Most people understand that spousal support is a big issue that gets resolved in divorces. However, each state has its own rules regarding how divorce issues get worked out during legal proceedings. Under Texas law, there is an important distinction between spousal support and maintenance that relates to the state’s policy against alimony.
What is the Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Maintenance in Texas?
The state of Texas doesn’t recognize “alimony”, which usually refers to a divorced spouse providing financial assistance to the other spouse after the divorce is finalized. However, Texas does have provisions for “spousal maintenance”, which is the temporary financial support that a divorced spouse can receive while transitioning to becoming financially independent.
What Is Alimony
Throughout the country, a financially disadvantaged spouse was entitled to receive financial support from the financially more-resourceful spouse upon divorce. These payments were known as “alimony” and derived from a person’s duty to provide proper financial support to their spouse.
However, alimony is prohibited under Texas state public policy. The rationale behind this prohibition is that the duty to pay spousal support only exists while the parties are legally married. As soon as the couple gets divorced, they no longer own marital duties to each other, including the duty to provide spousal support.
What Is Spousal Support in Texas?
Marriage is a legal relationship that is regulated by state law. The marital relationship creates certain duties between spouses, including the duty to provide one another with adequate financial support. Violation of this duty during marriage may be grounds for civil liability, especially in cases where another person—such as an in-law or friend—provided the neglected spouse with the support they needed.
When a couple files for divorce, they technically remain legally married until the court issues a final judgment declaring the parties to be legally divorced. Even though the parties have separated during divorce proceedings, the duty of support continues because of the legal status of their marriage.
As a result, the term “spousal support” specifically refers to the duty for a party to financially support their spouse pending divorce litigation. Thus, spousal support is a temporary duty that terminates when the court grants the couple’s divorce.
What Is Spousal Maintenance?
If Texas policy prohibits the financial support of a spouse after divorce, why do divorcees still make payments to their former spouse after they divorce? These people might be paying what is known as “spousal maintenance.” Like alimony, spousal maintenance consists of necessary financial support to take care of a financially disadvantaged spouse’s living expenses. However, unlike alimony, maintenance cannot be extended for an indefinite term.
Under Texas law, a person is entitled to receive spousal maintenance as a means of receiving temporary financial support during the transition from married life to single life. Spousal maintenance is crafted to help a divorcee handle their living expenses while they learn to become financially self-supporting.
Additionally, Texas public policy upholds an individual’s right to enter into contracts. As a result, a couple can sign a contract agreeing to alimony or spousal support after divorce. However, a court cannot enforce a contractual alimony obligation as an order from its own authority. Instead, a Texas court can only provide contractual remedies for an alimony obligation that arises from the parties’ private agreement. Therefore, courts may not use contempt or license suspension to enforce a contractual alimony obligation.
Consult Kay Polk, Attorney at Law for Legal Advice
If you are facing a bitter divorce or other family law dispute, you should reach out to the office of Kay Polk, Attorney at Law. Attorney Polk is an experienced legal representative in matters arising from Texas family law, including divorce and spousal support or maintenance. You can count on her to zealously advocate to protect and promote your legal rights and interests.
To schedule an initial consultation about your case, call Attorney Polk at (713) 234-6260 or contact her online today.