What is Temporary Spousal Support?
Temporary spousal support is support payments from one spouse to another, or support paid to both spouses from the community estate, during the pendency of the dissolution of marriage. Texas Family Code Section 6.502(a) authorizes the court to issue an order directed to one or both of the parties requiring payment be made for the support of either spouse. The purpose of these payments is to ensure the financial stability of the requesting party and the family while a divorce is pending.
A temporary support order is, therefore, a means of protecting the welfare of a financially dependent spouse between the time the petition is filed and the divorce is granted.
A temporary support order is not a means to accomplish an interim property division or to equalize the parties’ standard of living during the pendency of the divorce proceedings.
The Texas Family Code does not set forth any criteria for the court to consider when determining a motion for temporary spousal support.
The person requesting temporary spousal support must prove they are unable to pay the necessary expenses and that the non-requesting party can afford to pay the amount sought.
How is Temporary Spousal Support Determined?
To represent you and your family’s best interest, a qualified and experienced family law expert, like Mark L. Scroggins of Scroggins Law Group can help. Mr. Scroggins can efficiently and effectively navigate and guide you through the necessary legal channels to achieve your goals.
Most often, the court will use information regarding the following:
- The length and history of the marriage of the parties, the general rule being that the longer the marriage, the more likely and significant the award of temporary support.
- The ability of the spouse seeking temporary support to be self-sustaining or self-supporting.
- The lifestyle of the parties during the marriage, and the financial arrangements the parties have lived under in the past.
- The availability of funds from which temporary support can be paid.
- Whether the spouse seeking support is unemployed or employed at an insufficient income level, in whole or in part, because the non-requesting party required the spouse to forego employment or curtail a career.
- The availability of funds after deduction of any child support which is being ordered.
- The employability of the receiving spouse and what effort that spouse has made in seeking employment.
- The financial obligations imposed on the paying spouse regarding the preservation of community assets, such as mortgage payments, insurance, car payments, and the like, as well as those obligations imposed on the paying spouse which directly benefit the spouse requesting temporary support.
- The pattern established by the parties for the payment of bills during the marriage.
- Any fault alleged in the breakup of the marriage. In cases where fault is alleged, temporary spousal support should never be used as a punishment, but rather it should be used to protect the innocent spouse.
- The proven financial needs of the requesting spouse and the extent to which the requesting spouse lacks sufficient means to meet those needs.
- Any history or pattern of family violence.
Other variables are considered if present of course, no two divorces are similar in every way. Many counties require the parties to complete a specific income and expense statement to present at the temporary orders hearing.
If the requesting spouse’s income exceeds their basic needs, the request will likely be denied. If the needs exceed the requesting party’s available income, the amount of the client’s shortfall is a reasonable amount to request as temporary spousal support. Before deciding on a dollar amount to request as temporary spousal support, financial needs must be understood.
Credibility in the courtroom is always imperative, and it is therefore important to confirm that the expenses claimed by a party are reasonable and not excessive, as well as consistent with the parties’ expenses historically.
While there may be need by one spouse, the other spouse may not always have the means to assist. The judge must find that the non-requesting party has the ability to make support payments in the amount ordered.
The court may not make the non-requesting party destitute in order to pay the support.
Can I, or my spouse go to jail for not paying temporary spousal support?
Short answer, YES.
The Texas Constitution prohibits incarceration for a debt, it does not prohibit incarceration for failure to pay temporary spousal support. Again, temporary spousal support is not a debt, but a family obligation and a legal duty. Since it is not a debt, enforcing an order requiring the payment of temporary spousal support by contempt does not violate the Texas Constitution. A court can, therefore, find an obligated spouse in contempt for failure to pay temporary spousal support and can hold the obligor in contempt until the support has been paid.
Temporary spousal support is an often highly contested issue in divorce cases. There are many intricacies throughout the process. By having 25 plus years of legal expertise, and being a board-certified family law specialist, Mr. Scroggins has been a trusted family law attorney North Texas has relied on for expert legal advice time and time again. Contact Scroggins Law Group for more information.