Alimony and Spousal Support

Spousal Support, Spousal Maintenance, and Alimony are terms that are often used interchangeably.  Mix in the words Temporary, Permanent, Contractual, and Court-Ordered and the concepts involved can cause confusion just in determining whether the parties discussing the matter are talking about the same thing.  For the purposes of the discussion here, the term Spousal Support will be used for support, maintenance, and alimony.


Although it is rare for any form of spousal support to be permanent in the sense that there is no end to it, as used here, Temporary Spousal Support is the term used for support that the court orders one spouse to pay the other while the case is pending.  The case is pending from the time the case is filed until there is a final decree of divorce.


The single most important thing to understand about the concept of Temporary Spousal Support is that there is no statutory limit governing the amount that the court can order.  It is conceivable for a court to order a party to pay Temporary Spousal Support in an amount that is greater than the amount made by the paying party.  If a divorce drags out for months or years, a court order of this type can be financially catastrophic.


Until fairly recently in the history of Texas, there was no such thing as court-ordered permanent spousal support.  In this context, the term permanent means ordered in a final decree of divorce and is not concerned with the number of months or years the support is payable.  Now, if certain requirements are met, Texas divorce courts can order permanent spousal support for up to three years from the date of divorce, and under some circumstances, even longer.  If the court determines that a spouse seeking maintenance is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability, the court may order maintenance for an indefinite period for as long as the disability continues.


When it comes to Contractual Spousal Support (Contractual Alimony), the general rule is that spouses can agree to virtually any arrangement they want.


Obviously, the financial risk of misunderstanding the law concerning Spousal Support can be financially devastating.  You need an attorney that is capable of explaining the intricacies of the law to you and willing and able to help you through to a successful conclusion.