Where did “maintenance” in Texas come from? Is it the same thing as “alimony”?
Traditionally, Texas law did not favor awards of alimony and the Texas Constitution specifically prohibited it. In 1967, the Texas Supreme Court distinguished between court-ordered alimony and agreements between spouses upon divorce to pay alimony, allowing agreements to stand even where a court could not order them. Then, in 1995, Texas became the last state to pass a statutory scheme for court-ordered alimony – now called “maintenance” in Texas. Thus, in Texas, use of the term “alimony” implies the right of spouses to agree upon post-divorce support in accordance with Section 71 of the Internal Revenue Code; whereas, “maintenance” implies a court-ordered obligation under the Texas statutory scheme found in Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code.The main distinction under Texas law involves the enforceability of alimony as opposed to maintenance. Alimony is a contractual obligation only and enforceable only by contractual remedies – usually by entry of a judgment. On the other hand, the remedy for failure to pay maintenance can be income withholding, wage garnishment, or even jail time.
The Legislature continued to tweak the rules in the years following 1995, adding provisions for enforceability by contempt/jail, wage garnishment, and income withholding. Then, in the 2011 Texas Legislative session, the provisions for maintenance were broadened the provisions for duration and amount of maintenance significantly.
For additional information about alimony and maintenance in Texas, see the following blog posts here on the Dallas Texas Divorce Law Blog: