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Family Law Cases in Texas: Spousal Maintenance and Children's Issues

Money. Other than your children, money is the most important aspect of a divorce. I hate to break it down for you like that, but in my experience, it is the truth. You may disagree. You may want to disagree because it’s unbecoming to talk about a long-term, committed relationship being broken down into something as crude as money.

That’s fine. Ultimately a divorce is a financial transaction. Remove any issues regarding your children (which we will be discussing in a moment) and you’re left with a financial pie that needs to be sliced and divided up between you and your spouse.

One of the slices of that financial pie could be spousal maintenance, also known as spousal support. Spousal maintenance is a payment that is ordered to be made from the future income of one spouse towards the support of the other. A judge in your divorce could order that spousal maintenance is paid under certain circumstances, often involving family violence has occurred within two years of the filing of the divorce.

Additionally, if you and your spouse have been married at least ten years then spousal support can also be ordered in the event that whichever of you receives the support does not have sufficient separate property to provide for your minimum reasonable needs. Often times a disabled spouse or one that is caring for a child and unable to work would be fit this description.

How long and how much spousal support can be awarded in your divorce

There are limits to what a court can order to be paid for spousal support. Remember that spousal support is ordered to be paid to meet the minimum, basic needs of a party.

This does not mean helping him or her to live the lifestyle that he or she has become accustomed to or anything like that. At most a judge can order that you or your spouse pay no more than $5,000 per month or twenty percent of your gross monthly income towards spousal support- whichever of those numbers is less.

The award of spousal maintenance is also limited to a period of time-based on how long your marriage has lasted. An exception to this rule is in place if you or your spouse has a mental or physical handicap that keeps either of you from providing for your own minimum, basic needs.

Consequences of failing to pay court-ordered spousal support

If either you and your spouse agreed that spousal maintenance shall be paid after a divorce or the judge in your case ordered that it be paid for a period of time, those orders will be reflected in your Final Decree of Divorce.

In the event that the spouse that is ordered to pay the maintenance does not do so then there will be an opportunity for the other spouse to file an enforcement case against him or her much like you would for missed child support payments. This means that if you miss payments of spousal support a judge can fine you per violation and even assess jail time against you.

Spousal maintenance can be serious business if you are being asked to pay, or if you find yourself in the position where you absolutely need some temporary support for a period of time after your divorce. If this is your reality, I would recommend that you hire an attorney to represent you who has experience in negotiating in regard to spousal maintenance. It is a short-term investment that can have a dramatic effect on your life well after your divorce has concluded.

Children’s Issues in a Texas Divorce

Your Final Decree of Divorce will include what is known as a Parenting Plan. This Parenting Plan includes language regarding your conservatorship rights over your children, a visitation schedule for the parent who does not have primary conservatorship of your children and will lay out what the child support responsibilities are for the parent who has to pay child support.

This is a lengthy section in your Decree and will seek to avoid any future disputes between you and your ex-spouse. If it is covered by your Divorce Decree then there is no sense arguing about it- or worse- going back to court to have a judge clarify or make any additional orders.

How long do orders related to children last?

Child support and conservatorship issues related to your children are covered by your court until your children reach eighteen years of age or graduate high school, whichever of those occurs furthest into the future.

If your child is disabled or has a handicap then the court may extend the time with which it is able to make rulings on these subjects. If your child cannot support him or herself on their own then it is a safe bet that your court will hang on to jurisdiction for as long as possible.

Child Custody Matters

Any child that you have with your spouse who is under the age of eighteen or otherwise has not graduated from high school will be a part of your divorce case. We see clients use the term “custody” as a substitute for which parent will get to keep the children with him or her. It is likely that you and your spouse will be named joint conservators of your children means that you both will have fairly equal possession of your children during the course of any given year.

This also means that you and your ex-spouse will share equally in the rights and duties associated with your children. While many parents (understandably) fight long and hard over the time that each will have with their children, it is these rights and duties that are just as meaningful as the time awarded to each parent, if not more so.

It is presumed that naming you and your spouse as Joint Managing Conservators of your children is in their best interests. You may be named as the conservator with the ability to designate the primary residence of your children- otherwise known as the primary conservator. This means that the children will live with you primarily and will have periods of visitation with your ex-spouse.

Your ex-spouse would be known as the Possessory Conservator in this scenario. He or she would have the right to possess your children at certain times on certain days- all laid out as clearly as possible in your Final Decree of Divorce.

Other than the ability to give and receive child support, and the right to determine the primary residence of your children, most of the remaining rights are shared equally between you and your spouse. Most importantly this means decisions regarding medical, educational and psychiatric situations are to be made with your ex-spouse before taking action in non-emergency situations. Many parents will name a “tie-breaker” usually a teacher, physician or other trusted person to make a decision if they cannot agree on a particular subject.

On the other hand, you and your spouse can agree to divvy up your rights and duties to your children in basically any way you would like. The catch is you have to agree on these issues and settle your case. If you cannot do so a court will step in and make those decisions for you.

Child custody, the primary residence of your child and Child Support-tomorrow’s blog topics

If you are interested in what happens in a divorce from the perspective of your children then the next few days should be extremely interesting for you as a reader of our blog. We hope that you come back to read more as we focus on issues relating to your children in a divorce.

Any questions on this subject can be addressed to the family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week and would be honored to speak to you about your situation.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan 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 Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, 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.

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