How to Help Ensure You Receive the Alimony You May Be Entitled To

Divorce

In the State of Texas, Alimony is called spousal maintenance or spousal support, but the meaning of alimony remains the same. Alimony is a financial matter that is separate from the division of your marital property, and it is intended to help offset the financial disadvantage one spouse experiences upon divorce – when the other has the financial means to contribute. If you are entitled to alimony, it is important to seek it because the court will not consider alimony unless it is requested, and you can rest assured that your divorcing spouse is not going to offer it. Because your financial rights and your future hang in the balance, exploring the matter with an experienced Killeen divorce attorney early in the divorce process is well advised.

Why Alimony?

Alimony can play an important role in your financial future. For example, if your goal is to remain in your family home as the primary custodial parent after your divorce, alimony may be the only option in terms of your ability to continue paying the mortgage. Further, alimony may be your only qualified income stream post-divorce, which you will need in order to purchase a car or to buy a home (if staying in the family home is not an option). Further, alimony may amount to the financial leg up you need to get the education, job training, and/or experience necessary to become more financially independent. In other words, alimony can make a significant difference in your ability to move forward post-divorce.

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The Backstory

While many, many divorces do not address the issue of alimony, it can be a very relevant financial tool in others. There are specific backstories that strongly support alimony in a divorce. For example, if you worked throughout the early years of your marriage in order to put your spouse through graduate school and then stayed home and focused on running the house and caring for the kids while your spouse grew his or her professional – and very lucrative – career, alimony is a viable option to help offset the economic downturn you will no doubt experience upon divorce. Or you may have sacrificed your own college education for your spouse’s or have given up your career to help your spouse develop his or hers. Any one of these is an instance in which alimony may be deemed appropriate.

Temporary Alimony

While you may correlate alimony payments with the period after your divorce, there is also what is known as temporary alimony. This is spousal support that is paid while your divorce is pending, and if you need it, you and your divorcing spouse can come to an agreement, or you can request the court’s intervention on the matter. The fact is that divorce is often a lengthy process, and many couples cease living together as they move through it. If this is the situation in which you find yourself, you will still have bills coming in and will still need to address the cost of daily living, and this can be very difficult to accomplish without an adequate income. Further, there is the matter of hiring and paying for a dedicated divorce attorney to skillfully advocate for your financial and parental rights throughout the divorce process. This is where temporary alimony comes in – and allows you to run your home and continue paying your bills while your divorce proceeds.

Court-Ordered Alimony vs. Contractual Alimony

Texas has both court-ordered alimony and contractual alimony, and there are important differences between them. Court-ordered alimony – as the name suggests – is ordered by the court according to the court’s guidelines for alimony. Contractual alimony, on the other hand, is alimony that you contract – or agree to – between yourselves (although it must be approved by the court in your final divorce decree). Often, contractual alimony is based on what the court likely would have ordered had the couple required its intervention.

Will I Receive Court-Ordered Alimony?

The fact is that alimony is reserved for very specific situations, and the amount and duration of alimony are restrictive. Better understanding the basics of alimony will give you a better idea regarding whether or not you qualify and if so, the parameters that are likely to apply.

Requirements for Receiving Alimony

In order to receive alimony in the State of Texas, you will first need to demonstrate that your divorce will leave you with a financial need in relation to meeting your basic requirements. Additionally, however, one of the following must apply:

  • You were married for at least ten years, and you are unable to earn sufficient income to support yourself.

  • A child of your marriage has a disability that requires you to provide significant ongoing care, which prevents you from obtaining a full-time job.

  • You are unable to earn sufficient income due to a physical or mental disability.

  • Your spouse has a family violence conviction that occurred within two years of you filing for divorce.

Duration

There are several basic time restraints that apply to the duration of alimony in Texas, including:

  • If the alimony is predicated on the marriage lasting from 10 to 20 years or on a family violence conviction, the duration of the award cannot exceed five years.

  • If the alimony is predicated on the marriage lasting from 20 to 30 years, the duration of the award cannot exceed seven years.

  • If the alimony is predicated on the marriage lasting more than 30 years, the duration of the award cannot exceed ten years.

  • If the alimony is predicated on the recipient caring for a child with a mental or physical disability or on his or her own mental or physical disability, the court has the discretion to order alimony as long as he or she is unable to bring in an income sufficient to provide for his or her own reasonable needs.

