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What is Alimony? Your Guide to Alimony

Learning as much as you can about alimony involves discovering the distinction between alimony, contractual alimony, and spousal maintenance. In Texas, there is no such thing as “alimony.’ Other states have something called alimony but in Texas, the only type of alimony is contractual alimony. This is a type of post-divorce spousal support that you and your spouse agree to during your case- either in informal settlement negotiations or in mediation. A judge can approve an order of contractual alimony but cannot order contractual alimony in a trial.

On the other hand, spousal maintenance may only be ordered because of a divorce trial. In many circumstances, you will hear spousal maintenance referred to as court-ordered spousal maintenance. The concept of post-divorce spousal support is a relatively new one in Texas. Before about 25 years ago a family court judge could not order one spouse to pay another special support after the divorce came to an end. However, there are now limited circumstances in which a party may be able to receive the post of or spousal maintenance. Today’s blog post will discuss those circumstances and provide you with information about spousal maintenance as well as contractual alimony in Texas.

If at the end of today’s blog posts, you have any questions about the material that we will be discussing today then please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way to explore the topic of spousal maintenance as well as to learn how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce case.

Can spousal maintenance be ordered if your spouse does not have enough money to pay it?

A reasonable question to ask is whether your spouse’s ability to pay spousal maintenance will impact whether or not a family court judge would order that you could receive this type of award. To be sure, it is not always possible for a spouse to pay spousal maintenance. On top of spousal maintenance, your spouse may also be responsible for child support as well as their bills and expenses. Once you begin adding up the cost of food, clothing, shelter, rent, health insurance, and other expenses your spouse may find him or herself in a position where they honestly cannot afford to pay spousal maintenance.

Typically, before a temporary order hearing or trial, a judge will ask you and your spouse to submit a basic budget. This basic budget will show your income and net of your spouse as well as the bills and other expenses that are involved in the daily life of both of you. From there, a judge can get a better idea of what your true in life is as far as your budget. Rather than relying upon your testimony or that of your spouse, a family court judge can look to this budget to determine to make decisions about how and if to award Spousal maintenance.

a way to receive extra income because of the divorce that does not involve the payment of spousal maintenance is to have the family court judge award you a disproportionate share of your community estate. A disproportionate share of your community estate means a greater than 50% share of the estate once all property is divided. In Texas, in the vast majority of divorce cases property is divided somewhat 50/50. However, if your spouse cannot pay the Spousal maintenance center judge may choose to divide the community into the state in a way that bears with you significantly.

You can probably already tell that there are many factors in play when it comes to awarding spousal maintenance. To learn more about this detailed subject you can reach out to one of our experienced family law attorneys today it is easy to be able to set-up an appointment with one of our lawyers. Simply Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan for a free-of-charge consultation today. You can sit down with one of our experienced family law attorneys to learn more about the divorce process and how spousal maintenance may be ordered.

The ins and outs of contractual alimony

Contractual alimony is the other type of post-divorce spousal support available in Texas. We just saw how spousal maintenance can only be ordered by a judge. Contractual alimony can only be agreed to between you and your spouse in mediation or other informal settlement negotiation before your divorce. According to the terms of your settlement agreement, you or your spouse could be in a position where you pay your ex-spouse a certain sum of money per month for a pre-determined length of time.

The same factors that weigh on a judge when determining an award of spousal maintenance would still apply to contractual alimony. Additionally, if you or your spouse were to remarry or otherwise begin cohabitating with a person with whom you are having a romantic relationship then the order of contractual alimony or spousal maintenance may come to an end. This is certainly true with spousal maintenance but depending upon the nature of your contractual alimony agreement that may also be true. Be sure to keep this in mind as you begin to negotiate for contractual alimony- whether you will be paying or receiving it.

Especially if you will be the spouse who is expected to pay contractual money, I would recommend thinking long and hard about including a section in the provisions for contractual alimony in your final decree of divorce which covers so if it’s like late payments as well as an eventual termination date. This is the degree to which you may not have the autonomy to do so regarding spousal maintenance, but you do with contractual alimony. It is a good idea to want to have some definite language included in the order which speaks to when your obligation to pay contractual alimony ends as well as when the obligation could be terminated because of other factors coming into play such as your ex-spouse beginning to cohabitate with another person.

Contractual alimony would come to an end if either you or your spouse passed away. I think it bears mentioning another time that it is not necessarily true that your obligation to pay contractual alimony comes to an end when and if your ex-spouse begins to cohabitate with another person or even remarries. Rather, this is a language that would be ordinarily included in a divorce decree for it’s about some maintenance. If you want to be 100% sure that this obligation will come to an end when your ex-spouse cohabitates with another person or remarries then you should have that included in your final decree of divorce. Not doing so can put you in a position of great liability as it pertains to having to continue to pay these benefits over an extended period even after your ex-boss potentially gets remarried.

