Spousal Maintenance Vs Alimony In Texas
Texas Family Code § 8.001 specifically defines spousal maintenance as periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse. However, where traditional alimony involved payments with which a former spouse derived their livelihood for an indefinite time, spousal maintenance was intended to help a former spouse for a limited time to become financially independent and self-sufficient.
Because of the subtle distinction between contractual alimony and spousal maintenance in Texas, a or divorce settlement that provides for alimony payments should take care not to classify said payments as spousal maintenance if they intend those payments to last on a more permanent basis.
Strategy : Prove They Dont Need It
Some spouses who are simply being vindictive seek to gain alimony payments, even if they do not need the money to maintain their standard of living. For example, does your ex have access to a large monetary sum, like a trust fund or stock portfolio? Do they have an inheritance or savings account? If so, them being unemployed may not affect their ability to transition to a single lifestyle. Your ex may not even need an alimony payment to make this lifestyle change.
Be sure to investigate whether or not your spouse has any assets in their name that would keep you from having to make alimony payments. To do this, you may wish to hire a professional forensic accountant to help you track down this asset or assets. While accountants definitely charge a premium for their services, your avoidance of lengthy and costly alimony fees will be well worth the price.
Really I Have Friends Who Receive More Alimony Than That
Your friends likely negotiated contractual alimony into their divorce agreements. With a contractual alimony agreement, the sky is the limit and payment amounts can be much higher than the statutory maximum in Texas. Contractual alimony may also be of longer duration and can include a variety of other mechanisms based on the settlement agreed to between the soon to be ex-spouses.
For example, the amount may change after each year or be cut in half after three years. It depends on the terms negotiated. Also, you cant modify contractual alimony, though you may be able to modify court-ordered spousal maintenance under certain circumstances , Abby says.
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What Are The Five Tips To Help People Avoid Costly Mistakes In A Divorce
Exactly. Hopefully it will only be months instead of years. It usually is, but we do see cases where it does drag on for years. It takes a toll.
And I would say its usually avoidable.
How Long Do You Have To Be Married To Receive Alimony In Texas
The Lone Star State has one of the narrowest spousal support laws in the country. Typically, to qualify for alimony in Texas, the marriage must have lasted at least ten years and the obligee must be unable to earn enough to meet basic needs. Other qualifications, which do not come up very frequently, include the obligees incapacitating disability, a family violence conviction within the last two years, and custody of a minor disabled child who requires constant care.
Additionally, in all these cases, there is a presumption that the judge must award the absolute minimum amount of alimony needed to meet basic needs. Usually, this phrase means living above the poverty line, although the standard of living during the marriage could have an effect.
Because Texas alimony laws are so subjective, both obligees and obligors need assertive legal representation. Unless you have an experienced Dallas spousal support attorney in your corner, there is a good chance the alimony award will not accurately reflect the obligees needs or the obligors ability to pay.
Setting Alimony in Texas
In addition to the aforementioned minimum necessary presumption, Dallas County judges set the amount and duration of payments according to several factors, including:
Some caps apply to the duration of payments. Usually, payments may last a maximum of five , seven , or ten years.
Modifying Spousal Support in Texas
Contact a Dedicated Dallas Spousal Support Attorney
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When The Supporting Spouse Moves Away
In some cases, spouses who are responsible for paying support attempt to move away to a state that will not enforce the payment agreement. In addition, some people believe that quitting their job and moving away will make it more difficult for you to prove that they have any income at all, and they might get away with not paying. If your former spouse is trying to skip out on paying alimony in Texas by moving, you should contact an attorney immediately. Do not wait until you have lost contact to try and seek a judgment for non-payment.
As mentioned above, your divorce agreement remains valid no matter where your ex moves, but tracking them down and enforcing payment becomes increasingly difficult when they leave the area and change jobs. Before you can pursue your spouse, you will need to have your attorney draft a letter of demand and start keeping track of when payments stopped. In addition, you may be asked to provide evidence from social media or family members and friends familiar with the situation who know where your ex is working after the move.
Strategy : Prove Your Spouse Was Adulterous
Laws about paying alimony vary from state to state. Even with these variants, many do not allow unfaithful spouses to vie for alimony payments. This is going to require more than your word indicating that your spouse was unfaithful during your marriage. You must bear the burden of proof. This may come in the form of showing photographs and video to the judge of your spouse.
