Texas House Bill 901 changing the spousal maintenance law in the Texas Family Code became effective for divorce cases filed on or after September 1, 2011. The bill revises the conditions that establish eligibility for spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, and changes the factors required to be considered by a court in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments for a spouse who is eligible to receive maintenance.
Eligibility for spousal maintenance requires that the spouse seeking maintenance lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
The new law provides potentially increased relief to spouses who have been out of the work force, are disabled, are victims of family violence or are the primary custodians of a disabled child.
Major changes to the Texas spousal support law are:
1. The maximum amount of spousal support that courts may award increased from $2,500 to $5,000.00 per month, although still limited to 20 percent of the payer’s average gross monthly income.
2. The duration of spousal support extended from a maximum of 3 years to a maximum of 5, 7 or 10 years, generally depending on the length of the marriage.
3. The law clarified that if a person has primary care for a disabled child, the custodial parent may be prevented because of the child’s disability from earning sufficient income to meet the custodial parent’s minimum reasonable needs.
4. The law also clarified that a person may not be held in contempt for failing to pay spousal support which is in an agreed order and extends beyond the period of time provided under the law.
In order to receive “maintenance,” (which is the statutory term for spousal support), the spouse seeking support must lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s “minimum reasonable needs”, AND one of the following:
(1) The recipient must be unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating mental or physical disability;
(2) The marriage lasted for 10 years or longer and the recipient lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs;
(3) The recipient is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; OR
(4) The person ordered to pay support was convicted of or received deferred jurisdiction for an act of family violence during the pendency of the suit or within two years of the date the suit is filed.
Under the previous law, under most circumstances, the court could only order maintenance for a maximum of three years, regardless of the length of the marriage. Under the new law, the court can order maintenance to continue for:
(1) 5 years if the parties were married less than 10 years and the maintenance is awarded due to family violence;
(2) 5 years if the parties were married more than 10 years, but less than 20 years.
(3) 7 years if the parties were married more than 20 years, but less than 30 years;
(4) 10 years if the parties were married for more than 30 years.
In cases where the maintenance is awarded due to the mental or physical disability of the spouse or a child of the marriage, the court may order that the maintenance continue as long as the disability continues.
However, in all circumstances, the law provides that the Court shall order maintenance for the shortest reasonable period that allows the recipient to earn sufficient income to meet his or her reasonable needs.
If you are contemplating dissolving your marriage and have questions concerning your financial future, seek competent legal counsel to help you determine whether you could be eligible for spousal support under the expanded provisions of the new law.
How Can The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) Affect Your Family Interstate Jurisdiction Problems?
Are you a parent having trouble collecting your child support for the children because your EX-spouse lives in another state? This has been a problem for many families for a long time. The United States Congress recognized this problem and mandated all states to adopt the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to facilitate collection of child support across state lines.
It is no surprise that people move, but when trying to collect child support from an out-of-state parent you may need legal help to avoid unpleasant surprises.
When more than one state is involved in establishing, enforcing or modifying a child or spousal support order, the UIFSA determines the jurisdiction and power of the courts in the different states. The Act also establishes which state’s law will be applied, an important factor as support laws vary greatly among the states.
If there is no current child support order and the child and one parent live in Texas, the order or paternity determination may be established without another state’s involvement. If the parents have sufficient contact with Texas, the court may be able to enter an order even if one parent does not currently live in the state. UIFSA enables Texas and another state to cooperate to establish a child support order if another state’s assistance is needed because of residency issues.
UIFSA permits only one active support order for a case at a time. When there are multiple orders, UIFSA determines which support order will be followed, known as the “controlling order.” Orders may be registered in a different state for enforcement and modification purposes. The initiating state sends the order and documents to the responding state. The responding state registers the order and sends a notice to the other parent. The other parent has 20 days to file written objections regarding the order. If objections are made prior to the deadline, the court will hold a hearing and decide whether the order should be registered.
UIFSA also allows parents to enforce their support orders without the assistance of the state where the obligor (paying parent) lives. A withholding order, in many cases, can be sent directly to the out-of-state obligor’s employer requiring child support be deducted from the parent’s wages. The responding state also has the authority to pursue collection through enforcement hearings, license suspension, or incarceration of the delinquent, non-custodial parent.
If financial or other circumstances have changed, you may also request the court to modify a child support order. UIFSA sets the rules for modification. If either of the parents or the child still lives in the state that issued the controlling order, changes in the support amount must occur there. Otherwise the order may be registered and modified in the child’s home state. The child’s home state is generally where the child has resided for six (6) months with a parent.
If all parties have left the state that issued the controlling order, that state cannot change the support amount. To modify support, the order must be registered for modification in the state of residence of the parent not seeking modification.
