Legislative Changes to Spousal Maintenance in Texas

September 1, 2013 marked the date for changes to the Texas spousal maintenance statutes. Specifically, the Texas Legislature clarified a Court’s ability to enforce by contempt a person’s violation of payment of Chapter 8 spousal maintenance.

§8.059 of the Texas Family Code states that the Court may not enforce by contempt any provision of an agreed order for Chapter 8 spousal maintenance that exceeds the amount of period support the Court could have ordered. Currently, the law for the maximum amount for spousal maintenance is as follows:

§8.055 states: “A court may not order maintenance that requires an obligor to pay monthly more than the lesser of:

(1) $5,000.00; or

(2) 20 percent of the spouse’s average monthly gross income."

When negotiating an Agreed Final Decree of Divorce, one spouse may agree to pay the other spouse spousal maintenance pursuant to Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code. What §8.059 did was clarify a court’s ability to hold a person in contempt of court for their failure to pay Chapter 8 Spousal Maintenance.

Example: Bob and Mary Smith were married for twelve years at the time they divorced. Pursuant to their Agreed Final Decree of Divorce, Bob is to pay Mary $6,000.00 per month for a period of six years pursuant to Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code. One year after the divorce, Bob no longer pays Mary the $6,000.00 per month he was ordered to pay. After three months of no spousal maintenance payments from Bob, Mary brings an enforcement action of the Agreed Final Decree of Divorce against Bob. Mary requests the court to enforce by contempt Bob’s failure to pay her the monthly spousal maintenance payments of $6,000.00. Under the new statue, the court can only hold Bob in contempt of court for his failure to pay spousal maintenance in the amount of $5,000.00 for each of the three months. The maximum amount the court could have ordered Bob to pay in spousal maintenance is $5,000.00 and therefore, the court can only enforce by contempt the $5,000.00 monthly amount, not the full $6,000.00 monthly amount contained in the Agreed Final Decree of Divorce.
 

Could Ric Flair Be Held in Contempt in Texas for Failure to Pay Spousal Maintenance?

As reported by Fox News, on July 17, 2013 an arrest warrant was issued for Ric Flair for his failure to pay $32,000.00 in spousal support to his estranged wife. Mr. and Mrs. Flair reside in North Carolina. Ric Flair was ordered in earlier divorce proceedings to pay his Wife $4,000.00 per month and had failed to do so to the tune of $32,352.51. Mr. Flair explained that he was unable to make the spousal maintenance payments because he had spent a month in the hospital for a blood clot, did not work for three months and his son died.

If Ric Flair and his wife lived in Texas, he could face jail time for his failure to make court ordered spousal support payments. If a Court orders a person to pay spousal maintenance, a person can be held in contempt of Court and face jail time for the failure to pay court ordered spousal maintenance within the duration and amounts found in the Texas Family Code.

If a Court finds that a spouse is entitled to receive spousal maintenance, the Court can order the duration of spousal support payments as follows:

  • Marriage 10-20 Year Duration: Maximum 5 years spousal maintenance
  • Marriage 20-30 Year Duration: Maximum 7 years spousal maintenance
  • Marriage Exceeding 30 Years: Maximum 10 year spousal maintenance

The limit on the amount of monthly spousal maintenance in Texas is 20% of a person’s monthly gross income or $5,000.00, whichever is less.

If Mr. Flair was truly unable to make his spousal maintenance payments because of the factors stated above, in Texas Mr. Flair should have petitioned the Court to modify the amount and duration of his spousal support payments instead of just not making the payments. In this case, it would have been better for him to ask permission than to ask for forgiveness.
 

Temporary Spousal Support

 

Temporary spousal support is different than post-divorce spousal support.

In Texas, temporary spousal support to be paid while a divorce is pending is based on the concept that each spouse has a legal duty to support the other spouse. So, until the divorce is final, the legal duty of support comes into play. Judges often base their decisions on issues of temporary support on a theory of preserving the status quo until the divorce can be finalized. So, if there is a history of the husband providing the income to pay the marital obligations, then that may likely continue. If there has been a pattern where both spouses make income that is used to pay the marital bills, then a Judge will consider making that part of the temporary orders. The main concern in reaching a temporary order is to make sure that both spouses have sufficient means with which to meet their reasonable and necessary obligations. A judge will allocate the income coming in to the marriage to accomplish this goal. This may be accomplished with an order for one spouse to pay the bills of the other spouse, for one spouse to provide a monthly stipend of spousal support to the other spouse, or with an order for each person to use their monthly income to pay certain obligations assigned to them.