You should get started immediately on collecting witness statements and any other incriminating evidence you can think of that shows your spouse was undoubtedly having an affair.
The judge will have the final say about whether or not your evidence counts as proof to support the claims of adultery, and how it will affect any alimony payments.
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How To Avoid Paying Alimony When The Alimony
Family Code section 4323 states:
Except as otherwise agreed to by the parties in writing, there is a rebuttable presumption, affecting the burden of proof, of decreased need for alimony if the supported party is cohabiting with a nonmarital partner. Upon a determination that circumstances have changed, the court may modify or terminate the alimony as provided for in Chapter 6 of Part 1.
Holding oneself out to be the spouse of the person with whom one is cohabiting is not necessary to constitute cohabitation as the term is used in this subdivision.
The income of a supporting spouse’s subsequent spouse or nonmarital partner shall not be considered when determining or modifying alimony.
Nothing in this section precludes later modification or termination of alimony on proof of change of circumstances.
This is important. Pay attention to it. If your spouse is cohabiting with a non-marital partner, he or she is presumed to have a reduced need. Ignore this at your own risk. Read our guide on cohabitation and alimony in California.
Petitioning To Modify Spousal Support
Usually, changes to alimony orders must be pursued using the modification process provided in the Texas Family Code. This requires showing evidence that circumstances have materially and substantially changed since the original order was entered.
In other words, you have to show that something has transpired in your life or your exs life that would warrant reducing or ending the support obligation. Examples of these substantial changes include things like:
- Your ex received a large inheritance or other sudden influx of money and no longer needs your support
- Your ex now has a job that allows them to be financially independent
- You lost your job or suffered something else that greatly reduced your income
- You were injured or developed an illness that impacts how much you can earn
If any significant change has occurred in your life, its important to talk to a Texas family lawyer as soon as you can so the modification process can be initiated.
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Understanding Spousal Maintenance Vs Alimony In Texas
Before we learn about how to avoid or reduce alimony in Texas, its important to understand the different types of spousal support in Texas. The Lone Star State is considered one of the most difficult places to get court-ordered spousal maintenance in a divorce, and there are strict qualifications that the supported spouse has to meet for a judge to order the other spouse to make payments to them.
Eligibility For Alimony In Texas
The divorcing parties may agree to spousal support, regardless of the circumstances, but there are specific requirements relating to demands for alimony. The spouse requesting support must first establish their eligibility for alimony. To qualify for alimony, the petitioning spouse must show that they cannot afford to support their minimum reasonable needs. In addition, one of two conditions must apply:
- The paying spouse was convicted or received deferred adjudication for an act of family violence committed either:
- During the marriage but no more than two years before the suit for divorce or
- During the pendency of the divorce itself.
- Or, the spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn sufficient income to support their reasonable needs and:
- Their inability is due to physical or mental disability
- Their inability is due to their responsibility as the custodian of a child of the marriage who needs exceptional care due to their physical or mental disability or
- The marriage lasted 10 or more years.
If one of the conditions to qualify for alimony is met, the court will then determine the amount and duration of support.
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Offset The Alimony With Assets Or Debt
You may be able to offset the alimony by agreeing to take on additional marital debt equal to the amount of alimony you would be ordered to pay. For example, if you and your spouse took out a personal loan, you may agree to pay your spouses portion of the loan instead of alimony. Or, if you have assets that are worth about what youd be ordered to pay in alimony, you may allow your spouse to keep the assets instead of paying alimony. It is also possible for you to pay your spouse alimony in a lump sum instead of making monthly payments. However, these may not be the best option. If youre considering paying a lump sum, taking on additional debt, or offsetting alimony with assets, talk to your attorney to make sure youre making the best choice.
Im Afraid My Spouse Wont Follow Through With My Spousal Maintenance Or Contractual Alimony Payments How Can I Make Sure He Or She Does
Abby strongly encourages clients to take steps to obtain security for spousal maintenance in the divorce agreement from the paying spouse.
As she explains, You should always secure the alimony or spousal maintenance with specific assets of your spouse. Then, if your ex defaults a specified number of times over a set number of days, your spousal support gets accelerated and you can collect it from enforcing the security agreement.
Following default, you would get an interest in that asset whether its a 401k, a brokerage account , a house, a piece of property or something else. Remember, if your spouse goes broke, the courts cant print money, so be prepared.
