she has been a stay-at-home parent or homemaker, then it would be unfair to assert that she did not contribute financially to the home. Consider, for example, what it would have cost you to hire someone to care for your children, cook meals, provide transportation, clean your home, and perform all of the other tasks that she did during your marriage. All the while, she decided to forgo career advancement and other opportunities that would have been available to her in the job marketplace. As a result, she is now in need of some sort of assistance financially to be able to help her get back on her feet when she is not able to rely upon your income.
One aspect of a divorce case that bears mentioning in this regard is that spouses well option times need to go back to school to start or complete an educational program. This does not necessarily mean that your spouse will be allowed to begin a four-year degree and take all the time that is needed to complete the coursework. Rather, this is a rather unrealistic expectation. What is more likely is that your spouse can complete some sort of shorter vocational training or otherwise complete a previously started degree to find suitable employment that can help her be able to find employment where your support is no longer needed. All of this becomes even more important when you consider that your children would be reliant upon this form of income, as well.
On the other hand, even if your spouse is currently employed, she may also request spousal support or contractual alimony when she does not make as much money as you or otherwise lacks a college degree. I see this happening in situations where, for example, your spouse worked in roles like a waitress or in the service industry otherwise to allow you to complete a degree that allowed you to go on and make a great salary and have a solid career. If your spouse worked as a waitress while you went to medical school or law school, then it is likely that she believes that fairness would dictate she should have an opportunity to have some money in her pocket to make sure that she can get back on her feet financially after the divorce.
Bear in mind, however, that none of this makes paying spousal support or spousal maintenance any easier. You may already believe that you are being quite generous and how you’re negotiating the division of your community estate. On top of that, you may also have decided to pay greater amounts of child support than the guideline levels of support and it’s laid out in the Texas family code. The idea that your spouse is negotiating for contractual alimony or even temporary spousal support on top of these concessions that you believe that you have made can make this a frustrating development. For that reason, I think it is wise to be able to discuss This topic from your perspective as well.
Do you find yourself pointing the finger at your mirror when it comes to creating the circumstances that have led to your spouse asking for spousal maintenance or contractual alimony? If so and you are not alone. Many husbands and fathers in your position will blame themselves for allowing their case to get to the point where their spouse is asking for money on top of a property settlement or even child support. However, one thing that I will point out is that hindsight is always 20/20. This means that we can always look back on our decisions with clarity given the passage of time. With that said, you probably had no idea that your life would proceed in this direction and that a divorce would be in the offering for your future.
With all, there is no utility in your blaming yourself, your spouse, or your circumstances at this period rather, the best decision that you can make would be to learn as much as you can about the options and benefits available when it comes to paying contractual alimony or spousal maintenance after a divorce. This blog post is a great place for you to begin that journey toward gaining more knowledge. We hope that you find today’s blog post informative and entertaining.
At the same time, you should be considering your options if you have not yet begun your divorce. Even if you have started your divorce the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can certainly assist you if you have not yet hired an attorney. Power licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. We have three Houston area locations where we can meet with you at your convenience.
What is the difference between spousal maintenance and contractual alimony?
One of the major differences between Texas divorce laws and the divorce laws of other states passed has to do with how spousal support is designated. In other states, spousal support after a divorce is commonly referred to as alimony. You have probably heard the word alimony from television shows in movies. Wild Texas does have a type of alimony it is more complex than simply calling every form of post-divorce spousal support alimony.
In Texas, two types of sources of support may be in play for you and your spouse. The first is court-ordered spousal maintenance. The second type of post-divorce spousal support is contractual alimony. While we have already discussed how these two forms of support oftentimes look similar at the end of the day, how they are negotiated or ordered during the divorce is quite different. The degree to which money can be paid out, how long it can last, and how they can be enforced by your spouse all differ significantly from one another period let’s take some time to talk about how these two subjects relate to one another and how they differ.
As you may have guessed, the court-ordered spousal maintenance can only be handed down by a family court judge. This means that spousal maintenance is a form of involuntary spousal support that you would not have agreed to in mediation or informal settlement negotiation. Rather, after a trial once all the evidence has been submitted by you and your spouse, a family court judge would be able to order spousal maintenance if he or she believes that it is necessary.
