A spouse that receives a spousal support award can enforce it in Texas. The party seeking to enforce the award must file a motion to enforce the award. Additionally, there is a 10-year statute of limitations that affect the ability to maintain a spousal maintenance award. For an example of this see O’Carolan v. Hopper, 414 S.W.3d 288 (Tex. App. 2013), where, in a divorce case, a former wife’s claim was not time-barred because the period for enforcing a spousal maintenance order under Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.059 was governed by the decision in Huff v. Huff, and a 10-year dormancy issue applied to the judgment in the parties’ divorce decree for spousal maintenance.
An enforcement (or contempt) action to collect on unpaid spousal maintenance is a very specific document. It must clearly and precisely state what part of the decree was violated, exactly how that violation occurred, and then ask for a specific punishment. These documents are difficult to draft even for attorneys, so you almost certainly need to hire a good Texas family lawyer to do this for you.
Punishments can be severe for failure to pay spousal awards/maintenance. Violation of any court order can result in jail time, payment of the other’s side’s attorney fees and fines. You should not violate a court order in any situation.
If you are unable to pay it due to financial circumstances, then you need to file to modify (lower or eliminate) those payments.
Texas Courts do not award spousal awards liberally. To receive spousal maintenance, one must be eligible to receive it. The Texas Family Code specifically provides that to be eligible either of the following qualifications must be met:
- The seeking spouse and paying spouse have been married for at least 10 years; or
- The paying spouse has been convicted of family violence; or
- There is a child born of the marriage that requires substantial care from the seeking spouse.
Additionally, Texas Courts consider some factors when determining whether or not to grant spousal maintenance. Some factors include, but are not limited to, the length of the marriage, whether or not either spouse wasted marital assets, and whether or not the seeking spouse contributed to the educational attainment or professional development of the other spouse. However, a spousal award can only be enforced within a certain time frame after it is issued.
To discuss your specific situation, call Walters Gilbreath, PLLC at (844) 451-1220 our use our secure online contact form.
- Texas Family Code Section 8.001(1)
- Texas Family Code Section 8.052(3); 8.052(4); 8.052(9); 8.052(10)