Concerns over supporting yourself both during the divorce and after may be holding you back from filing a case. It can be quite stressful to be in a position where you do not know where your next paycheck comes from if you are concerned about losing your job. For many people in your position, the idea of getting divorced is not dissimilar. Meaning, your spouse had been the primary breadwinner for many years in your marriage and you are now concerned about moving forward without him or her. How are you going to keep your head above water financially after a divorce without their income?

This is absolutely a valid question to ask. When I meet with potential clients of the law office of Brian Fagan one of the first things that they will mention to me in terms of their concern over getting a divorce is our finances. Much of the time the financial concerns are related to whether they can afford to hire a lawyer. This is a valid concern given the perception that lawyers charge an arm and a leg to hire them in divorce and money is likely already tight at your home, to begin with. Additionally, being able to pay an attorney without creating a bunch of red flags in terms of drawing attention to the fact that you are filing for divorce is another issue that people in your position battle with every day.

Next, we can consider the issues surrounding getting divorced when it comes to your immediate well-being in that of your children. Let’s suppose that you file for divorce in your spouse’s first reaction is to immediately move out of the house. Once he moves out of the house, he also goes to your local credit union and takes most of the money from your checking account, and puts it into an account that only he has access to. He reasons that since you filed for divorce you don’t need his income from work any longer. You attempt to talk to him on the phone about this decision, but he will not take your calls.

Meanwhile, the kids still need to eat dinner every night and the mortgage is due next week. With having little money in savings, you know that quickly you will run out of income and be incapable of taking care of even these modest bills. What, then, can you do to protect yourself and your children in these scenarios? Do you have any options to turn to when it comes to being able to support yourself during a divorce? How can you be expected to do this when you have not worked outside the home in many years? what options do you have during the divorce to keep your head above water and maintain some sense of stability at home while proceeding with your divorce?

Temporary spousal support in a Texas divorce

You may have heard from people that Texas judges are typically hesitant to award spousal maintenance in a divorce case. Other times, you may have heard from people that you cannot get spousal maintenance or alimony in a divorce in Texas. The truth of the matter is that spousal maintenance is what we in Texas referred to when talking about alimony. It is also true that, historically, judges were not able to award spousal maintenance or alimony in a divorce case. However, that has changed and for the past 25 years, it has been possible to be awarded spousal maintenance in a divorce case. Here is what that could mean for you on a short-term basis.

Being awarded spousal maintenance after a divorce does not have too much to do with being awarded temporary spousal support during a divorce. Judges are much more likely to award temporary spousal support as opposed to a more ongoing spousal maintenance award after a divorce case. With that said, if you have valid concerns about paying your bills at the time of your divorce then you can request spousal support temporarily in your original petition for divorce or in your counter-petition for divorce. Doing so will allow you to at least put the issue in front of a family court judge if you need to attend a temporary orders hearing.

In the alternative, you and your spouse can negotiate for temporary spousal support at any time during the divorce. One of the methods to do this is simply to have some payment made between you and your spouse from the earliest stages of your case. This could happen even before temporary orders are negotiated for or entered. However, once you get to the stage of your case where temporary orders are being negotiated for, I certainly recommend that you put whatever agreement you have for temporary spousal support into writing. This way there is no doubt about how much support will receive, the method of payment, and the deadline to pay the money. This will give both you and your spouse some Peace of Mind in terms of being able to handle matters related to spousal support.

Many times, people in your position can use the need for spousal support to their advantage when it comes to negotiations. For example, I was involved in a divorce not too long ago where the mother involved in the case requested spousal support during the divorce. She did not work and her husband had a substantial income. As a result, she was able to negotiate for spousal support during the divorce. What she had to give up was the ability to access the family home which was something that the husband wanted to maintain so he could have this ability for himself and the kids when they came to visit. Not every family will be in a position where a significant amount of spousal support can be used to negotiate in this way. However, bear in mind that to negotiate for spousal support you may need to give something up on the other side of the case to balance out the award of support that you are set to receive.

Setting yourself up to receive spousal support during a divorce

When it comes to negotiating for spousal support your best bet is to come prepared. Almost immediately, I would prepare a detailed household budget showing what your income is, if anything, as well as what the proven needs of your family are. School tuition, groceries, health insurance premiums, rent, mortgage payments, and the like should all be meticulously outlined for you to submit to a judge. Additionally, if any Community property or separate property that you own could be utilized to pay for these items rather than spousal support then you need to consider this as well. The family court judge would likely prefer that Community property or separate property be liquidated to meet these obligations temporarily.

The other thing that you can do to increase the likelihood that you will be able to receive temporary spousal support is to begin to prepare for life after your divorce. This means that you may need to get ready 2 re-enter the workforce. Showing a judge that you have been on general view stop and started looking for work outside the home is a must. Or you may look to go back to school or complete the certification of some sort. Whatever you decide you should go into the case prepared not only to argue for spousal support if you need it but also to move on and care for your finances after the divorce is over with. Not only is this likely better for you and your personal development but it also considers the reality that receiving spousal maintenance is far from a given during a Texas divorce or after the divorce has come to an end.