The Guiding Factors

The factors that the court takes into consideration when making alimony determinations can include all of the following:

  • The number of years the marriage lasted

  • The separate property each spouse brought into the marriage

  • The contributions either spouse made to the marriage in the form of keeping the home fires burning and/or providing childcare

  • The overall employability of the spouse requesting alimony, including his or her age, job history, earning capacity, and physical and mental health

  • How child support factors into the equation, and if the spouse paying child support has the financial means to also pay alimony

  • Whether either spouse contributed to the other’s education, career-building, and/or overall income – and if so, the degree to which he or she contributed

  • Whether either spouse engaged in any underhanded practices, such as wasting, hiding, destroying, or otherwise getting rid of marital assets prior to or during the divorce process

  • Whether either spouse engaged in misconduct, such as adultery, during the course of the marriage (if your marriage is based on fault, this fault can increase the likelihood that the at-fault spouse will be required to pay alimony and can decrease the likelihood that the at-fault spouse will receive alimony)

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Protecting Your Right to Alimony

Obtaining the alimony you need and are entitled to can be a challenge, but there are three helpful hints that can go a long way toward protecting your right to receive alimony.

One: Do Not Quit Your Job

While your divorce is pending, continuing to keep up with a job that you might have taken on to help you get out of the house while you were married may feel like a luxury you can no longer afford (especially if it does not pay enough to make much of a difference). Further, the upset of divorce can make it nearly impossible to carve out time to go to work – especially if you have the role of the primary custodial parent while your divorce is pending.

Quitting your job at this juncture, however, is ill-advised. The court expects you – during the divorce process – to diligently search for a job that allows you to support yourself financially, and it will not look kindly on you putting the brakes on a job that you already have. The court’s goal is to help you gain financial independence, and you do not want to give the impression that you are not also invested in this goal.

Two: Seek the Education or Experience You Need

If you do not have a job while your divorce is pending, now is the time to prepare for this eventuality. If you do not have the education, experience, or job training you need to obtain a job that would allow you to begin supporting yourself financially – or to allow you to head in that direction – looking into any of the following can help:

  • Going back to school to earn a degree

  • Gaining the experience you need to take on a specific kind of job

  • Learning a new skill set that would allow you to pursue a career

By demonstrating to the court that you are applying yourself to the ultimate goal of financial independence, you do yourself a favor.

Do Not Overplay Your Hand

If you are entitled to alimony, and you honestly present the facts that support this claim to the court, you will have a much better chance of obtaining the alimony to which you are entitled than you will if you attempt to bamboozle the court or to overstate your need. The facts are the facts, and if they support your financial need, the court will take the matter into careful consideration.

Work Closely with an Experienced Divorce Attorney

While it is true that the facts are the facts in your case, the court is busy and needs to see the facts that make up your case in a straightforward manner that tells your compelling story effectively and efficiently. Your practiced divorce attorney knows how to build your strongest case and how to provide the court with the relevant information it needs to make an alimony determination for you. When it comes to alimony, working closely with an experienced divorce attorney is always well advised.

The Amount

The State of Texas has firm caps on the amount of alimony that can be ordered, and currently, this cap is the lower of $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the paying spouse’s gross monthly income. Gross income in this capacity refers to all the following:

  • All income earned in the form of wages and/or salary and any other compensation paid for personal services rendered, including overtime, commission, tips, and bonuses

  • All income from self-employment

  • All income from interest, dividends, and royalties

  • All rental income after deductions are made for the mortgage payments and operating expenses (depreciation and other non-cash items are not included in these deductions)

  • All other income received, including retirement benefits, pensions, severance pay, trust income, annuities, interest from notes (regardless of their source), maintenance, alimony, gifts and prizes, capital gains, and unemployment benefits

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Tax Implications

When considering the matter of alimony, it is important to consider the tax implications involved. It used to be that the spouse who paid alimony got a tax break and the spouse who received alimony paid tax on it. In 2019, however, the IRS did an about-face, now the spouse who pays alimony pays income tax on the income that the alimony is culled from, and the recipient bears no tax burden for the alimony he or she receives.

Seek the Legal Guidance of an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a divorce attorney who has a wealth of experience successfully helping clients like you obtain the court-ordered alimony they deserve, and he’s here for you, too. Your case is important, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.

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