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What’s different in a law enforcement officer’s divorce?

Going through a divorce as a law enforcement officer means focusing your energy as much as possible on resolving your case without the need for lengthy and drawn-out litigation. In this way, divorce for a law enforcement officer is no different than a divorce for any other person. When you get divorced as a law enforcement officer there are no special steps or hoops that you must jump through. Rather, the case will proceed just as it would for any other person. While the case looks and feels like most any other divorce there are areas that you may choose to focus your attention on.

Law enforcement officers are in many cases the provider for their families from a financial standpoint. Your salary working in law enforcement may pay the bills and keep your home operating on schedule. The pension that you have contributed to may be the nest egg that you and your spouse plan on cracking once you all reach retirement age. This is the tried-and-true plan that many families choose to implement.  A divorce changes all that. When change occurs, you need to shift course and re-direct your energies, and develop a plan to adapt. 

Consider some of the myths that are widely held about divorce, and I can show you what things people are most concerned about. Family law attorneys hear from time to time many of the same myths and tall tales about divorce. Once you hear about the same concerns multiple times you start to notice patterns. One of the many myths and exaggerations that I hear from people about law enforcement divorces relates to alimony and spousal maintenance. Officers have been led to believe, for some reason, that they will be responsible for paying the bills for their spouse for an extended period after the divorce. 

What is alimony?

Alimony is a subject that we’ve heard discussed in our media many times over the past few years. For the most part, I hear about alimony in connection with things like celebrity divorces. We hear about alimony being paid by a rich celebrity to their not-so-rich and famous spouse after a divorce. The general idea behind alimony is that alimony is intended to help one spouse be able to meet their minimal, reasonable needs for a certain period after the divorce has come to an end. In Texas, there are two types of posts divorced spousal support: spousal maintenance and contractual alimony. 

However, spousal support can also be paid temporarily from one spouse to another during the divorce itself this is known as temporary spousal support. Temporary spousal support lasts for a certain period during the divorce case. As it happens in a divorce many times the parties will separate their bank accounts and begin to adjust to life on one income. This can be a problem for your spouse, for example, if he or she has not worked outside the home in some time or works a job on a part-time basis. As a result, their income may be insufficient to pay basic bills and things of that nature. This is where temporary spousal support can come into assistance for your Spouse.

Temporary spousal support

At the beginning of a divorce case, you and your spouse will likely both turn in basic budgets to the word judge. These budgets will be important because They will help the judge determine whether Both of you are financially at this stage of your case. If you are a law enforcement officer with a steady career and income, then you may have been the spouse who was able to provide for your family throughout this time. Your spouse may have been a stay-at-home mother or father and therefore not have contributed economically to the household. However, this does not mean that he or she provides nothing in economic value to your family.

Consider, for example, what the result would be if all the services your spouse provided for you in the home suddenly went away. Think about things like childcare, cleaning, cooking, transportation, and things of this nature. All these items are our services that your spouse provides you and your family with for free. Now consider what you would need to pay for those things if your spouse were disabled or otherwise not available to you. While you were working your spouse is providing tangible economic value whether it comes in the form of dollars or not. This is just one of the justifications for paying temporary spousal support or alimony after a divorce.

You and your spouse will need to determine how two if you want to structure your lives during the divorce. Most of the time parties to a divorce will not live with each other during the case. This isn’t to say that You and your spouse can’t live together during the divorce, it’s just that most people do not find this to be a comfortable living arrangement. As a result, almost certainly the two of you will live in different households. One of you will live in the family home in the other will move out to live with a family member or find their place. This is where important decisions must be made in terms of how to divide up the bills and how to structure your lifestyles. 

Many people going through a divorce want the primary conservator of the children to live in the family home with the kids at least during the divorce case. This means, for example, if you are a law enforcement officer and have visitation rights with your kids then your spouse would be the primary conservator. In that case, he or she may stay in the family home during the divorce case to provide the kids with some semblance of normalcy instability in their lives. That’s not to say that eventually they will have to move or find another place to live. However, for the duration of your divorce, the parties may choose this sort of arrangement.

Living in two separate households means taking on different responsibilities regarding the raising of children in the paying bills. It’s not as if the mortgage company will look at your situation, take mercy on you, and say that you don’t have to pay your mortgage during your divorce case. Rather, all your bills will still be owed throughout the case. Adding additional bills to this already high list of responsibilities for you and your spouse is not an easy thing to consider.

If you are a law enforcement officer, you may choose to move out and find an apartment or rental home to live in during your divorce case. Finding a place that is close to your children and your work is the important period with that said if you work and your spouse stays home that means your income may need to be stretched to pay a mortgage payment as well as a rent payment. A family court judge would work to determine whether there are sufficient funds for you to be able to pay these two items as well as any degree of temporary spousal support. A typical law enforcement officer would likely struggle on their income to be able to pay housing costs in addition to temporary spousal support. Likely, your spouse is going to need to find a job both during the divorce and after the divorce.