Temporary orders usually last in duration for the entire pendency of the divorce. However, it is becoming increasingly popular for judges to limit a temporary spousal support award to a short period – say, 90 days – providing a sufficient time for the spouse needing support to obtain employment and resolve the divorce.

There are no statutory guidelines for temporary spousal support orders as there are with orders for post-divorce spousal maintenance.

It is important to note that temporary spousal support also differs from the legally required temporary child support.

Read more posts about temporary orders:Temporary Orders Hearing: Step 2 of the Divorce Proceeding

 

Eight Simple Rules for Tax-Deductible Alimony - Rules 6-8

How to determine whether payment of money to a spouse post-divorce qualifies as alimony under Internal Revenue Code §71 for tax-deduction purposes – Part 3.

This post continues discussion of the Make the Tax Code Your Friend from the Winter 2012 Family Law Advocate journal of the American Bar Association by Christopher Melcher.

Rule 6: Payments must terminate on the death of the payee.

This requirement was adopted to distinguish between property settlement in the divorce and true alimony. “Dead people require little, if any, support,” so for alimony to be tax-deductible, the payment should terminate upon the death of the supported spouse.  See Taft, Tax Aspects of Divorce and Separation, §5.03[1][v]. On the other hand, an obligation regarding the division of marital property survives the death of either party because it creates a vested property right that can be transferred on death.   So, if any of the payments are required to be on or after the death of the supported spouse, the payments look like a property division, rather than for maintenance.

If this rule is violated, none of the payments before or after the death of the spouse qualify as alimony.

Rule 7: Payments may not be fixed as child support.

Payments designated as child support are not deductible as alimony. Even if a payment is labeled as “alimony” the payment may be treated as disguised child support if the amount of the payment reduces upon some contingency related to a child.

Rule 8: A joint return is not filed.

The final requirement is that the parties file separate tax returns. They cannot file a joint tax return together, with one claiming an alimony as income and the other claiming the tax-deduction for alimony paid.

For an overview of Texas alimony laws, please see our website O’Neil & Attorneys.

For additional information about alimony and maintenance in Texas, see the following blog posts here on the Dallas Texas Divorce Law Blog:

Eight Simple Rules for Tax-Deductible Alimony - Rules 3-5

 

How to determine whether payment of money to a spouse post-divorce qualifies as alimony under Internal Revenue Code §71 for tax-deduction purposes – Part 2.

This post continues discussion of Make the Tax Code Your Friend, an article from the Winter 2012 Family Law Advocate journal of the American Bar Association by Christopher Melcher.

Rule 3: Payments must be made under a divorce or separation instrument.

This means a written, formal agreement or court order. The written instrument must be in existence at the time the payments are made.

Rule 4: The instrument does not say that payments are non-taxable/non-deductible.

If the parties designate the payments as non-taxable, they will be bound by their agreement. On the other hand, saying a payment is taxable doesn’t make it taxable unless/until the IRS agrees.

Rule 5: The parties must not live together, unless the alimony is temporary.

If there is a legal separation of the parties, but they are not divorced, payments made for support are deductible even if the parties are members of the same household when the payments are made. Once a divorce is finalized, the parties cannot continue to share the same household for more than one month or the payments will not qualify as alimony.

For an overview of Texas alimony laws, please see our website O’Neil & Attorneys.

For additional information about alimony and maintenance in Texas, see the following blog posts here on the Dallas Texas Divorce Law Blog:

 

Eight Simple Rules for Tax-Deductible Alimony - Rules 0 - 2

 

How to determine whether payment of money to a spouse post-divorce qualifies as alimony under Internal Revenue Code §71 for tax-deduction purposes – Part 1.

Christopher Melcher provides a useful article on the tax-deductibility of alimony in this month’s Family Law Journal of the American Bar Association: Make the Tax Code Your Friend – and Alimony More Palatable. He points to eight simply rules to determine if payment of money to a former spouse post-divorce qualifies as tax-deductible alimony:

Rule 0: The label doesn’t usually matter.

