Articles Posted in Alimony

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no-description-1246185-e1489525943395In a recent Texas appellate case, a husband and wife filed cross petitions for divorce. The husband argued that the trial court had erred in awarding the wife $5000 each month in spousal maintenance. The wife argued that the trial court had made a mistake in not appointing her as managing conservator of their two children and for failing to grant her a divorce based on cruel treatment under Texas Family Code section 6.002. She also argued that the lower court had made a mistake in not reconstituting the community estate based on fraud.

On appeal, the husband’s sole issue was a challenge to the spousal maintenance award under Texas Family Code section 8.001(1). The appellate court explained that the purpose of spousal maintenance was to give temporary support to a spouse who has a lowered ability for self-support or whose ability to self-support has worsened during a period as a homemaker.

Under Family code section 8.051(2)(B), a spouse can receive maintenance if he or she doesn’t have the ability to earn enough money to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs. There’s a rebuttable presumption that maintenance isn’t appropriate unless the person asking for maintenance has used diligence to try to develop necessary skills during separation and during the time the divorce is pending.

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wheelchairIn a recent Texas divorce case, an appellate court considered a spousal maintenance order in a case involving a disabled spouse. The couple were divorced in 2012, and their divorce decree found the wife was eligible for spousal maintenance (also known as alimony), and it ordered the husband to pay her $400 per month until one of the following four events happened:  a review of the order in three years, death, the remarriage of the wife, or a further court order.

In the summer of 2015, the ex-wife asked that her spousal maintenance be continued. The husband asked for a dismissal, claiming that it was untimely, since she was supposed to ask for review in January, six months prior to the date on which she actually sought review. The trial court denied the ex-wife’s petition but also denied the motion to dismiss.

The wife argued that there was an error in denying her request for continued maintenance because she’d shown she received Social Security Disability, and the trial court couldn’t disregard her testimony about disability. Section 8.054 of the Texas Family Code is the code section that covers the duration of spousal maintenance orders. As long as you continue to satisfy the eligibility criteria, the maintenance may continue. The trial court can conduct periodic reviews.

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wifeIn Dalton v. Dalton, a Texas ex-husband appealed from post-divorce enforcement orders. The couple was divorced in 2011, with a decree giving full faith and credit to an order of separate maintenance that determined child support, custody, property division, and other aspects of the divorce. The husband was required to pay his former wife support maintenance (alimony) of $1,309,014.00, paid in increments on a monthly basis.

Afterward, the wife tried to get the ex-husband to comply. The court had rendered a wage withholding order for child support and spousal support, and the wife had asked for enforcement. She’d also petitioned for a qualified domestic relations order for the full amount of spousal support. The parties negotiated. In 2015, the court granted the QDRO petition and denied the husband’s motion to terminate the wage withholding order. He was found in contempt, and a QDRO assigned to the wife a portion of his retirement benefits to cover what he owed her in alimony.

The husband appealed the First Amended QDRO, arguing that the initial orders didn’t allow these retirement benefits to be paid to his ex-wife and that since what was at issue was contractual alimony, it couldn’t be satisfied by his retirement benefits. The appellate court explained that Texas Family Code Section 9.101 allows a lower court that renders a divorce decree to have continuing exclusive jurisdiction to render an enforceable QDRO. Therefore, the lower court was able to render the QDRO.

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houseIn Waldrop v. Waldrop, the trial court signed a divorce decree that found that the husband needed to pay the wife maintenance of $3,000 per month under Texas Family Code Chapter 8.001 et seq. The parties had stipulated that their agreement was enforceable as a contract.

Six years after their divorce, the ex-husband filed a petition claiming a material and substantial change in circumstances and asked that maintenance payments to the wife be modified or terminated. The trial court considered the contractual language in the maintenance clause of their agreement and heard testimony about their intent and the ex-husband’s financial situation.

The trial court determined that the decree required contractual alimony and that the modification provisions of chapter 8 didn’t apply. It also concluded that language related to “further orders of the court” was ambiguous but referred to three instances of termination stated within the decree.

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A Court in Houston recently reinforced the importance of honesty and full disclosure during the Collaborative Law process when it found that a husband potentially committed fraud by failing to disclose changing job circumstances. See Rawls v. Rawls, 2015 WL 5076283 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.] 2015, no pet.).

A husband and wife in Houston chose to use Collaborative Law to complete their divorce proceedings in 2014. They successfully reached a settlement that included provisions for the wife to receive portions of her husband’s bonus over the next few years. Unfortunately, before the settlement agreement was signed, the husband received a job offer, which he failed to disclose to his wife, and he resigned from his job. Full and complete disclosures of such information is a critical part of the Collaborative Law process, because the goal is to make both parties feel safe to make informed decisions.  The Houston Court is currently examining whether the husband committed fraud and breached a fiduciary duty under the Collaborative Law agreement he signed by concealing his job change from his former spouse during the collaborative law process.  Continue reading →

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Nearly a year after separating, Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams are still trying to negotiate a settlement for divorce. The reason for the drawn out divorce? Alimony. Continue reading →