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How Do I Get Alimony or Spousal Support in Texas?

In Texas, court-ordered spousal support, also called spousal maintenance, may be granted under certain circumstances. This type of support is different from child support because it is meant to help pay for the living expenses incurred during the divorce process. There are several types of spousal support, including rehabilitative spousal support, temporary spousal support, and permanent spousal support.

The following information provides guidelines regarding each type of spousal support. If you want to learn more about how to file for spousal support in Texas.

Rehabilitative Spousal Support

If one spouse needs additional training or education to become self-sufficient, the Court may award rehabilitative spousal maintenance. Rehabilitative spousal maintenance is intended to provide the necessary funds to enable the receiving party to acquire the skills needed to become self-supporting.

Contractual Alimony vs. Court-Ordered Spousal Maintenance

While a court cannot order aluminum, Texas allows for a contractual alimony agreement to be entered into between spouses and included as a provision in their final decree of divorce. This type of arrangement is referred to as "contractual alimony."

In fact, the only manner by which alimony may be awarded in a divorce case in the state is by agreement. If there is no agreement, the court must award temporary support pending trial. However, once a court enters judgment, it cannot modify the parties' property division unless one spouse proves fraud or that there has been a material change in circumstances.

The terms of a contractual alimony agreement are not imposed on the couple by the Texas courts; rather, the court simply enforces the agreement to the same degree that it could enforce a traditional contract. Should problems arise down the line, the court can only force enforcement to the extent that it could enforce a typical contract.

Spousal Maintenance

In limited circumstances, courts in the state of Texas may order one spouse, usually the husband, to pay a sum of money to the other spouse, usually the wife, over a period of time. This type of award is called spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is different from alimony, which is paid directly to a former spouse and is often awarded in cases where there are children involved.

Alimony is typically granted to a former spouse who is unable to work because of a physical or mental injury suffered during the course of the marriage. Spousal maintenance, however, can be ordered even if no such injuries exist.

The amount of spousal maintenance depends upon several factors. These include the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, whether either party contributed financially to the marriage, the age, health, and financial situation of each party, and the earning potential of each party. If you are seeking spousal maintenance, it is important to understand what types of evidence you might present to convince a judge or jury to grant you this form of relief.

How Is Spousal Maintenance Calculated in Texas?

Spousal maintenance is something many people dread because it often involves long drawn-out legal battles, high costs, and emotional turmoil. But what happens when you get divorced in Texas? Are you entitled to maintenance? What does the law say about how much money your ex-spouse needs to keep up with while you're paying off alimony? How do you go about getting paid? And how much can you actually receive in compensation?

The answer depends on a lot of factors, such as whether you've been married for less than 10 years, whether you've had children together, your current living situation, and even your current job status. There is no set formula for calculating spousal maintenance; rather, courts look at each case individually and decide based on the facts presented. In fact, there is a limit on the amount that can actually be awarded, which is capped at $5,000 per month, or 20 percent of your former partner's average monthly gross income.

How Many Years Do You Have to Be Married to Get Spousal Maintenance?

In most states, there is a statutory limit on how long a couple can be married before either party can receive spousal maintenance. If one person has been married for less than 10 years, while the other has been married for over 30 years, the court cannot award maintenance. This rule exists because it makes sense. A marriage lasts a certain amount of time, and once the period is up, the relationship ends. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

For example, courts can order maintenance for couples that have been together for more than 20 years, even if one partner is older than the other. Such a situation might arise if one partner was born into poverty and the other had a comfortable upbringing. Or, perhaps one partner suffered from mental illness, abuse, or addiction, and the other has been able to provide financial stability.

The length of time a couple has been married does matter. But, it doesn't always make a difference. Even though a couple has been married for just three years, the court could still award maintenance if both partners have significant assets and income. And, even though a couple has been together for 40 years, the court could order maintenance if one partner has health problems that prevent him or her from working.

Who Pays the Tax on Alimony and Spousal Maintenance?

The tax code has changed dramatically since the 1970s when most states began requiring spouses to pay spousal support to each other. In some cases, it used to be the case that the paying spouse could deduct the money he or she sent to the receiving spouse as part of the payment. However, the new tax law, signed into effect in late 2017, makes it clear that alimony and spousal maintenance payments are now considered taxable income for both parties involved.

This change affects many people who had been paying alimony or spousal maintenance to former spouses, and who had been able to claim deductions for those payments on their individual tax returns. Not anymore. As of January 1, 2018, the IRS requires that both parties must file joint federal tax returns, and neither party can take a deduction for spousal support payments.

As a result, the average taxpayer who receives alimony or spousal maintenance will see a significant increase in their total tax bill. And because the government is taxing the payments as income, there is less incentive for either spouse to continue making the payments.

An experienced divorce attorney in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, can provide guidance and offer advice throughout the entire process. Contact us today at www.thorntonesquirelawgroup.com for a free consultation.

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