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Texas and alimony alternatives

Providing financial support for an ex-spouse was more common in the days when spousal duties were typically gender divided. The husband or wage earner was responsible for supporting the wife, the unpaid spouse, after the demise of the marriage. Society and its laws have changed to reflect modern relationships, where Houston marital partners often have comparable educations and financial footing.

Technically, alimony doesn't exist in Texas unless the spouses draw up a formal agreement to continue support after divorce. The agreements must adhere to the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code to be valid and accepted by state courts. Both spouses must approve of the terms the contract contains.

Contractual alimony may not be used as a property settlement tool. Spousal support agreements are held apart from any decisions couples make about the division of marital assets and debt. Consequently, "front-loaded" alimony – large payments in the early years after divorce – are discouraged and even penalized under tax rules.

The federal code also states how contractual alimony should be handled for tax purposes. Alimony is deductible on tax returns for payers and added to the gross income of recipients. The written agreement must state the paying spouse's obligation cannot extend beyond the payer's death; remarriage of a recipient spouse may be used as an end date for alimony payments.

The provisions of the contract may not involve or be contingent upon child-related issues. Terms of the agreement should include failsafe systems – what happens should the payer default or the recipient neglects to report or pay sufficient income taxes?

In the absence of a contractual alimony, some spouses may qualify for court-ordered spousal maintenance to meet basic needs. Judges weigh several factors before awarding maintenance including how long a couple was married and the spouses' educational histories and earnings capacities. Detailed claims for spousal maintenance can be discussed with an attorney.

Source: Texas Lawyer, "In Texas, Litigants Have These Two Options for Post-Divorce Support Payments," Jonathan J. Bates, accessed March. 27, 2015

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