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San Antonio Alimony Maintenance Lawyer

One of the aspects that should be settled as part of a divorce is whether you or your spouse will be receiving alimony. In Texas, alimony is referred to as spousal maintenance. Learn how spousal maintenance works in Texas and why working with a spousal maintenance attorney may be in your best interests.

What Is Spousal Maintenance in Texas?

Spousal maintenance are payments made by one spouse to cover the basic needs of the other spouse during and after a divorce. Spousal maintenance payments are ordered by a court when the spouse requesting the payments can prove that they would not be able to generate income to cover their essential living expenses such as food and housing because they were relying completely on the income generated by their spouse.

Courts in Texas tend to approach spousal support requests carefully, as not everyone who files a request for spousal maintenance will receive it. There are also set limits to how much one may receive as spousal maintenance every month, and the amount of each payment cannot be changed unless the spouse making the payments initiates a spousal maintenance modification request.

What Is the Difference Between Spousal Maintenance and Spousal Support in Texas?

Alimony, spousal maintenance, and spousal support are sometimes used as interchangeable terms, but there are key differences. Spousal maintenance is what in other states is called alimony, i.e., court-ordered support payments that one spouse makes to the other spouse after the divorce is finalized, with the goal of providing the income the other spouse needs to cover their basic necessities. Spousal maintenance payments cannot be changed or canceled without a court order.

On the other hand, spousal support (sometimes called contractual alimony) is not ordered by the court. Instead, it is part of an agreement between you and your ex-spouse. When your divorce papers are being finalized, you and your ex may agree on the specifics of spousal support payments voluntarily, and from that point on, it becomes a contractual obligation rather than an order enforceable by the court. It is up to both parties to agree on the amount and duration of spousal support payments. It can be understood as additional money that one spouse agrees to pay the other spouse regardless of how marital property is divided after a divorce, and is usually temporary and meant to help the recipient financially after the divorce until they can generate their own income.

How Does One Qualify to Receive Spousal Maintenance?

Not everyone qualifies to receive spousal maintenance. For example, if a spouse wishes to receive spousal maintenance simply to maintain their current standard of living, there is a strong probability that the request will not be granted by the court. This is because Texas laws governing the division of marital property require the courts to divide marital assets in a fair and equitable manner, and thus it is understood that receiving a fair portion of marital assets should be enough to provide both parties with the financial means they need to cover their basic necessities after the divorce.

However, there are a few circumstances in which the court may order spousal maintenance payments. If a spouse has been recently convicted of domestic violence against the other spouse or the couple’s children, then the court may accept a spousal maintenance request. The same may apply to a spouse who is disabled or the primary caretaker of a disabled child. Finally, if a spouse can prove that they do not have the earning ability to generate their own income due to a lack of education, training, or professional skills, they may also be granted spousal maintenance payments.

How Long Can a Person Receive Spousal Maintenance Payments After the Divorce?

There are general guidelines for how long someone may continue to receive spousal maintenance payments after their divorce. The length of payments usually depends on how many years the marriage lasted. For example, if the couple was married for at least ten years but less than 20 years, spousal maintenance payments are limited to 5 years after the divorce. Maintenance payments for marriages that lasted between 20 and 30 years may continue for up to 7 years. If the marriage lasted for more than 30 years, payments could be limited to 10 years.

A few exceptions may apply to this rule. In some cases in which the spouse requesting the payments is disabled or cares for a disabled child, the court may decide that maintenance payments should continue for as long as necessary. Spousal maintenance payments end when either spouse passes away or when the party receiving payments gets married to someone else.

It is important to mention that in some cases, Texas courts may order temporary spousal maintenance payments while a divorce is pending. This may happen if one spouse earns considerably less income than the other, and payments typically only last long enough to enable the recipient to seek another source of income. The length of temporary spousal maintenance payments is entirely at the court’s discretion.

What Should I Do If My Ex Is Not Making Spousal Maintenance Payments?

Spousal maintenance payments are enforceable, and the payor is expected to follow the terms of the court order regarding the amount and frequency of payments. The court may request that the employer of the spouse providing the payments begin withholding the payment amount from that person’s paycheck.

If your ex is not complying with the spousal maintenance order, your first step should be to speak to a San Antonio alimony maintenance lawyer to learn your options. Your attorney may advise you to ask the court to enforce the order by filing a Motion to Enforce, a money judgment, or even a request to withhold spousal maintenance payments from your ex’s paycheck if that is not being done yet. In addition, the court has the legal power to hold a party in contempt for failing to comply with court-ordered spousal maintenance payments. If your ex-spouse is held in contempt of court, they could potentially face fines and even harsher consequences, including jail time. Your attorney can advise you on the best course of action for your case.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR ALIMONY?

Regardless of what side you fall on in a divorce, the subject of alimony (called spousal maintenance in Texas) is likely one you’re concerned about. In Texas, alimony is determined through an extensive set of guidelines that ensure a fair settlement for both parties. These guidelines may be able to give you an idea of what alimony could look like in your case.

Alimony is not always awarded in a Texas divorce case, and compared to most states, is harder to acquire via court order due to stringent requirements. In order to receive alimony, the party requesting it must demonstrate that they have a need to receive income from their spouse. If their income is found to be generally sufficient enough to reasonably support themselves then alimony will not be considered. Otherwise, the requesting party must also demonstrate one of the following:

  • They are unable to support themselves due to a disability, physical or mental;
  • A child of the marriage has a physical or mental disability that prevents them from earning enough income to support themselves and the child;
  • The marriage has lasted for at least ten years, and the requesting party does not have the ability to earn sufficient income to support themselves, or
  • Their partner was convicted of domestic violence within two years of filing for divorce.

The requesting spouse holds the burden of proving both their need for alimony and the condition that satisfies at least one of these requirements.

HOW IS THE AMOUNT OF ALIMONY DETERMINED?

Texas also places guidelines on the amount of alimony that is allowed to be awarded via court order. The maximum that a spouse will be awarded is either $5,000 or twenty percent of the paying spouse’s average monthly income, whichever is lower. There is also a maximum length of alimony, which is determined by the length of the marriage. In marriages of under ten years, alimony is usually not awarded except in cases of domestic violence. In these cases, and for marriages that lasted between ten and twenty years, the duration is limited to a maximum of five years. If the marriage lasted between twenty and thirty years, the maximum duration is seven years, and for any marriage longer than thirty years, the maximum is ten years of alimony.

After these guidelines are considered, the court will determine the amount of alimony awarded based on the factors of the marriage. The largest considerations are the current ability of each spouse to provide for their own needs, their employment history or ability to earn income, and child care.

If you’re entering into a Texas divorce case, you need proper representation – especially if alimony is on the table. Contact the Law Offices of S. Dylan Pearcy today to set up an initial consultation with our team, and ensure that your case is handled with the care it deserves.

At the Law Offices of S. Dylan Pearcy, Attorney S. Dylan Pearcy has assisted many San Antonio clients in navigating their divorce and settling a wide variety of family law issues, including spousal maintenance matters. Whether you are being told to pay spousal maintenance and believe you are being treated unfairly or wish to request the court for spousal maintenance payments after your divorce, contact the Law Offices of S. Dylan Pearcy by calling (210) 953-7486 and requesting an appointment to discuss your case.

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