When going through a divorce, at the forefront of most issues between parties is support.
You may worry how long you must support your former spouse. Or you may wonder how long you will receive support payments from your ex.
You may be surprised to learn that you and your ex-spouse are free to determine your own terms of support.
However, contractual alimony in Texas presents some advantages and disadvantages to both parties. Speak with a family law attorney to determine whether contractual alimony may be an option for you in your divorce.
What Is Contractual Alimony?
Contractual alimony is a form of spousal support that the parties agree to. This is different from “spousal maintenance” that may be ordered by a court.
Parties choosing to engage in contractual alimony in Texas are free to agree to essentially any terms of maintenance.
For example, parties may agree to pay high maintenance payments above statutory limits. Parties may also decide to make payments for a more extended period than statutorily permitted.
A skilled family law attorney uses specific tactics to obtain favorable contractual alimony agreements for their client.
For example, some parties may agree to high maintenance payments in exchange for keeping the family home. Additionally, some parties may agree to higher payments subject to the standard of living for which the parties grew accustomed to during the marriage.
Pros and Cons of Contractual Alimony in Texas
Determining whether contractual alimony may be favorable may depend on whether you are the payor or payee and the specific circumstances of your case.
When determining the amount and duration of payments under a contractual alimony agreement, almost no rules apply. You can tailor an agreement that fits your needs without being bound by the rules a court would be constrained by.
For example, Texas law limits spousal maintenance to an amount no greater than $5,000 or 20% of the payor’s average income.
But what if you want to trade your interest in another asset for higher spousal maintenance payments? Or what if you want to enable one spouse to stay at home to care for a disabled adult child? Contractual alimony allows you to craft a spousal maintenance agreement that fits your specific needs.
Additionally, when parties agree to spousal support, the court need not be involved. This can save you both time and money. It also removes the risk that the court will reach a decision that is unfavorable to you. With the help of a skilled attorney to negotiate on your behalf, you can reach an agreement with fair terms that protect your interests.
The Texas Family Code only enforces contractual alimony to the extent it aligns with statutory requirements.
Therefore, if your spouse fails to make payments under the agreement, your options for enforcement are different than they would be with a regular court order regarding spousal maintenance. For example, imagine your spouse agreed to pay you alimony for 20 years but the court could not have ordered spousal maintenance for more than 10 years.
If your ex-spouse stopped paying in year 11, the court could not hold them in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of your alimony agreement. However, contractual alimony in Texas is enforceable by contract, so you could pursue a civil claim to enforce your rights.
Federal law recently changed so that those receiving support payments no longer have to report them as income and those making support payments can no longer claim a tax deduction for them. This new rule only applies to divorces finalized in 2019 or later. When reaching an agreement regarding contractual alimony, it is important that you keep these tax implications in mind.
How Can A Lawyer Help?
Contact the attorneys at The Larson Law Office to determine whether contractual alimony is suitable for you. Considerable consequences exist for parties agreeing to contractual alimony. Therefore, it’s vital to consult with a qualified family law attorney before agreeing to anything.
At The Larson Law Office, our clients speak directly to either Erik or Diana Larson. We never pass our clients off to a legal assistant or associate. We use a personalized approach to representation, so our clients always feel attended to and prioritized. Contact our office today for a free consultation to discuss contractual alimony in Texas and whether it’s the right path forward for you!