One of the concepts in family law that we are asked quite a bit about here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is alimony. This is a subject that we hear about a lot in our society but that many of us don’t know very much about at all. I think that we can all agree on divorce being hard for all parties involved. Even if you know that you need to get a divorce it is still not easy to go through the case. The emotional expense, financial expense, stress, and other is related to divorce are enough to cause many people to delay getting a divorce at all. Sometimes people wait for many years to get divorced to avoid the unpleasant realizations That come along with getting divorced. 

However, sometimes what is best for us is to bite the bullet and move on with the next step in our lives even if it is far from pleasant. This is what I mean when we talk about doing what is best for your family but also yourself both now and in the long run. You should not hesitate to get divorced if you believe that it is truly in your interests and the best interests of your child. That doesn’t mean that you should speed through a divorce in file for divorce before you are ready. What I do mean is that you should learn about any areas of control about the divorce and then move forward when you have the proper decision-making capabilities at hand.

One of the reasons why you may be hesitant to get a divorce is that you have little control over your post-divorce financial future. Suppose that you are a stay-at-home parent and spouse whose husband has worked for the majority of your marriage. As a result, you may have zero work experience and may have graduated from high school many years ago. Well, you have contributed in your ways to the marriage from a financial standpoint it is your spouse who is earned almost every dollar that has ever been saved or spent by her family. As a result, the idea of getting divorced puts you in a difficult spot. 

On the one hand, you may understand that getting a divorce is what is in your best interests. Your marriage may have been failing for some time but you remained in it for financial reasons. The idea that you cannot afford the necessities of life such as health insurance and food is enough to cause anyone to give a second thought to whether or not a divorce is a good idea at least right now. How will you pay your bills? Will you be expected to work in a minimum wage that will type job till after your divorce is over with? Is there a path towards you going back to school, working to gain experience while also surviving to buy more than just the skin of your teeth?

The answer to your question is that, yes, you can have payments of money from your ex-spouse to you after your divorce is over with. These types of payment are known as spousal maintenance and contractual alimony. We will be discussing these payments in today’s blog post and going over how they can help you and your family both during the divorce and afterward. 

Unfortunately, sometimes there are problems when it comes to ensuring that the payment of spousal maintenance and contractual alimony goes through without a hitch. Just like with anything else there are potential problems that can arise regarding also millions in contractual alimony. As such we will talk about what it means to enforce contractual alimony or spousal maintenance awards that you received in a divorce case. Hopefully, you never have to go through a situation where responsible maintenance or contractual alimony is being withheld. However, it is a distinct possibility that this could occur and we need to discuss what you can do if this situation occurs to you. paragraph a background on alimony in Texas

Spousal support is generally speaking a new phenomenon in Texas. In 1995 the Texas Legislature passed a spousal maintenance statute into law that would allow for your spouse to pay you money in support after the divorce comes to an end. Before this, a judge could not order post divorce partial support although it could be agreed to mutually between you and your spouse. The primary purpose of spousal maintenance is not to be a permanent feature of your life. Rather, spousal maintenance generally speaking lasts for only three years at the most. Additionally, at most, $2500 or 20% of your expenses net monthly income could be paid to you in spousal support.

This tells you that spousal maintenance is intended to act as a band-aid rather than as a permanent cure to any financial difficulties you may have associated with your divorce. So, while you may not be stuck in a marriage due to financial problems it is true that you cannot expect spousal maintenance to be something that lasts an extended period for you. As a result, you should begin to make plans even during your divorce for how you are going to handle post-divorce finances. supporting yourself after a divorce is not easy. Whether you need time to go back to school to complete degree karma re-enter the workforce to gain experience or just want to reach a higher level of pay they’re getting a certification, these are all worthy goals to have for the period after you are divorce comes to an end.

Bear in mind that spousal maintenance is frequently ordered in situations where you as a divorced spouse cannot support yourself after a divorce. This could be due to several factors. For instance, you could a degree, earn a certification, or simply re-enter the workforce spousal maintenance can offer you the opportunity to do so on that completely losing track of your finances.

Enforcement of a special maintenance award in Texas

In an enforcement case, a successful party can utilize various mechanisms to enforce a court order. Contempt is one such method. Being held in contempt of court means that you will have willfully violated a court order in are subject to significant penalties. These penalties include fines and even jail time. Your spouse is found to have failed to pay child support could be in line with me to have to pay you past due special maintenance and possibly your attorney’s fees.

Inforcing contractual alimony is a different story than enforcing spousal maintenance awards. Spousal maintenance awards are based on court orders from a judge. Contractual alimony is an agreed to and negotiated provision set forth between you and your spouse in mediation or informal settlement negotiations. Therefore, courts in Texas have not utilized contempt to enforce contractual alimony. This is because contempt is not available under contract law and contractual alimony is enforced based on contractual principles. The provisions contained in the Texas family code regarding enforcement actions do not apply when it comes to contractual alimony. Rather, we would like to contempt as a means by which a court can punish your spouse for failing to pay you.

How will the court determine whether or not alimony is necessary in your case?

