In my previous post about spousal maintenance I discussed eligibility requirements. In this post, I'll address the various methods of collecting and enforcing spousal maintenance awards.
If the court grants an award for spousal maintenance, the judgment dissolving the marriage must reflect this. The spousal support order should state who will receive the payments and who will make the payments. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.001(3)(4). The order must state how the spousal maintenance payments are to be made (i.e., by cash, check, and how frequently) and where they are to be sent. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.052. Finally, the spousal maintenance order must state the duration of the maintenance. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.052.
To aid in the collection of spousal maintenance, the court has discretion to order wage withholding (withholding automatically occurs for child support). Wage withholding can be accomplished through (1) a wage withholding order; (2) a voluntary writ of withholding; or (3) a writ of withholding. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.101(a) & 8.251(a).
For court ordered wage withholding, the wage withholding order must contain the style and cause number of the dissolution suit; the obligor and obligee's names; the amount and duration of the spousal maintenance payments; a directive to the obligor's employer to withhold from the obligor's disposable earnings; a requirement that the obligor notify the court of any change in address or employer. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.152(a) & (b).
A writ of withholding is used if when the court ordered spousal maintenance it did not issue a withholding order. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.251(a). A writ of withholding is different from a withholding order because it must be issued by the court clerk, not the judge. In order to obtain a writ of withholding, there are three steps: (1) the obligee must file notice of application for applying for the writ with the court; (2) the obligee must provide this notice to the obligor; and (3) upon the obligor's receipt of the notice, the obligor can either choose whether or not to challenge the notice. The notice of a writ of withholding must contain: (1) the amount of monthly maintenance due; (2) that the order applied to each current or future employer or period of employment for the duration of the order; (3) that the obligor's employer will be notified to begin the withholding if the obligor does not contest the notice within ten days of receiving it; (4) the procedures for contesting the notice of application; (5) that the only grounds for successfully contesting a writ of withholding are a dispute about the obligor's identity or about the existence or amount of any arrearages; and (6) that if the obligor contests the withholding, the obligor will be given an opportunity for a hearing within 30 days after the notice is received. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.252.
Finally, an obligor can request a voluntary writ of withholding even though a withholding order or writ of withholding has not been served on any party. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.108(a). The request must be signed by both the obligor and obligee and be notarized. Id. Once the request has been filed, the clerk must deliver a writ of withholding to the obligor's employer. Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 8.108(b).
Sounds confusing? Well, unfortunately it is. The good news is by taking the first step and trying to learn about spousal maintenance in Texas you have a leg up on your opponent. The next step is to hire a Dallas divorce attorney who is compassionate and relentless about your case from beginning to end.