Spousal support or maintenance is what it’s called when one spouse can is required to contribute to the upkeep of the other spouse following a divorce in Texas. What happens if you were divorced in another state? How do you get your maintenance from that state in Texas?
If you must enforce or collect on an out-of-state alimony award, you will almost certainly need legal assistance, like that provided by the Woodlands attorneys for modifying, enforcing, or defending out-of-state orders from BB Law Group PLLC. Call us today at (832) 534-2589 for an appointment to discuss how we can help in your case.
When Are You Entitled to Maintenance in Texas?
Texas does not have alimony, and only awards spousal maintenance if one party lacks sufficient property to provide for their basic needs, and meets one of these criteria.
- They were a victim of domestic violence.
- They are unable to be self-supporting due to a physical or mental disability.
- They are the custodial parent of a special-needs child.
Texas has other extremely strict requirements for spousal maintenance, including restrictions on how it can be collected from the supporting spouse. A recent court ruling in the Dalton case held that Texas courts did not have to enforce other states’ alimony awards in the manner prescribed in the divorce decree.
Alimony versus Spousal Maintenance
In some states, the blanket term “alimony” is used to describe the legal obligation imposed on one spouse to provide monetary support to another spouse after a divorce or legal separation. Each state has its own set of requirements for what alimony must be paid, under what conditions, and for how long.
The intent of alimony is to provide a base level of support for the less financially independent spouse until they can obtain education or training to become financially independent. In Texas, this payment is called “spousal maintenance.” It is specifically calculated based on the spouse’s earning ability based on:
- Financial resources available to each party once all assets have been divided by the courts
- The education and employment skills of each spouse
- The time required for each spouse to obtain the education and training necessary to obtain gainful employment
- The availability and feasibility of such education and training
If such a person was awarded alimony in another state, they would not have to be re-evaluated in Texas to have their judgment enforced, as long as the enforcement method conformed to Texas law.
Enforcing an Out-of-State Decree in Texas
If you were divorced in another state and now live in Texas, the ruling in the Dalton case will affect how you can recover any arrears in your alimony. Texas courts are required by the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution to honor a judgment entered in any other U.S. court. If your divorce was finalized, the judgment will be honored.
However, the Dalton ruling means that collecting alimony from your spouse must be done according to how spousal maintenance is awarded in Texas. For instance, in Dalton, the original court had ordered that the husband’s wages would be garnished to pay the alimony. Texas law does not allow wage garnishment unless both parties agree to such payment. The Texas court held that Texas was not bound to enforce a judgment in a manner that did not follow Texas law.
This means that Texas could agree that your divorce is valid, and your support order is legal but has no obligation to help you collect through garnishment. If you believe you have such an order, you will need a skilled family law attorney to review your possible options and see what avenues are available for having your support restored to you.
Defending Against an Out-of-State Order
This does not mean that if you receive an out-of-state order from a spouse, and you live in Texas now, you can ignore it. Texas will enforce all valid judgments that do conform to Texas law, and most judgments will have alternate methods of collection besides wage garnishment. In extreme cases where people have failed to pay out-of-state alimony orders, the courts have used such ingenious methods of enforcement such as:
- Suspension of licenses, including driver’s licenses, hunting licenses, gun cards, even barber licenses, and fishing licenses. All of these are subject to suspension if you fail to pay your arrears.
- Garnishment of income tax returns
- Collection by the state of issuance. If your spouse is forced to use public assistance because of your failure to pay, eventually the state itself will sue you, on the grounds that you cost them money.
If you are unable for other reasons to pay your out-of-state alimony, you should consult an attorney at once. Family courts understand that the economy has been tough on everyone, and just because one state-ordered you to pay your spouse a certain sum does not mean you can pay it now.
However, modifying an out-of-state court order for alimony can be difficult in Texas. To modify a support order requires the parties to go to court and show they have experienced a “substantial change in circumstances” that prevents them from paying the ordered amount. Being laid off or having a serious health problem are substantial changes but buying a new pickup truck is not.
The difficulty is that Texas law prohibits Texas courts from modifying the original order if the original court still has jurisdiction. Usually, your divorce decree will contain language like “this court reserves jurisdiction over this matter.” To allow a Texas court to make any changes, the other court would have to end its jurisdiction.
How We Can Help
If you are having issues with out-of-state or even out-of-the-country alimony, you should have the help of a knowledgeable and patient attorney who can explain all these tangled rules to you, and who can help you begin the legal process of collecting or changing your alimony payments.
Whether you need to collect from a spouse who lives in another state or modify your payments to a spouse who lives elsewhere, the process will be time-consuming and legally complicated. But it will be worth it to get the matter settled in a timely manner so you can be done with it and move on.
Contact Us Today
The Texas divorce attorneys of BB Law Group PLLC understand these issues and will take time. We’ll thoroughly review your case and go over your options and alternatives with you before suggesting a legal plan. Contact us at (832) 534-2589 today. Our legal team is standing by to help you with your alimony and spousal maintenance payment questions.