This is in opposition to contractual alimony which you and your spouse would agree to voluntarily through a settlement negotiation. As you can probably tell by the name, contractual alimony has just as much to do with contract law as it does with the Texas family code. While you and your spouse can agree to contractual alimony in a settlement negotiation, the Texas family court judge would still need to approve the order. However, so long as the duration or amount of spousal support does not violate norms of Texas public policy then you can expect that the family court judge will approve your contractual alimony terms without reservation.
Although contractual alimony and spousal maintenance are different from one another and distinct forms of spousal support, I have found that spouses in your position are interested in how and why a family court judge might order spousal maintenance. This way you can understand whether it is likely that a judge would order spousal maintenance in your divorce case. This could inform how you negotiate towards contractual alimony and whether you would end up having to pay spousal support even if you did not agree to an award of contractual alimony.
An important place to begin this discussion is acknowledging that spousal maintenance is not a given in your divorce even if any of the circumstances we discussed earlier in today’s blog post apply to you and your family. At the same time, even if you are awarded spousal maintenance in your divorce that does not mean that the award will last indefinitely or even for many years. Texas only recently passed a law that allows for a family court judge to award spousal maintenance in the first place. Even with this change in the law, it is still relatively difficult to become eligible for spousal maintenance in the hurdles you must clear to be awarded maintenance are relatively high and numerous.
the Texas family code allows for court-ordered spousal maintenance in only certain situations. You may recall that Texas is a community property state in which marital property will be divided either by a family court judge or by agreement between you and your spouse. A just and right division of Community property typically allows for a more equal share of the property to be divided between you and your spouse. This means that it doesn’t matter whose income contributed towards the purchase of the property or whose name appears in the title documents to the home or other item. Rather, so long as the property was purchased during your marriage with community income then your spouse’s right to the property is equal to yours. It does not matter if you earn a great salary in your spouse is a stay-at-home parent or wife.
While this does not necessarily mean that you and your spouse will divide your property exactly down the middle, it may end up that way. Because you all can expect to receive a somewhat equal amount of Community property after a divorce this typically puts a family court judge in a position where he or she does not feel compelled to order spousal maintenance on top of an even division of the community estate. In addition, you need to consider that your salary, bonuses, and other income are also divisible under Community property laws in Texas. Money in your bank account or other savings and investments can be divided between you and your spouse in this manner. As a result, special maintenance may not become necessary in the eyes of a family court judge.
The bottom line here is that your spouse will not be penalized for being a homemaker or stay-at-home parent. It can be argued that in other states this is the case but in Texas, your spouse will have an equal stake in the negotiation on Community property Division One compared to you. It does not matter if she never stepped foot outside the home to work a day in her life. All that matters is that the property and income accrued during your marriage will be divisible as community income and property. This will certainly impact Tao spousal maintenance is ordered, if at all.
It should not surprise you that Texas public policy encourages people to work. It is in the best interest of you to be able to go out and earn a living for yourself just the same as it is for your spouse. Spousal maintenance is ideally a steppingstone for your spouse to be able to go from not working during your marriage to finding gainful employment after your marriage has come to an end. On the other hand, it is also somewhat easy to argue that a spouse who receives ongoing spousal maintenance may be disinclined to go and look for gainful employment given that she has a stable income in the form of your spousal maintenance payments. For that reason, the restrictions on spousal maintenance make it difficult to be awarded these payments in the first place.
Certainly, it will be a balancing act for a family court judge to decide in your case whether spousal maintenance is merited. Both prevailing views on spousal maintenance have valid points on hand it is easy to see how a judge could be persuaded by any one of them when taking into account the Texas family code as well as the specific circumstances facing your family. For that reason, you need to get well-thought-out and constructed advice when it comes to the issue of spousal maintenance in your case. You cannot simply assume what will happen based on the circumstances involved in a friend or family member’s divorce. Rather, your specific case will be impacted not only by the Texas family code but the life that you and your spouse lead.
The degree to which you think about your circumstances in the path that your life is taken to this point before your divorce will determine how well you can plan through the issues of your case. It is not uncommon for a person to be extremely anxious about a divorce but to have put forth little constructive thought towards creating a strategy or plan for accomplishing goals in the case. If this sounds like you, it doesn’t have to be that way. Taking the first step to learn about important issues and divorce is what you are doing right now. Once you read this blog post why not contact an attorney with our office to learn more about spousal maintenance, contractual alimony, or anything else you are interested in?
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 at our three Houston area locations, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.