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Spousal Maintenance and Alimony

Spousal Maintenance and Alimony

Commonly known as “alimony,” continuing spousal maintenance payments are not the default assumption in the eyes of Texas courts. Such periodic payments must be affirmatively sought by the requesting spouse. Those who believe they are eligible to receive an award of spousal maintenance or are facing a request to make payments, legal counsel is strongly recommended. At Scroggins Law Group, we help divorcing couples resolve the often highly-charged disputes surrounding this sensitive issue.

What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is the official term used in the state of the Texas to describe a recurring payment made by one former spouse to another following a divorce. In Texas, spousal maintenance refers to a court-ordered recurring payment that one former spouse makes to the other. It is not awarded automatically; in fact, Texas courts presume that it is not warranted unless the requesting party proves otherwise.

A spouse seeking an award of maintenance needs to show both their need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. To win, a requesting spouse must provide evidence that they have been diligent in attempts to become self-supporting, yet do not earn enough income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs. They must also show either one of the following qualifying factors:

  • The requesting spouse is unable to earn sufficient income and (a) the inability is due to physical or mental disability; (b) the inability is due to responsibilities toward a child of the marriage who requires care due to physical or mental disability; or (c) the couple had been married for at least 10 years.
  • The paying spouse was convicted of (or received deferred adjudication for) an act of family violence that was committed (a) within the last two years of the marriage before the divorce petition was filed, or (b) during the pendency of the divorce.

The bar to win an award of spousal maintenance is high, but it can be met. Scroggins Law Group can help parties on either side of a spousal maintenance dispute to determine eligibility to receive or obligation to pay. We can then implement an appropriate course of action to help you achieve your goals as efficiently as possible.

Is Alimony the same as spousal maintenance in Texas?

Terms like “alimony,” “spousal maintenance,” and “spousal support” are often thrown around interchangeably but in Texas, there are slight differences between the terms.

Spousal maintenance in Texas is distinct in that it is a court-ordered payment intended to help the spouse with lower income become self-supporting. Alimony, on the other hand, can continue regardless of the receiving spouse’s financial independence. And, in Texas, alimony is only contractual in nature. A court cannot order it.

Temporary Spousal Support

The time from a divorce petition to final order may be lengthy. The need for financial support, however, may be immediate. Complicating matters, as soon as a divorce petition is filed, courts enter standing orders that prohibit the parties from moving funds without permission. To alleviate strain, a spouse in need can request that the court award temporary spousal support to be paid while the case is pending. However, even in this case, the request must be based on sufficient evidence.

If a court awards temporary support, it will base the decision and amount on both the needs of the receiving spouse and the ability of the paying spouse. The goal with temporary support is not to provide for the receiving spouse long-term but to maintain the upkeep for all marital assets until the final hearing in the divorce proceeding. If you believe you should be awarded temporary support, speak with a spousal maintenance attorney about filing a Motion for Temporary Orders.

Spousal Maintenance: What Am I Entitled to Receive or Required to Pay in Texas?

Spousal maintenance is disfavored in Texas and courts only award it if warranted based on a fact-specific analysis. Some of the factors that can influence whether you will be entitled to receive or ordered to pay include:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The level of education and employment skills of each spouse
  • Whether the lesser-earning spouse has been diligent in the search for employment or in obtaining the education and training needed to obtain sufficient employment
  • Property and financial resources of each spouse after the court-ordered property division
  • Ability and feasibility of the lesser-earning spouse to obtain the training or education needed to earn sufficient income

The Texas Family Code offers courts instruction on how to determine the amount of the maintenance award. Spousal maintenance payments are limited. The payments should be ordered for only the shortest reasonable duration that would allow the receiving spouse to obtain employment or job skills that would facilitate employment.

If there are special considerations in your case that could impact a maintenance award, it is important to raise them early on. Once an award is set or denied, it can be difficult to have the order modified.

How Long Does Spousal Maintenance Last?: The Duration of Maintenance Orders

When awarded, spousal maintenance remains in effect for as long as directed in the court order or until another event terminates it. Generally speaking, the duration of spousal maintenance is capped according to the length of the marriage. Exceptions do exist, for instance in cases where the lesser-earning spouse is unable to earn a minimally sufficient income due to their responsibilities as a caregiver to a disabled child of the marriage.

Events that may terminate spousal maintenance include death, cohabitation, and marriage.

Since an order of spousal maintenance can last for a significant period of time, and they are difficult to modify, Scroggins Law Group strongly recommends consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer before your Order is finalized.

Talk with a Board-Certified North Texas Family Law Attorney

If you are now or will soon be going through a divorce, the unknowns of spousal maintenance add stress to an already exhausting process. The team at Scroggins Law Group can help. Mark L. Scroggins is *board-certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is ready to meet every challenge in your case head-on.

Texas residents in Frisco, Plano, Dallas, Flower Mound and neighboring areas are welcome to call Scroggins Law Group any time to discuss your spousal maintenance case with one of our experienced divorce lawyers.

* Unless otherwise noted, other attorneys are not *board-certified.



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