Alimony, in the context of a Texas divorce is commonly one of the most contentious subjects that a family law attorney can discuss with their client. If you are a person who believe that they are in need or deserving of alimony, then you probably understand why this is. A divorce is, ideally, supposed to be the beginning of a new. In two persons lives after being connected through marriage for many years. A clean break is what most every person who goes through a divorce is after. Part of that clean break is cutting ties with your spouse where possible and attending to the necessary things like raising children together as a team. Alimony is a way to maintain a relationship with your ex-spouse many spouses, even those in a position to receive alimony, do not wish to prolong.
When it comes to alimony my opinion is most of us get our information about this subject from television and movies. The fact is very few divorces in Texas have alimony is a feature of the case. There are many reasons for this, and we will discuss at the outset of today's blog why alimony is so rare even to this day. What I would like to do first, however, is go through some of the more common terms that relate to alimony in Texas so that you can differentiate between the different types of spousal support that are available to divorced persons in our state. There is no point to having an in-depth discussion about alimony before we can define our terms.
A discussion on Alimony terminology in Texas
alimony is a term that we hear quite a bit when it comes to divorces mostly, in my opinion, because other states have alimony and this is a term we hear a lot in the media especially on Movies and television However, at least in Texas, there are multiple forms of what is commonly referred to as alimony. Each term is in relation to items that may differ from situation to situation Or maybe applied to your case in different ways.
If you are still in the middle of a divorce you may be eligible for what is known as temporary spousal support. Temporary spousal support is what it sounds like. This would be support that is temporary in nature and is intended to help you pay your bills during the relatively short period of time that your divorce encompasses. For example, if you were learning how to live on your income alone during the divorce and still had bills and other responsibilities that required more income than you are able to provide it may be ordered that temporary spousal support be paid to you so that these bills can be paid in other responsibilities met.
What we see quite a bit in the post-divorce lives of married persons, is that rather than Have spousal support be extended to after the divorce a division of the community a state will occur where the spouse who needs extra income will be awarded a greater share of the community estate so that this property can be liquidated and money can be received in this fashion. This prevents a longer lasting I need to bond between two persons that are not on the best of terms with one another.
Why would judges go to great lengths in order to avoid having to set spouses up to pay one another post-divorce support ? There are many reasons, but in my opinion The general feeling among family court judges is that spousal maintenance or contractual alimony are best avoided if possible. Let's discuss each of these two terms that I just introduced.
Spousal maintenance refers to post divorce spousal support that is intended to help provide for a spouse’s minimum basically while he or she adjust too life as a single person. Spousal maintenance is limited in duration. Storylines that take place in movies where a husband is ordered to pay a wife a certain sum of money until that wife passes away is not a realistic scenario in Texas. Based on the length of your marriage, different awards are possible. However, no spousal maintenance award on a monthly basis may exceed 20% of the payor spouse’s net monthly income
if you and your spouse were not married for at least 10 years then it is very unlikely that you will be able to receive an award of spousal maintenance from a judge. In fact, the awarding of spousal maintenance in a Texas divorce is a relatively new phenomenon with changes to the law regarding spousal maintenance having been instituted as recently as 25 years ago. Again, the idea is that it is much preferable for spouses too exchange property in a division of their community estates and have one spouse be economically tide to the other after a divorce is complete.
The other main type of spousal support after a divorce is known as contractual alimony. Contractual alimony is an arrangement whereby you and your spouse agree in mediation to have support payments made after the end of a marriage for a certain length of time. You and your spouse would have greater authority over setting limits to how long special maintenance is to be received as well as how much money is to be paid. As long as the terms of the agreement are not thought to be unconscionable by a family court judge you are likely to be able to have these orders included in your final decree of divorce.
However, if you were to agree to have spousal support paid via contractual alimony you need to be aware that family court judges typically are unable to enforce the terms of this portion of your decree. The reason being is that contractual alimony is more along the lines of something to be enforced under contract law rather than family law. Spousal maintenance orders are handed down by a judge and are subject to his authority. On the other hand, contractual alimony is agreed to between Spouses in is more akin to contract law.