Whether or not the payment is called “alimony” in the court order or something else does not affect its treatment as alimony under the tax laws. Likewise, a payment labeled as “alimony” may not qualify if the rules are not met. 

One exception to this rule is that payments labeled as “child support” cannot be considered alimony.

Rule 1: The payment must be made in “cash”.

Alimony cannot be paid in exchange for services, property, an I.O.U., or for the use of property. Treas. Reg. §1.71-1T. Of course, checks or other methods of paying “cash” are accepted.

Rule 2: The payment must be received by or on behalf of a spouse or former spouse.

The payment does not have to be made directly to the spouse or former spouse. It can be paid to a third party for the benefit of the spouse. For example, cash payment of rent, mortgage, tax, or tuition liabilities of the spouse or former spouse made under the terms of the divorce decree will qualify as alimony. Treas. Reg. §1.7-1T, Q&A, A-6.

Melcher says the tricky part of these arrangements is to make sure that the payor does not benefit from the payment; otherwise the payment will not qualify as alimony. Sometimes making payments on behalf of the spouse, such as mortgage payments, can implicate more than one set of tax rules and create some confusion. If the house and the mortgage are in the name of the payor, the payor cannot take an alimony deduction for paying the mortgage even if the payee has exclusive possession. “Any payments to maintain property owned by the payor spouse and used by the payee spouse (including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, and insurance premiums) are not payments on behalf of a spouse, even if those payments are made pursuant to the terms of the divorce or separation instruments. Treas. Reg. §1.71-1T; Q&A A-6.

Simple enough: the payor is responsible for making those payments as the owner of the property or debtor under the mortgage and, thus, payment of those obligations cannot be treated as alimony to his or her spouse or former spouse.

On the other hand, where the payee owns the house and the mortgage is in his or her name. Since the alimony recipient is solely obligated for paying the mortgage, the parties can agree that his or her alimony will be paid to the mortgage company. The payee spouse can take an itemized deduction for the mortgage interest and property taxes paid, since these were made with his or her alimony money. IRS Publ. 504, p. 13 (2008).

If the spouses jointly own the residence and mortgage and the alimony order says that one spouse will pay the mortgage as alimony to the other spouse, the IRS will only recognize one-half of the payment as alimony. IRS Publ. 504, p. 12 (2008).

For payments of property taxes and home insurance in the form of alimony on a residence held in joint tenancy, none of the property tax or insurance payments qualify as alimony, but the payor spouse can take an itemized deduction for all of the property taxes. IRS Publ. 504, p. 12 Table 5 (2008).

Sometimes, spouses agree to require life insurance as a form of security for the loss of alimony if the payor dies. If the divorce agreement requires the payor spouse to maintain life insurance for the supported spouse as security for alimony, the premiums are deductible if the supported spouse is both the owner and irrevocable beneficiary of the policy and has all incidents of ownership under the policy. Stevens v. Comm’r, (1971) 439 F.2d 69; Rev. Rul. 57-125; Rev. Rul. 70-218; Treas. Reg. §1.71-1T, Q&A, A-6.

For an overview of Texas alimony laws, please see our website O’Neil & Attorneys.

For additional information about alimony and maintenance in Texas, see the following blog posts here on the Dallas Texas Divorce Law Blog:

 

Maintenance in Texas - Part 3: Amount, Duration, and Enforcement

 

How much can an award of maintenance be in Texas? How long can it last? What happens for nonpayment?

 The duration of a maintenance order is determined by the length of the marriage. If the spouses were married to each other for less than 10 years, but maintenance is awarded based upon the criminal conviction for family violence, maintenance is limited to 5 years duration. If the spouses were married at least 10 years and not more than 20 years, the duration of maintenance is also limited to 5 years. If the spouses were married to each other for at least 20 years, but not more than 30 years, duration is limited to 7 years. If the spouses were married to each other for at least 30 years or more, the maintenance order cannot exceed 10 years.

 Judges are further limited in the right to award maintenance by state law that says support can continue for no longer than necessary to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s needs unless the ability to provide for the spouse’s needs id substantially or totally diminished because of a mental or physical disability of the spouse, the duties as custodian of an infant or young child of the marriage, or another compelling reason.

