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Who has a claim to receive post-separation support and alimony?

Trying to determine how a family court judge will rule regarding post-divorce spousal maintenance does not have to be a guessing game. Rather, there are specific factors that a judge will consider when making this determination. If you are in a position where you would like to receive spousal maintenance after your divorce but are not sure about your qualifications, then the job you have before you is to look at the case from an objective standpoint and make that kind of decision about how likely you are to receive maintenance after doing a thorough evaluation. It is not enough for you to wander into your divorce case and expect to receive spousal maintenance. 

Rather, you need to have a plan in place to attack this subject in your divorce. Did you know that most family court judges are not overly willing or excited to award you spousal maintenance? This is true even if you have a profile of someone who is an otherwise worthy candidate. Rather, family court judges typically look at spousal maintenance as something that they will award only if it becomes abundantly clear that you need the assistance to pay your basic bills and meet your basic financial burdens. nowhere in the discussion of spousal maintenance does anything come up where you are expected to be able to live the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed during your marriage?

The best way for you to develop a strategy and plan associated with winning spousal maintenance after your divorce is to work with an experienced family law attorney there is no group of family attorneys in Houston who are better suited to represent you in your divorce than the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys not only take seriously our responsibility up to you as a member of our community but we treat our clients with respect and have the heart of a teacher in our interactions with them. We strive to teach our clients about the law and how it impacts their case and their circumstances. It is then that our clients can make good decisions for themselves within the case.

At the end of today's blog post if you have any questions, 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 can help you to learn the basics of the law in Texas regarding spousal maintenance or anything else in the world of family law. On top of that, we can help show you just how your case and circumstances may be impacted by the law and how you can best prepare to present yourself in a courtroom or at the negotiating table in a manner that is advantageous to you and your family.

How much spousal maintenance could you be awarded in your divorce? 

If you are in a position where a judge determines that parcel maintenance is appropriate in your case, then he or she would look to several different factors when deciding about how long special meaning it should be awarded for and how much spousal maintenance should be awarded every month. One important factor to bear in mind is that rarely is this amount of money something that would be enough for you to subsist on without otherwise getting a job. For you to be awarded spousal maintenance in the first place you would need to display to a judge that you have performed your due diligence when it comes to trying to look for employment or to complete your education to find an income suitable for you and your family. Not performing these steps can end the discussion of spousal maintenance in your divorce before it even begins. 

Otherwise, if you are awarded spousal maintenance, it will be done after a family court judge considers your age. The older you are the less able you would be able to work a competitive full-time job and thus be able to provide for yourself financially. Well, this is not a blanket statement that a person can make without any reservation, older people generally have greater degrees of health issues and are less physically able to work insert and minds of work where greater functional capacity is necessary. As a result, the number of jobs available to you as an older person is less than the number of jobs available to a younger person who may be more physically able to work higher intensity jobs that require greater degrees of lifting, carrying standing, and walking.

Next, a family court judge would consider your employment history and track record of having work. If you are someone who has been a stay-at-home parent or spouse for the better part of your married life, then a judge would certainly consider this when determining how much spousal maintenance and for how long spousal maintenance should be paid to you. Many times, you will put yourself in a position where you have stayed at home to raise children and take care of the house while your spouse was the one to go out and earn an income for your family. While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, it does put you in a position where you may struggle to support yourself after a divorce. If this sounds like your circumstances, then you should be aware that that's the only court judge who would look to your employment history when deciding about this. However, it should be noted that this does not mean that you can wait for an inordinate amount of time before looking for work. Even if you do not have much of a history of working you would still be able to find basic work in our area. As a result, you should plan on seeking out employment as soon as you are able even if you are ultimately awarded spousal maintenance in your divorce case.

At a certain point, any discussion regarding spousal maintenance will come down to your ability to simply earn an income sufficient to pay your bills. More than anything, and inability to pay your bills likely depends on your ability to work in a circumstance that allows you to earn an income that can pay rent, utility gas, and other expenses that come up in your lives. If your income earning ability is suppressed for whatever reason, then it may be necessary for you to receive special maintenance. For example, even if you can find work OK of various sorts in the economy, getting the jobs that you can find may not be enough for you to pay your bills or pay the expenses associated with raising your child daily. As a result, in that type of situation spousal maintenance may be needed to help bridge the gap or at least allow you to develop a career trajectory that allows you to eventually earn a greater income based on the experience that you are gaining in entering the workforce after your divorce.