There are four factors that I think your family law court is most likely to look to when it comes to determining whether or not spousal maintenance is necessary. First, your age and physical condition will be looked at closely. If you are getting divorced as an older person then this would likely be a factor in your favor. The thought is that you would be less likely to be able to transition into different lines of work. Generally speaking, while you may have transferable skills as an older person those skills may be limited in their application across different lines of work.

The other consideration that we need to pay is that your physical condition and health are important. If you are in poor health or are disabled then these are factors that a court would likely look to when determining spousal maintenance. Specifically, whether you are disabled or care for a child who has a disability then these are factors that are listed in the Texas family code as to how Special maintenance may be awarded.

Next, a court would look to see what sort of income sources you have available to you at the time of your divorce. if you have a career in place or Have the ability to jump back into a career if you have been off from work then your chances of being awarded spousal maintenance decreased dramatically. On the other hand, If you do not have this kind of opportunity available to you then you are likely to be considered more highly for a spousal maintenance award.

Another relevant consideration is the financial status of your spouse. This is a prerequisite almost in terms of being able to be awarded spousal maintenance. The simple truth is that you could be the most deserving spouse in the world when it comes to being awarded spousal maintenance. However, if your spouse cannot afford to pay spousal maintenance then the award cannot be made. Your spouse must have the ability for you to be paid spousal maintenance. This means that he or she will need to submit a budget to the court that is detailed showing their income, bills, and other financial responsibilities. 

What about modifying alimony payments in the future? 

Your life will inevitably change to one degree or another after your divorce. It is almost impossible to stay neutral one way or another when it comes to your life after your divorce case comes to an end. As such, you should be prepared to seek a modification of your court order if circumstances warrant such a modification. However, it is important to note that these types of modification cases are extremely fact-specific and do require, in my opinion, the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. Having an attorney would allow you to present your information to a judge in an easy to the understanding manner that would best allow you to win the case.

Bear in mind that probably the most important type of modification case that can be sought regarding special maintenance is if your living situation at home changes. In Texas, you are ineligible to receive special maintenance once you remarry or choose two reside with a partner. By getting married you are effectively telling the court that you no longer wish to receive spousal maintenance. However, being in a relationship where you live with your partner can be a bit more difficult for you are exposed to prove. Imagine a circumstance where you are exposed as attempting to prove that you live with a person that you say you do not. He or she would have to have video evidence, utility bills, testimony from a witness. It can be an uphill battle for him or her to prove this.

enforcing a special maintenance order means that you must be able to show a judge that on specific occasions the spousal maintenance that you were ordered to recede was not paid to you by your spouse. Just as we saw with a modification case you need to have an attorney representing you if you wish to bring an enforcement case. what we also know is that enforcement cases require you to plead specific information in your petition or motion for enforcement. Without having an attorney you may make a mistake in your documents and find out about them when it is too late.

What can you do to help ensure that you are not left out in the cold when it comes to spousal maintenance?

To close out today’s blog post I wanted to share some tips with you as far as what you can do to help yourself is receiving spousal maintenance. Specifically, I am interested in helping you too not be left out to dry if you’re ex-spouse stops paying you spousal maintenance. The reality is that if you are ordered to receive spousal maintenance or child support for that matter the odds are good that payment will be missed at some point. Believe it or not, I think the most likely reasons why spousal maintenance and child support or miss is not due to bad behavior by your ex-spouse but rather through neglect or simple mistakes. 

Much of the time, you would be able to correct these mistakes by communicating with your expells and having the spousal maintenance payment made up for in the next month. That won’t help you if you are dependent upon these payments to pay your bills and to feed your family. My advice would be to do everything you can to prevent yourself from being overly reliant upon spousal maintenance for your day-to-day needs. There are things you can do to help insulate yourself as best as possible when it comes to your daily needs in light of spousal maintenance issues that are possible.

The best thing that you can do to help ensure that you receive your spousal maintenance awards each month is to word your final decree of divorce in a clear, concise, and straightforward manner. The last thing that you want is to have a judge say that the wording in your decree was too ambiguous to be enforced. All the work you put forth during your divorce would have been for nothing. You need an enforceable order to be able to proceed with an enforcement lawsuit. 

Next, you should begin to think about a post-divorce career as soon as possible. Preferably during the divorce. There are exceptions to this piece of advice such as situations that involve disabled people and disabled children. In circumstances like that, I will grant you that you become a little bit more dependent upon spousal maintenance to subsist. However, I would also tell you that there are ample opportunities to be able to augment your income from home through remote careers and from stellar work opportunities. There are almost always chances for you to earn income these days through nontraditional measures involving the Internet. 

Otherwise, you can work towards completing a degree, starting an associate’s degree, or completing a work certificate to enter or re-enter the workforce. Technical schools, community colleges, and places like this provide ample opportunity for people in your position to earn a degree or certificate that would allow you to earn more money in your post-divorce life. Again, no one is telling you to completely disregard the spousal maintenance. However, if you can put yourself in a position where the maintenance becomes icing on the cake rather than the whole cake itself you are in a much better position. 

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 posts please do not hesitate to contact from 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 of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.