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:

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.