The amount of maintenance is limited to the lesser of 20% of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income (before taxes) or $5,000. Generally, alimony is tax deductible to the paying spouse and included as income to the receiving spouse.

The obligation to pay maintenance under the statute terminates earlier than the above limitation upon the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the spouse receiving maintenance. It can also be terminated based upon the romantic cohabitation of the receiving spouse.

A maintenance order remains modifiable during the duration of the order and can be reviewed for continued eligibility of the receiving spouse until terminated.

For an overview of Texas alimony laws, please see our website O’Neil & Attorneys.

For additional information about alimony and maintenance in Texas, see the following blog posts here on the Dallas Texas Divorce Law Blog:

 

Maintenance in Texas - Part 2: Eligibility

Who is eligible for “maintenance” in Texas?

Determining eligibility for an award of maintenance in Texas begins with evaluating whether the spouse seeking maintenance will lack sufficient property after the divorce to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs. If so, then a spouse can be awarded alimony/maintenance under the Texas Family Code only if one of two specific conditions exists.

First, where the other spouse was convicted of a crime involving family violence within the two years prior to the filing of the divorce suit or while the divorce is pending, the victim-spouse may be eligible for an award of maintenance.   This includes class C misdemeanor convictions if the allegation involved family violence. It also includes occasions where the defendant received deferred adjudication in exchange for a plea of guilty.

The second eligibility category for maintenance requires a minimum of a 10-year marriage. Then, a spouse can be eligible for maintenance where the spouse seeking maintenance lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to support his or her minimum reasonable needs lacks sufficient property (including property awarded in the divorce) to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs. Or, alternatively, the spouse can be eligible for maintenance if he or she is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age that 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.

Most alimony claims rely on the second of the conditions. But for the request to be successful, the spouse must be able to show a reasonable attempt to find an appropriate job or get job training.

For an overview of Texas alimony laws, please see our website O’Neil & Attorneys.

For additional information about alimony and maintenance in Texas, see the following blog posts here on the Dallas Texas Divorce Law Blog

Maintenance in Texas - Part 1: History

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 an overview of Texas alimony laws, please see our website O’Neil & Attorneys.

For additional information about alimony and maintenance in Texas, see the following blog posts here on the Dallas Texas Divorce Law Blog:

Reasonable Expectations Set the Stage for Success

A perfectly reasonable result may be perceived as a total failure if the client’s expectations were unrealistic from the start.

I read an article in the latest Family Law Journal from the American Bar Association about education as the way to reasonable expectations for what will happen in a family law case. (Read When the question is alimony, the answer is client education by Kathleen A. Hogan, editor.) Ms. Hogan pointed to the often misunderstood issue of alimony entitlement by way of example. Clients often think they understand the issue of alimony before their case begins, but are mistaken as to how it really works. Sometimes these mistaken assumptions come from “lay-lawyers” – those who expound on the law as if they were lawyers but really don’t know what they are talking about – or, increasingly more often, clients who attempt to educate themselves using the internet but fail to understand the nuances of the information found. Mistaken assumptions often result in the client failing to listen to the attorney when the lawyer’s explanation does not fit with their preconceived notions. Or, a client may refrain from asking questions because he or she thinks she knows the answer already.

Ms. Hogan points out that if the client had asked the necessary questions, he or she might have heard things like “yes, real men can get alimony” or “yes, the court will expect you to get a job” or, “no, the fact that she cheated does not affect the outcome”.

In many cases in divorce, a client’s perception of success or failure will be influenced largely by his or her expectations. A client may have little or no knowledge of what a reasonable outcome will be unless the lawyer provides education as to what to expect. Emotions in divorce and negotiating a settlement can also intervene in perceptions. Instead of approaching alimony as a transaction to transfer money to a spouse that provides tax benefits, feelings of hurt, anger, fear, betrayal, and the like often come to the forefront. It is challenging to keep focused on the after-tax cash flow when emotions are running rampant and the client lacks accurate information upon which to base a decision.

For an overview of Texas alimony laws, please see our website O’Neil & Attorneys.

What You Need to Know about Alimony/Maintenance in Texas

Posted by Michelle May O'Neil on May 2, 2011

Until recent years, Texas did not allow for the payment of alimony and, even now, it is available in extremely limited circumstances and limited duration.