Next, your physical and mental health will also be considered when it comes to an award of spousal maintenance. First, do you have the physical wherewithal to be able to work? We have talked about this somewhat regarding you as someone who may be a person in your golden years who is now having to go out and find work. If you suffer from a physical disability or impairment and cannot work certain jobs, then that may be a point in your favor when it comes to having spousal maintenance awarded to you. Likewise, you need to have the mental wherewithal to work to be able to engage in sustained employment activities in the marketplace. Simply put, if you suffer from a mental illness or impairment of some sort you may not be able to perform basic workplace functions such as concentrating on material, remembering instructions, interacting with others, and simply making it to work consistently and remaining on task. These basic requirements of even unskilled work may be beyond your capabilities at this stage of your life. That doesn't mean that you can never return to the workforce or work at all but that you may require some assistance in the short term when it comes to receiving let's buy some maintenance.

It is also relevant for a family court judge to consider how long it would take you to become employment ready if you are not currently able to find work. Becoming employment ready may mean going back to school to complete a degree that you started but did not complete previously. Or there may be some sort of vocational training or skill you can develop in a shorter period that would allow you to go out and gain employment immediately. Some schools or trade schools will guarantee you employment in a particular field if you start down a career path. Whatever your situation, abilities invocation, a judge would consider how likely you are to be able to quickly find work that is it's suitable for you.

If your spouse has misappropriated community funds, then this would also be a point in your favor when it comes to being awarded spousal maintenance. A somewhat common scenario that is seen in divorce cases involves a spouse who earns the income in the marriage stepping outside the marriage to have an affair. If this is the situation that you find yourself in, then all is not lost even if your spouse spent considerable amounts of community income on a boyfriend or girlfriend. In that case, a judge would likely order that reimbursement of the community estate is necessary for addition to awarding you spousal maintenance to make up for the money that was lost by your spouse. Theoretically, if that money had never been spent then you may have enough in the community of state to not have to receive spousal maintenance.

One of the more interesting aspects of this discussion has to do with the contributions that you made to the family as a homemaker and parent. You will find that some people assume that if a person does not work outside the house that they do not contribute financially to a family. However, this could not be further from the truth. Look at all the roles that you fulfilled for your family during your marriage, and you will quickly find that there is economic and financial value to all those services. Going down the list of items would quickly begin to run up the bill for your spouse. These are items such as transportation for your children, food preparation, schoolwork assistance, cleaning up the home, running of errands and the list goes on and on. as a result, your contributions to the marriage and your home life should not be discounted simply because there was no dollar item attached to them during your marriage. That will become a relevant factor during your divorce if you are asking for spousal maintenance.

Is there a cap on spousal maintenance payments in Texas?

Within the Texas family code, there is a cap on how much spousal maintenance can be awarded by a family court judge in your case. However, if you and your spouse agree to spousal support and mediation then this would be known as contractual alimony and the cap that we are about to discuss would not apply. An involuntary amount of spousal maintenance cannot exceed $5000 per month or 20% of your spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever number is lower.

This information is all well and good, but we also need to determine what gross income includes for this calculation. For starters, it would include 100% of all of your wages and salary that you earn at your primary job in any secondary jobs that you work. Things like bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, and tips would all be included in these amounts. Investment income would typically count as well. If you are self-employed then your self-employment would count towards a discussion of your income.

Spousal maintenance will be ordered for the shortest possible time. That would allow you to be able to make your own 4 walls and pay your bills. The above factors would be considered when it comes to the judge deciding about how able you are to work and earn an income for yourself. In this sense, the less functional you are the less able you are to find and sustain work the more likely you are to receive a longer amount of spousal maintenance.

Within the Texas family code, there is a chart that you can become familiar with which will detail the length of time that spousal maintenance can be awarded under different circumstances. If you and your spouse have a merry between 10 and 20 years that a family court judge cannot order spousal maintenance, be paid for any time. Longer than five years. If you all have been married for between 20 and 30 years, then the award can last no longer than seven years. Any marriage that lasted longer than 30 years is eligible for up to 10 years of spousal maintenance. An exception to the 10-year minimum length of marriage rule is regarding family violence. You may be awarded spousal maintenance even if you and your spouse were not married for 10 years if he or she engaged in acts of family violence against you. However, even in those situations, you cannot be awarded spousal maintenance for any longer than five years. Finally, indefinite lengths of spousal maintenance can be awarded in situations where you or your child have a disabling condition that does not allow you to work.

Closing thoughts on spousal maintenance

What all of this should tell you Is that you need to be well prepared when it comes to the discussion of spousal maintenance in your divorce case. It is not enough to simply want to be awarded spousal maintenance because you think you need it or have been told that you could get it by someone who has recently been through it divorced. Rather, you need to be able to enter your divorce case with a plan in mind on how to achieve that goal based on the factors we have listed in the circumstances of your case. In my opinion, the best way for you to position yourself well to do this is to hire an experienced family law attorney who can guide you and provide you with the information you need to make good decisions.

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, then 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 for you to learn more about the world in Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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