Therefore, while you and your spouse are free to agree with yourselves to have contractual alimony be paid it is a riskier venture than having a divorce judge hand down orders from the bench. That's not to say that you all could not make the scenario work and that contractual alimony is not a good idea for your specific circumstances. However, if you believe that it will be difficult to have your spouse follow through on your agreement that may be something to consider within the confines of your own divorce.
What do you need to consider when requesting alimony?
Now that we have discussed the basic terminology and circumstances surrounding the different types of alimony in Texas, we can now go through what you need to consider within your own, individual cases when requesting or negotiating for support payments to be made. The first thing that I would keep in mind is the likelihood that a family court judge would be willing to award you spousal maintenance in a trial. While the vast majority of Texas divorce is settled before trial, if your circumstances demand that you all have a trial one of those circumstances may involve spousal support. Your odds are being awarded spousal maintenance in a divorce trial will likely impact how you negotiate for contractual alimony during mediation.
Consider that, if a judge is unlikely to award you spousal maintenance in the divorce, your spouse will be much less willing most likely to negotiate with you regarding maintenance payments. You can attempt to negotiate as strongly as possible with him or her but if your spouse understands that the likelihood of your being awarded maintenance in a trial is very low then you probably won't get very far in negotiating for contractual alimony. Keep this in mind as you determine the course of your negotiations and on what subjects you may be pushing for.
It may be more realistic and preferable for you to negotiate for a split of your community estate that awards you a greater share of the property. Think about it in these terms: do you really want to be connected to your ex-spouse in a meaningful way like this long after your divorce is ended? It may feel good on some level, and may be necessary on others, for you to receive some sort of financial support after your divorce.
However, oftentimes you can receive support via the sale of property in a divorce that is much preferable to receiving a monthly payment from your ex pass. Consider how much easier it is on some levels to simply sell a piece of land, a house or any other property available in your divorce rather than to have to rely upon an ex-spouse to make payments to you every single month.
What do you need to be aware of after your divorce if you are awarded spousal maintenance or contractual alimony?
In the event that you are awarded spousal maintenance in your divorce you need to be aware of a couple different subjects in relation to whether that award can be voided after your divorce is done. indeed, the awarding of post-divorce support is not guaranteed for the life of the award if particular circumstances arise. The first circumstance that I would keep in mind is the possible passing of your ex-spouse. Typically, a responsibility to pay spousal maintenance or contractual alimony goes away when your ex-spouse passes. There may be some exceptions out there to this general rule but if your spouse passes away his or her a state is not responsible for continuing to make spousal maintenance or contractual alimony payments.
For this reason, many divorcing spouses will require that their ex-spouse take out a life insurance policy and name their ex-spouse as the beneficiary. Once the life insurance payment is made this will be the end of any responsibility for that deceased spouse or their estate to make payments. Talk with your divorce attorney about this set up to learn more about the details and how it may impact your case.
Secondly, if your or your ex-spouses’ financial circumstances change a great deal in the time after your divorce then a modification This spousal maintenance order may be requested. Modifications of a family court order may be granted in the event that the circumstances of one of the parties or your children has substantially and materially changed since the rendition of the prior order. For example, if your ex-spouse has paid you spousal maintenance for a couple of years but has since lost their job or suffered it is a disability then he or she may be able to request a modification Of the spousal support given their inability to earn a living near or equal to what they had earned at the time of your divorce.
Finally, there is a rule against cohabitation with a romantic partner that would and the responsibility for your ex-spouse to pay you contractual alimony or spousal maintenance. The devil, however, is in the details. If you begin to cohabitate with a romantic partner, then your ex-spouse could request to have the order terminated to pay spousal maintenance moving forward. But that forces your ex-spouse to do is come up with evidence showing the nature of your relationship and the nature of your living situation. As relationships and housing situations become more fluid as the years go by this may be more difficult thing one would imagine proving in court. However, the general rule is that once the spouse begins to cohabitate with a romantic partner the obligation to pay spousal maintenance ceases.
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 in via video. These consultations are a great way to learn more about Texas family law and how your individual circumstances fit within the context of the law as a whole.