Another difficulty associated with contractual alimony is that it is a much more tenuous situation when it comes to being able to enforce orders in a final decree of divorce regarding contractual alimony. Contract law would be applied when your ex-spouse fails to pay the contractual alimony as agreed to in your final decree of divorce. Contempt, jail time, and other potential forms of relief available under the Texas Family Code are not available under contract law in Texas. This is another reason why you should be extremely specific in the language that you use while negotiating contractual alimony.

On the other hand, contractual alimony can be a great benefit for spouses who are attempting to keep their heads above water financially immediately after a divorce. For example, if you are looking to purchase a home or even put a down payment down on an apartment or other places to live and you may negotiate for a temporary period of contractual alimony after the divorce. You can create the terms of the agreement and insert language that will allow you to reap the financial benefit of these alimony payments for a certain period. the same can even be said for paying regular household bills or taxes associated with the case. If for some reason you were unable to negotiate for attorney’s fees is a part of your divorce and you may be able to use contractual alimony to pay attorney’s fees.

Returning to school may be something that you are interested in after a divorce. Or, you may find yourself in a position where you need to return to school to complete a degree to pay for your living expenses. Whatever the case may be, if you are prepared with solid figures regarding the cost of school and the length of time that you expect to attend a university, trade school, or college then your spouse may be willing to pay for those expenses, if able, rather than paying for an extended period of contractual alimony. Teach a man to fish, etc.

Another major issue when it comes to the enforcement of a contractual alimony provision contained in your final decree of divorce is that a family court can only enforce the terms of that order for so long as they would have been able to enforce the terms of a spousal maintenance order. This typically means that contractual alimony can only be enforced by a family court for up to 10 years. If you are interested in contracting for contractual alimony for a longer period then that Should be something that you consider when it comes to how strong a case, you can put up when it comes to spousal maintenance versus contractual alimony.

Tips for the negotiation of contractual alimony

For this final section of today’s blog post, we are going to assume that you are a spouse who is interested in having spousal maintenance paid to you. As such, it is not enough to simply need spousal maintenance or contractual alimony, for that matter. You need to go into your case with a plan with the intention in the mind of winning contractual alimony or spousal maintenance. Failing to do so can result in your not being awarded the benefit that you otherwise may be deserving of and almost certainly need to pay your bills and meet your four walls. With that said, here are some tips that I think may be helpful for you in terms of being able to win contractual alimony.

Where I would begin this discussion is to make sure that you have a firm grasp of your family’s finances before negotiating contractual alimony. You may have a mistaken interpretation of your family’s finances to the point where you are negotiating for an amount of contractual alimony that cannot be paid by your spouse. Many times, a spouse in your position may get the idea that their partner can pay a certain amount of spousal maintenance or contractual alimony only to find that the personal finances of their spouse are not what they thought that they were.

As such, you are better off getting a detailed idea of the financial situation of your family before negotiating for contractual alimony. The last thing that you would want to do is 2 alienate your spouse by requesting an exorbitant amount of contractual alimony to the point where he or she is completely unable to pay. That may sour him or her on the negotiation process overall and eliminate any chance you had of receiving a more reasonable amount of contractual alimony. You can think about their financial situation, circumstances with their health, and employment when making these types of determinations. You may want to wait until discovery responses have been returned by your spouse before making a concrete offer for contractual alimony. This way you can see the financial information being provided by your spouse before making a request.

By requesting an amount of contractual alimony that is well beyond your Spouses ability to pay then you put yourself in a position where your spouse may have questions about your ability to pay bills or even see reality on its terms. In that type of situation, you could sour him or her on the entire negotiation process and at worst make him or her upset with you. It is not as though you must keep your spouse on the best of terms with you throughout the divorce. That probably isn’t possible. Rather, you should not aim to cause an issue in your divorce negotiation where you do not have to.

Another area that can be impacted by How you negotiate on contractual alimony is the division of your community estate. The number of assets in your community state as well as whether you can negotiate for I just in the right division of them can determine in large part whether or not you even need contractual alimony. However, if you make an outlandish request for contractual alimony before Negotiating for a division of your community estate then that could impact how that negotiation goes overall.

If your spouse cannot trust that you will be honest and fair in negotiation and he or she may choose to try and keep certain items or assets rather than negotiate for them with you. This is an unnecessary error that could have been avoided if you simply knew what the finances were in your family. although you may feel like you need to immediately negotiate on contractual alimony you should pause the negotiation first before you can make any mistakes if you do not have the proper financial information in front of you. Having a complete assortment of information when it comes to finances is critical in this regard. That means being honest with your attorney as well as with your spouse when it comes to turning over financial documents in responding to discovery requests. If you attempt to hide information or otherwise are not honest with your spouse about what is going on in your home, then you may not be able to negotiate for contractual alimony or a division of your community estate.

Overall, the most effective way to negotiate for contractual alimony is to be prepared and to be diligent about how you present your case to your spouse. The more prepared you can be the more honest you are with your spouse the better chance you have at negotiating for your desired amount of contractual alimony. working with an experienced family law attorney can be the best decision you make regarding your case and you can not only learn how to negotiate but how the laws in Texas can be impacted by your circumstances both family and financial.

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