A spouse can be awarded alimony/maintenance under the Texas Family Code only if one of two specific conditions exists.

The first is if the other spouse was convicted of a crime involving family violence within the two years prior to the filing of the divorce suit.  This includes class C misdemeanor convictions if the allegation involved family violence.  It also includes occasions where the defendant received deferred adjudication in exchange for a plea of guilty.

The other starts with a 10-year marriage, where the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property (including property awarded in the divorce) to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs.  If that factor exists, then, the inquiry turns to whether the spouse can or cannot work outside the home because he/she has an incapacitating personal physical or mental disability; or, he/she is the primary caregiver of a child requiring substantial care due to a physical or mental disability; or the spouse clearly lacks adequate skills to find a job to support minimum reasonable needs.

Most alimony claims rely on the second of the conditions.  But for the request to be successful, the spouse must be able to show a reasonable attempt to find an appropriate job or get job training.

Judges are further limited in the right to award maintenance by state law that says support can continue for no longer than necessary to provide for the spouse's needs, but no more than three years after the divorce is finalized.  The exception to this rule is when the maintenance is awarded based on a disability of either the spouse receiving maintenance or caring for a disabled child, in which case the award may be indefinite in duration.  Also, monthly payment amount is limited to either $2,500 or 20 percent of the paying spouse's average gross income - whichever amount is lower. 

If this post was helpful, you may be interested in purchasing our book, Basics of Texas Divorce Law which includes several other topics you may want to know more about such as, the divorce proceeding, division of property and issues related to children.

Dallas Divorce Attorney Prevails On Appeal: No Garnishment for Contractual Alimony

Dallas divorce attorney Michelle May O’Neil and her client prevailed yesterday, February 4, 2010, when the Fifth Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Kee v. Kee, Cause No. 05-08-00013-CV. The appeal in Kee arose from an ex-wife’s appeal of the trial court’s refusal to garnish ex-husband’s wages to satisfy his contractual alimony obligation.  The trial court in this case rightfully found the garnishment that ex-wife requested would violate ex-husband’s constitutional rights. The Dallas Court of Appeals agreed.

The Court of Appeal’s determination turned on whether the alimony payments wife sought to garnish from husband’s wages were ordered pursuant to Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code, or whether such payments were contractual, as opposed to statutory, alimony. In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals closely examined the language of the 2006 divorce decree’s alimony provision. The decree lacked the requisite findings for Chapter 8 maintenance; including a finding that wife was disabled and a stated duration of the maintenance obligation, with the specific language of the alimony provision providing in part:

 

“The Court finds that under the circumstances presented in this case, [Wife] is eligible for maintenance under the provisions of [the] Texas Family Code and the contractual agreement of the parties; and that this alimony obligation is contractual as well as statutory.”

 

Because the decree omitted the specific findings required by Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code, the Court of Appeals determined that the “statutory” portion of the maintenance obligation could just as easily be Chapter 7 (the code’s provision for informal settlement agreements between parties) as Chapter 8 maintenance. As the alimony ordered by the 2006 decree was contractual rather than statutory under Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code, the Court of Appeals determined that husband’s wages were not subject to garnishment, and, therefore the trial court ruled correctly.

 

The opinion in Kee extends the well-established case law prohibiting the enforcement of contractual alimony by contempt, including In re Green and McCollough v. McCollough, to prohibit enforcement of contractual alimony via garnishment of the obligor spouse’s wages absent a specific provision in the decree allowing for such a remedy. The moral of this case, for parties as well as family law attorneys, is be conscious of your drafting – if you intend for a maintenance obligation to be statutory under Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code, make sure the decree includes the necessary findings. Also, if you intend for contractual alimony to be enforceable via garnishment of the obligor spouse’s wages, this must also be apparent from the terms of the decree.

 

Congratulations to Michelle May O’Neil on a notable appellate victory for her client.

 

For more information on alimony in Texas read our prior blog posts:

 

Alimony in Texas?!? Well, sort of . . .

 

Alimony in Texas?!? [Part 2 of 2]

 

To read articles written by Michelle May O'Neil on the topic of alimony/maintenance in Texas:

 

Comment: Alimony Versus Maintenance

 

Alimony/Maintenance Enforcement by Contempt
 

Alimony in Texas?!? [Part 2 of 2]

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.