The term “alimony” is used quite a bit in our culture to generally refer to payments made from one ex-spouse to the other after a divorce is finalized. You will usually find the term applied to situations where one of the spouses has a well-paying job and the other is a stay at home parent or something similar. Basically, it is intended not to "even the playing field" like some sort of redistribution of wealth, but rather to help ensure that the spouse who receives the alimony is able to provide for their minimal, basic needs after the divorce has come to a conclusion.
Seeing as how I’ve used the world alimony twice in a sentence already, it seems like an appropriate time to mention that alimony is typically called “spousal maintenance” in the context of a Texas divorce. A court’s order at the conclusion of a divorce that you are to pay your ex-spouse maintenance can be a difficult pill to swallow. With that said, it is not easy to be awarded spousal maintenance and it is somewhat unusual for a judge to decide that spousal maintenance needs to be awarded. In cases where yours is a common law marriage then the loops you or your spouse must jump through to be awarded spousal maintenance are increased.
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to share with you some of our thoughts about how spousal maintenance can be awarded in relation to a common law marriage.
Prepare for some difficulty if you want to win spousal maintenance if you are divorcing out of a common law marriage
Let’s say that you and your husband started living together, holding yourself out as married to your friends and family and participated in marital activities like raising children, paying bills and generally leading a life together. These are the hallmarks of a common law marriage. All is well for a number of years until you decide it is time for a divorce from your common-law husband. On top of that, you are going to ask him to pay you spousal maintenance for a period of time after your divorce. Do you have a chance of getting this done according to your plan?
Before you can even get to the point where you ask for spousal maintenance as a part of a divorce you must first prove to a court that you were in fact involved in a common law marriage with the man you consider to be your husband. I spoke generally in the paragraph previous to this one about the general hallmarks of a common law marriage, but I would like to go over them in greater detail right now.
Texas law says that you and your spouse must agree to be married, hold themselves out as married people to the public and then live together in Texas in order for yours to be considered a common law marriage.
What will a court look for as far as evidence is concerned of a common law marriage?
The answer to the question posed above is that it varies from court to court what evidence will suffice as far as proving a common law marriage to be in place. I have seen and read about cases where one "spouse" on one occasion introduced herself and the man she was with a husband/wife and then a court subsequently determined a common law marriage be in place. Along with evidence like that, credit card applications, leases, car, and house notes are other examples of evidence that may be persuasive for a court if the paperwork shows that you and your significant other filled them out as husband and wife.
A side note on job skills and their impact on your common law marriage divorce
As we’ve already discussed, it is not easy to be awarded spousal maintenance in a Texas divorce. The court will start off its analysis of this issue presuming that it is not appropriate to award you spousal maintenance. You will then need to show the judge that you have done everything in your power to develop a skill set, educate yourself and generally put yourself in a position where you could earn sufficient income in order to provide for your and your child’s future needs.
Do you qualify for spousal maintenance?
So, if you can first prove your common law marriage, then prove your need for spousal maintenance to be awarded a judge would then look to see if you are eligible under Texas law to receive spousal maintenance. The loops that I mentioned at the outset of this blog post are becoming quite numerous if you have not noticed already.
Lacking the income or property to provide for your future, minimal needs would be the number one factor to consider but we can also think about a few more. Has your marriage lasted for ten years or more? Are you under a physical or mental disability that bars you from being able to provide for your own, basic needs? Is a child of yours from this marriage under a physical or mental disability that requires special care? Finally, is your soon to be ex-spouse a convicted domestic abuser?
Ask yourself these questions when you are attempting to qualify and become eligible for spousal maintenance in a Texas common law divorce.
More factors that a court will consider when determining whether to award spousal maintenance
If you thought this blog post would finally be over and now I would get to the point where we could safely discuss other issues in spousal maintenance you would be incorrect. There are still more factors that a court would likely look to when determining when or not to award you spousal maintenance.
The length of your marriage is key. As we mentioned a moment ago, if your marriage has not lasted for at least ten years then you have no shot at spousal maintenance. However, the longer past ten years that your marriage has lasted the greater chance you have at receiving maintenance. Also, a court would look to your likely financial position and would compare that to your spouse. If your husband is a thoracic surgeon while you are a stay at home mom then this would tell a judge that your income is likely to be paltry in the future when compared to your ex-spouse. This is an of itself is not something that demands maintenance to be paid, but it can help your argument.
More to the point, consider things from the perspective of a person (like yourself, possibly) who stayed at home during the early years of your marriage to care for your children while your spouse went out into the world and earned a medical degree then placed into a highly regarded residency program. This propelled him into the upper strata of income-potential and, indeed, he did earn a substantial amount of money in his working life. Your sacrifices will not be ignored in this case and this is an argument that can be used in your favor.
Bad acts by your spouse can also increase the odds of spousal maintenance being awarded to you in a common law divorce. Did your spouse waste marital assets? If so, did he waste them on a secret girlfriend? Family violence is another factor that we discussed earlier that could impact your objective of gaining spousal maintenance in your divorce.
Questions about common law marriage and spousal maintenance? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions or seek clarification on anything that we have talked about in today’s blog post then please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. Our team of attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in representing folks just like you that live in our community. To learn more about us and to sit down for a pressure-free conversation about your case please call us today.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Spring 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, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, 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.