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Temporary Spousal Maintenance in Texas

wedding ringsIn a recent Texas spousal maintenance case, a husband appealed from a final divorce decree. He claimed the court made a mistake by awarding the wife $1,500 in spousal maintenance, awarding temporary spousal support of $2,500 each month, ordering him to pay $20,000 in delinquent temporary spousal support payments, failing to issue appropriate factual and legal findings, and failing to award him property he believed was solely his separate property.

In 2014, the parties agreed in court that the husband would pay the wife $2,500 each month before the divorce as temporary alimony. The wife asked for the entry of an order reflecting that. However, the husband filed a proposed rule 11 agreement, claiming an error in calculating his income. He asked for a modification of the agreement.

Another hearing was held related to the temporary orders. There, the husband’s attorney told the court that there had been an error in the first agreement. The wife’s attorney said he understood that the husband’s income was around $5,000. The husband’s attorney claimed he’d withdrawn money from his 401K, and the monthly income of about $1,400 wouldn’t be available.

He asked for amended temporary orders, and he agreed to pay the wife $1,000 each month. He claimed that the earlier statements were false and erroneous. The wife asked the court to order the husband to pay $2,500 in monthly spousal support. However, the husband and his attorney weren’t there at the hearing. The wife’s attorney told the court that the husband’s attorney was properly notified of the hearing and also that the temporary orders he offered properly reflected the parties’ agreement. The court granted the motion, which required the husband to pay $2,500 in spousal support.

The husband later objected to those orders, and the objection was overruled. At a bench trial, the community estate was divided, and the court ordered him to pay $20,000 in arrearages of temporary support in its final decree. The husband appealed.

The husband argued that the court shouldn’t have awarded spousal maintenance in the amount of $1,500 each month post-divorce. The appellate court explained that under Texas Family Code section 8.055, the court cannot order spousal support that’s more than 20% of the obligor’s monthly gross income. In this case, the husband earned more than $440,000 in 2013. 20% of this amount would be $88,800, which comes out to $7,400 per month. He testified that before trial, he’d withdrawn $100,000 from a retirement account to pay for his expenses, so he made about $120,000 in 2014. 20% of that was $2,000 per month.

The appellate court found that there was some evidence that the amount of his income supported the lower court’s determination that $1,500 was within the statutory 20% cap. There was no abuse of discretion on this score.

The appellate court noted that a party can revoke consent any time before there is a judgment on a settlement agreement. In this case, the husband clearly communicated to the court he didn’t agree to pay $2,500 in temporary spousal support. He stated that the basis for the temporary spousal support amount was not factually correct, and he told the court that the $1,400 wouldn’t be available to the wife. Since he revoked his consent, the order was void. The ruling was partly reversed and sent back.

If you need to get a divorce, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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