UIFSA allows both parents to agree in writing that the state where one parent resides may modify the order and take control of the case. When a state modifies another state’s order, the new support amount is the amount to be collected by all any state in which the obligor resides.
Parents often turn to the Texas Attorney General for assistance in the collection and enforcement of child support, and that can be a good choice. However, parents – especially those who are experiencing continued delays and roadblocks – can hire a private attorney to advocate on their behalf and for the benefit of their children. An attorney can also provide guidance in enforcing and modifying terms of visitation.
Thirty seven percent of families in the United States are blended families. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. A biological parent has his hands full, but as most step-parents will tell you, their job is even more complicated.
Following a divorce, it is not uncommon for a new step-parent to become the target of unprovoked spite or anger. In many cases, the previous-spouse harbors unfounded fears that their child will look to a new step-parent as a mother or father replacement figure. This can engender resentment to what may already be an uncomfortable situation between parties. Regretfully, these issues often escalate very quickly. Such resentments place the children squarely in the middle of a bitter fight between the people they love the most and are not healthy for anyone involved. The pain of conflicting loyalties to each parent and a child’s feeling of being “caught in the middle” of such disputes exacts an enormous emotional toll on a child. When a parent is in a rage, it is not uncommon for a child to withdraw. The child’s behavior towards the non-primary parent may abruptly change. This change in behavior may have more to do with keeping the primary parent happy than it does with how they really feel about the non-primary parent or step-parent. It is essential that you make it clear to your child that you love them and will always be there for them, regardless of the emotional or less than rosy current circumstances.
It is crucial to a child’s self-esteem and emotional growth that parents avoid putting children in the middle of such disputes. This can be incredibly difficult, however, when a selfish or manipulative parent does not think twice about wrongfully placing his or her child in the middle of conflict. Children are very perceptive and as they grow older they will ultimately realize when a parent has lied to them and used them for their own emotional or financial gain. Though they may temporarily identify with the aggressors, in time they will deeply resent the parent who has manipulated them.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is critical that biological parents avoid arguments or conflicts in the presence of the children. Such conduct is conducive to parental alienation goals of the misguided previous spouse. If the child sees that you maintain a calm and collected demeanor, it gives them reason to pause and feel safe.
If a previous spouse is making statements to the child regarding issues that should only be discussed between adults, tell the child that such discussions are inappropriate and you will take them up with the other parent at another time.
It is ok to tell your child “I am sorry,” if they are upset, even if you are not the parent upsetting them. This validates that they are hurting and relieves any false guilt they may have over things that are being said and done when you are not present. It is sometimes helpful to use everyday situations to explain conflict to your child. As an example, when dealing with conflict explain that “brothers and sisters fight, but they still love each other. Families have to work through conflict in order to stay together. I would not leave you if you made a mistake, I would not want you to leave me.” Such statements reinforces that reasonable conflict is ok and assures the child that you will remain a constant force in their life regardless of the situation.
If you feel that the conflict has escalated to a point of becoming emotionally abusive and/or destructive to the child, consult a Family Law / divorce attorney. It may be in the best interest of the child that he or she be removed from the primary parent and placed with the non-primary parent so that he or she is allowed to love all parental figures, parents and step-parents alike, unconditionally.
The Holiday season is now upon us and hopefully all parents have worked out the upcoming visitation schedules for the 2011 Holiday Season. But if not….. Here is a reminder of the current Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Possession Order for Holidays.
§ 153.314. Holiday Possession Unaffected by Distance Parents Reside Apart.
The following provisions govern possession of the child for certain specific holidays and supersede conflicting weekend or Thursday periods of possession without regard to the distance the parents reside apart. The possessory conservator and the managing conservator shall have rights of possession of the child as follows:
(1) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in even-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the Christmas school vacation and ending at noon on December 28, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd-numbered years;
(2) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years beginning at noon on December 28 and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;
(3) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years, beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school before Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;
(4) the parent not otherwise entitled under this standard order to present possession of a child on the child’s birthday shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. on that day, provided that the parent picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place;
(5) if a conservator, the father shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday preceding Father’s Day and ending on Father’s Day at 6 p.m., provided that, if he is not otherwise entitled under this standard order to present possession of the child, he picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place;
(6) if a conservator, the mother shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday preceding Mother’s Day and ending on Mother’s Day at 6 p.m., provided that, if she is not otherwise entitled under this standard order to present possession of the child, she picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place.
Texas child visitation orders may differ from the norm to accommodate family situations so you should always check your decree first! If in doubt about your holiday visitation time’s contact someone who can help you to make sure nothing happens to affect this special season with your children. ‘Tis the Season!