Do I Have to Pay Her Spousal Maintenance?
I took a call yesterday from a very concerned elderly man wanting advice. His primary concern? Will I have to pay my wife Spousal Maintenance when I file divorce. This is a question that comes up very frequently, and one that men typically pose. I wish it was one that could be answered in a simple, straightforward manner as a yes or a no. However, it is a complicated and fact specific inquiry that requires knowledge of the law, knowledge of the facts, and as an attorney, experience in how to present your case. Either when you are seeking to have payments ordered, or conversely, seeking to have them denied, there are many facets to this issue, and skill in presenting them in a light most favorable. First, we must clarify there are two distinct areas that must be articulated to clear up confusion on the issue.
If the issue of Spousal Payments is being addressed before the Trial on the Merits or Final Decree, it is termed Temporary Spousal Support. If the issue of Spousal Payments is being addressed at Trial on the Merits or for the Final Order, it is Spousal Maintenance. As a general rule, Spousal Maintenance is more difficult to qualify for, and the Courts have typically been more hesitant to award, and when done, typically limited in time and amount to whatever the facts dictate as reasonable and necessary. However, Temporary Spousal Support is a much looser category, not confined by arbitrary statutory requirements established by the Texas Family Code, and as being a Temporary Order, very difficult to challenge or modify if an unfavorable amount is ordered. The point I would like to make here, and which I described to the gentleman who was inquiring is this, Temporary Spousal Support more often than not will be granted in favor of a spouse when he or she can establish a disparity in earnings, in conjunction with need. Add to that equation children and a mortgage/community liabilities, and you have a recipe for a potentially burdensome financial obligation, at least through temporary orders.
What is important to note here is, it is potentially only valid through temporary orders, and not through final orders or the final decree. A particularly skillful attorney will be sure to have his client fully prepared for this issue at temporary orders, so as to avoid damaging his or her client’s financial situation pending conclusion of the hearing. If it is Ordered, it is imperative the attorney purse trial on the merits quickly, as these orders will stay effective until the conclusion of the case, which could be a year or more into the future if not diligently pursued. Conversely, if a client is in need of funds to carry through to final hearing, much preparation is needed to be able to present the situation in a light most favorable to an award that can sustain a spouse through this difficult period of time.
This my friends is a very important area of practice, and one that requires many years of experience, specifically in the courtroom, where knowledge of the areas and factors the Judges are looking for can be the difference between a favorable and unfavorable temporary spousal support order. Spousal Maintenance on the other hand is typically dictated by the number of years of marriage and even then, facts to support an award that would potentially carry on for a number of years.
What is important here and cannot be understated is the importance of hiring a competent and experienced divorce lawyer who is familiar with these issues and can navigate what is a very delicate issue that you may only get one opportunity to address.
If you or someone you know is in need of counsel regarding these issues, have them call me to see if I can be of assistance. The consultation is always free. (210) 247-9101.