One of the concerns that I know that law enforcement officers run into during a divorce is sometimes assuming that temporary spousal support is inevitable. I have had law enforcement officers tell me that their spouse is pretty much got up to them and shaking them down for money in terms of telling them that they know temporary spousal support is coming in and that they need to be fair throughout the process. However, as we just went over, this could not be further from the truth. It is a big assumption to presume that spousal support during the divorce will be paid. Simply put: if you don’t have the money to pay the spousal support and you can show that to a judge then no support will be ordered. Most families struggle to pay their normal bills during their divorce cases. In that case, temporary spousal support is almost certainly out of the question by necessity.

The best thing for you and your spouse to do during this station of your divorce is to think hard about how you can reduce costs and tighten your budget. The idea that the two of you can live the lifestyle that you had become accustomed to before your divorce is unrealistic likely. Not only will you have the costs of the divorce to contend with, but you will also be stretching your budget as tight as possible look forward to two places to live. All the while, your spouse will need to be looking for employment, going to finish their education, or some combination thereof. Texas family court judges are not big fans, typically, of awarding post-divorce spousal maintenance. As a result, a judge is much more likely to require your spouse to get a job than to receive a substantial amount of spousal maintenance.

With all that said, you need to be able to work with an experienced family law attorney when it comes to this subject and a divorce. Even if a family court judge isn’t likely to order spousal maintenance or even temporary spousal support in your case the risk and overall importance of this subject to your life are substantial. Not being able to prepare thoughtfully a budget for the court can give a judge the wrong idea about your income and overall family budget. The last thing you want is to have a judge believe that you can pay temporary spousal support when you are not. 

The best way to assure a family court judge that you are not able to pay spousal support is to work with an experienced attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. When you choose to work with one of our attorneys you tap into our decades of combined experience practicing family law in Southeast Texas. Additionally, not only do we boast a team of experienced family law attorneys, but we also have terrific support staff, including paralegals, legal assistance, and other staff members, who are ready and willing to assist you however they can. It takes a team to succeed in divorce. By joining our team, you give yourself the best possible chance excess for you and your children.

Spousal maintenance and contractual alimony

When it comes to spousal support after divorce the two kinds of support that you need to be aware of in Texas are contractual alimony and spousal maintenance. While you may have heard about Alan previously you may have never heard of it termed as contractual alimony. Additionally, spousal maintenance is not a subject that is as widely discussed as alimony. As a result, this may be a completely new term for you. Let’s walk through these two concepts as we close out today’s blog post.

Spousal maintenance is a relatively new phenomenon in Texas. In 1995, the state legislature passed a law that allowed family court judges to order post-divorce spousal support. This was known as spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance in Texas is not seen as a way for one spouse to get rich off of us former spouse. Rather, spousal maintenance is seen as a way for parties to get back on their feet or get on their feet generally after a divorce. Many times, as a condition of receiving spousal maintenance a party will be required to look for work consistently and begin working as soon as possible.

Spousal maintenance can only be ordered if you and your spouse have been married at least 10 years before your divorce. One of the myths we hear frequently about divorce is that people will marry their spouse and quickly file for divorce if only to be able to receive spousal maintenance. This simply does not match up with reality. Rather, spousal maintenance can only be ordered if you’ve been married for at least that 10-year period. The exception to this rule would be if your spouse engaged in the family or domestic violence within two years of your divorce. In that case, if you or your spouse is guilty of having done so then spouse maintenance will be ordered regardless of the length of your marriage. 

Spousal maintenance is limited to 25% of your monthly income. One of the other myths that we hear about spousal support is that regular people are ordered to pay humongous chunks of their monthly salary towards support. This also is not accurate. Keep in mind that many people who pay spousal maintenance also pay child support. Quartz understands that a person’s income can only go so far. As a result, it is more likely that spousal maintenance awards will be calculated as closely as possible to only help a person meet their minimum, basic needs rather than help them live a certain lifestyle.

The length of time that you can be eligible to pay spousal maintenance depends upon the length of your marriage. For marriages lasting from between 10 to 20 years then spousal maintenance can be ordered to be to last for two years. Next, marriages lasting between 20 and 30 years could see spousal maintenance being ordered for five years period finally, marriages lasting 30 or more years can see at most seven years of spousal maintenance being ordered. The circumstances of your case will inform the judge’s ultimate decision, however.

Contractual alimony is the other type of post-divorce spousal support. Contractual alimony is not ordered by a family court judge but rather negotiated upon between you and your spouse in mediation. Some special caveats apply to contractual alimony that I wanted to mention before we run out of time today. First, the laws regarding contracts in Texas applied to contractual alimony. Therefore, be aware that a family court judge would not be applying the Texas family code to any issues regarding contractual alimony in the future. A family court judge can only enforce contractual alimony orders to the extent that they could enforce spousal maintenance.

You also need to be very careful about how you draft the orders regarding contractual alimony. You need to be clear about the duration, extent, and other details of contractual alimony. Be sure that the language is unambiguous. The last thing you want to do is run into a misunderstanding or otherwise must pay alimony longer than you otherwise would have had to base on a poorly written court order.

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 more about law enforcement officer divorce as well as how your family may be impacted by other types of family law scenarios.

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