How long do special maintenance awards last? If you are awarded spousal maintenance in your divorce, then you can expect to receive special support which lasts four a period in line with the length of your marriage. For example, if you were married between 10 and 20 years then the longest spousal maintenance award you can be assessed is for five years. Next, you may be awarded seven years of special maintenance for marriage that lasted between 20- and 30-years period finally, if your marriage lasted for longer than 30 years you may be able to get up to 10 years of spousal maintenance.

However, bear in mind that it is not that easy to be awarded spousal maintenance in a Texas divorce. Or are we already discussed how it is far from a sure thing that spousal maintenance will be awarded. Texas only within the past 25 years past laws that allow judges to award vessel maintenance in a divorce. Just because you qualify for first vessel maintenance in terms of how long your marriage lasted does not mean that you will automatically be awarded these payments in a divorce. Rather, you must be able to show that you are unable to meet your minimum reasonable needs after a divorce. This is a substantial hurdle to climb for most people given that currently many people who get divorced are already working regardless of other factors.

When Texas finally passed laws that allowed for spousal maintenance in divorces it was likely done to help older people who were getting divorced but had not worked and many years if ever error had appeared these folks needed assistance but being able to support themselves for a relatively short period while they entered or reentered the workforce. Therefore, you do not see special maintenance awards that go on and on for many years. for that reason, you should not expect to receive long-lasting awards for spousal maintenance.

Realistically, you should look at spousal maintenance as an opportunity to make sure that your bills are paid and that you can meet the obligations of your family on a short-term basis after a divorce. It would be a mistake to look at spousal maintenance as an opportunity to live on this income for an extended period. Rather, you can look at maintenance as an opportunity to stay on your feet and not get knocked over in the period immediately following your divorce.

Another issue that is relevant to this discussion is that special maintenance is not intended to help you remain living in a manner that you have accustomed to. Because this means that if you were used to living a certain lifestyle that was based on your spouse’s income then you should begin to adjust your lifestyle given that there are limits to how much spousal maintenance you can be paid each month specifically, the maximum amount of special maintenance that a court can order is $5000 per month or 20% of your spouse is average monthly gross income, whichever is less.

the bottom line is that the family court judge will expect you to get a job at some point. An exception to this general rule is that you may have a disability or may be caring for a child with a disability. In that case, you may be able to receive ongoing special maintenance for longer than the periods that we just finished going over. however, this would need to be something that you can prove to your family court judge if you are unable to negotiate for this type of support directly with your spouse in informal mediation or in the mediation itself.

Like we touched on earlier in today’s blog post you need to have a plan for what to do after your divorce as far as income is concerned. When asked by a judge or by your attorney what your plans are for after the divorce when it comes to your income You should be able to communicate something in terms of a plan. If you cannot then it will limit you as far as the likelihood that you can Receive special maintenance. Otherwise, do not expect that a judge would be overly excited or prepared to award spousal maintenance.

If you are physically capable of finding work and holding down a job then yes you need to get a job or make preparations to re-enter the workforce. It does not matter If you have not worked in many years or did not complete a degree. In that case, you will need to be able to begin to make plans for yourself to start working again. Just because you were not working for a long period does that mean that you can’t go out and find a decent-paying job that does not take much skill to accomplish. Unskilled work is plentiful right now and we’re facing a shortage of workers in the economy currently. Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of believing that you are incapable of reentering the workforce after an extended absence. Not only can this be harmful to your mental perspective but it will be harmful to you financially because a judge will likely not agree with you.

When can spousal maintenance be terminated?

Another relevant question to ask is how and when special maintenance may be ended in Texas. For instance, do you understand that spousal maintenance will come to an end after a certain period of years based on the length of your marriage period, however, other circumstances may lead to the end of your spousal maintenance, as well.

Spousal maintenance generally terminates upon the death of the recipient. This means that if you pass away, you state would not continue to receive spousal maintenance payments. However, the obligation to pay spousal maintenance does not end with the passing of your spouse. His or her estate would still be obligated to pay you special maintenance. Next, if you begin to cohabitate with a person with whom you are in a dating relationship or have remarried then your ex-spouse’s obligation to pay spousal support comes to an end.

Either way, I hope that you have seen that spousal maintenance is not something that is expected for you to receive in a divorce but that it is not impossible to receive, either. Like anything else in a divorce if you can come into the case prepared to make strong arguments as to why you need to be awarded special maintenance then your chances of receiving maintenance increase dramatically. Do not expect to receive spousal maintenance if you are not able to prepare adequately. With that said, you should talk to your attorney about your need to receive special maintenance early in your case so that you can begin to prepare to make those sorts of arguments in a hearing, if necessary. 

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, 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.