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What is the difference between temporary spousal support, contractual alimony, and spousal maintenance?

Temporary spousal support: While the divorce is pending, the judge may order one spouse to make temporary payments for the support of the other spouse. A judge can order temporary spousal support if the judge decides it is necessary and fair. You can ask for temporary spousal support by filing a Motion for Temporary Orders and setting a hearing. Temporary spousal support doesn’t have the same requirements as contractual alimony and spousal maintenance. Read the law here: Texas Family Code, Section 6.502

Contractual alimony: Contractual alimony is money one spouse is ordered to pay the other spouse after the divorce, based on the agreement of the spouses. The agreement to pay contractual alimony should be included in the Final Decree of Divorce. The spouse who receives contractual alimony must usually claim it as income for tax purposes. The spouse who pays contractual alimony can usually deduct it from his or her income for tax purposes.

Spousal maintenance: Spousal maintenance can be ordered by the judge even if the parties do not agree. Spousal maintenance can be hard to get. The judge can only order spousal maintenance if the spouse asking for it will not have enough property after the divorce to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs and:

  1. The other spouse has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child within two years of the filing of the divorce or while the divorce is pending. or   
  2. The spouse asking for spousal maintenance is unable to earn enough money to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability. or   
  3. The marriage has lasted for at least 10 years and the spouse asking for spousal maintenance lacks sufficient property or income to provide for his or her reasonable needs. or   
  4. The spouse asking for spousal maintenance is unable to earn enough money to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs because the spouse is the primary caretaker of a disabled child of the marriage. The disabled child may be an adult.

Read the law here: Texas Family Code, Chapter 8.

Like contractual alimony, the spouse who receives spousal maintenance must usually claim it as income for tax purposes. The spouse who pays spousal maintenance can usually deduct it from his or her income for tax purposes.

WARNING! The TexasLawHelp.org divorce forms do not include temporary spousal support, contractual alimony or spousal maintenance. Talk to a lawyer if you want temporary spousal support, contractual alimony or spousal maintenance.

Note for immigrant spouses: If a spouse is a sponsored immigrant, he or she could enforce the Affidavit of Support executed by the other spouse and ask the judge to order the other spouse to provide support until the immigrant spouse becomes a U.S. citizen or until he or she has earned 40 credits of work history. Talk to a lawyer if you think you qualify.

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