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Avoid Paying Alimony By Knowing Ahead Of Time When It Should End
Regarding duration, if the marriage is of a short duration, consider whether it makes sense to have a termination date for alimony written into the agreement. This is usually half the marriage’s duration.
If left open ended, the spouse risks the time and expense it will take to end alimony once the alimony reaches the one half duration.
The spouse who pays alimony should not assume the other spouse will just agree to be reasonable in the future.
In long-term marriages, it is also possible to reach such agreements and the family law attorney you hire can give you advice on what makes sense for you.
These are just a few examples of how to avoid paying alimony that is too much and for too long as part of a settlement agreement. An experienced family law lawyer will provide you with much more information for your specific case.
Have Questions About Alimony In Texas 11 Things You Need To Know
How alimony is determined varies from state to state. If you and your spouse are calling it quits in Texas, alimony isnt a given. You also shouldnt expect a windfall, even if your spouse is a professional athlete, real estate mogul or oil baron. Dallas Divorce Attorney Abby Gregory answers 11 common questions about spousal support in Texas below.
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Texas Alimony: Are You Entitled To Spousal Support
Last Updated on May 31, 2022 by Benson Varghese
Spousal support, spousal maintenance, and alimony are synonymous and interchangeable terms. Spousal maintenance is the term generally used in Texas courts, and all it means is money paid by one spouse to the other, usually on a monthly basis, after separation or divorce. Spousal support is not awarded in every case, however. To be eligible for alimony in Texas, certain qualifications must be met.
How To Avoid Or Reduce Alimony In Texas
Alimony and spousal maintenance are ways to help a lower-earning spouse that would be unable to support themselves immediately after marriage get back on their feet. However, in some cases, a spouse might try to prove they require court-ordered maintenance or fight for alimony in a settlement when you dont feel they actually need the payments in order to make ends meet.
Lets look at some of the ways that you can avoid or reduce alimony in a Texas divorce.
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Contact An Attorney When You Need Help With Utah Alimony Laws
Though Utah alimony laws do allow some to reduce their alimony, or get out of alimony, each circumstance is unique. If youre trying to figure out how to avoid paying alimony, your best bet is to consult an attorney. At CoilLaw, our attorneys have experience in handling many types of family matters. From alimony to custody, CoilLaw is here to represent you. If youre ready to get started with the divorce process, contact CoilLaw today.
How Can You Enforce A Spousal Maintenance Order In Texas
Lets look at the issue of enforcing a spousal maintenance order from the perspective of the ex-spouse who is supposed to be receiving the money. Whether you and your ex-spouse agreed in mediation to pay spousal maintenance or it was ordered by the judge, a court order can be enforced that obligates your ex-spouse to pay you spousal maintenance. However, it is only when a court orders the payment of maintenance that contempt can be used as a method of enforcement. Contempt of court is when a party to a case before that court violates a court order-either in front of thee judge or outside the presence of the court. There are a wide range of punishments that can be assessed in this scenario, including jail time .
Some courts in Texas have ruled that even when you and your ex-spouse did agree to the payment of spousal maintenance, that contempt is a possible enforcement mechanism when a violation of the court orders occurs. To avoid any problems with how the language in the order is read, you should make sure that it is clear specific as to the responsibilities each party shares under that order in relation to spousal maintenance.
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Spousal Maintenance Problems For Texas Court
While a judge can order a spouse to pay spousal support, this does not always mean that they follow through. At some point after the divorce is final you may encounter issues with payment. Here are some of the issues you may face and what options you may have for addressing them.
Falling Behind on Spousal Maintenance Payments
If you have an order for support it is important that you make your payments on time and according to the conditions of the order. In Texas, an order for support is treated the same as child support. Failure to pay can result in serious consequences.
If Your Spouse Refuses to Pay
If your spouse stops paying spousal support and is unwilling to pay, you will need to file a motion to enforce with the court. The court will charge your spouse with contempt. This is a hefty charge. If your spouse is found to be in violation of the legal order it can result in wage garnishment or even jail time under the law.
Can I Modify My Support Order?
Spousal support orders are final and enforceable by law. Changes to your legal order are difficult to make and require special circumstances.
If you are unable to pay due to a major change in your financial situation, it is important to let the court know as soon as possible. Communicate these changes with your ex-spouse, your lawyer and continue paying what you are able to during this time. Doing so will help you avoid contempt charges.
Can Spousal Support End Early?