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We have experience with all issues that arise in Dissolution cases –Custody, Support, Valuation and Division of Marital Property, including Family Residences and other Real Estate, Family Businesses, Pensions, Stock Options and other Employment Benefits.


Spousal Support


Norma Lambert MacLeod

Spousal support is money that may be paid after separation by one party to the other based upon the maintenance of the supported spouse’s reasonable needs and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay.

Spousal support awards are “temporary” or “permanent.” Temporary or “Pendente Lite” spousal support may be paid under appropriate circumstances during the pendency of the parties’ divorce action. Often support orders may be requested from the court at the beginning of a divorce case. The purpose is to meet the economic needs of the parties pending final disposition of issues in the case – property, custody, and support. Permanent spousal support awards are those made in connection with the parties’ divorce judgment, and generally terminate upon the death of either party, the remarriage of the supported spouse, the terms of the judgment, or further court order. Spousal support is generally not available to those convicted of attempted spousal murder, or documanted domestic violence.

The concept of spousal support finds its historic roots from the English ecclesiastical courts, and exists under two theories in this country. In the US, spousal support is authorized in almost all states, but under different theories. Under the theory of “No Fault Divorce”, spousal support is ordered for the purposes of maintaining a spouse’s needs during transition, provides for those incapable of supporting themselves, thereby keeping them off of public welfare, and provides for custodial parents of young children whose parenting obligations keep them from full earning capacity. Under the theory of “Fault Divorce”, the fault of each spouse is considered in making any spousal support award. More than half of the states authorize an award of spousal support without consideration of fault. A smaller number of states may consider fault in making spousal support awards, and in a few states, a finding of fault can be a complete bar to an award. Spousal support is not authorized in Texas, but the courts are authorized to make an unequal division of marital property to compensate the spouse with the lower earning capacity; this may be of no value unless there is marital property of some value. A few states impose a limit on the duration of any support award.


Child Support


Child support is generally payable by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for support of the minor children of the marriage. This obligation derives from the legal right of children to receive support from their parents. In the case of child support, a “temporary” order may be sought by the custodial parent during the pendency of the divorce, and is often sought at the outset to provide for the children’’s needs pending a final judgment of divorce. Temporary child support, and that ordered as part of the judgment of divorce, unlike spousal support, are both calculated using guidelines adopted by the state. Support orders may also provide for “add-on” expenses such as child care, uninsured medical expenses, educational needs, and visitation travel expenses.

The federal government has mandated in Title 42 Section 667 of the United States Code that each state adopt a uniform state guideline for child support awards as a condition to receiving federal funding for enforcement of child support obligations. This mandate came in response to findings that child support orders overall were inadequate, and that awards were inconsistent within any given state. Section 667 requires that each state establish its own guidelines be reviewed every 4 years, that the guidelines be available to all officers determining child support amounts, and that child support amount calculated pursuant to the state’s guidelines shall be presumptively correct amount.

There are three predominant types of guidelines. The flat percentage guideline is the simplest model. It sets child support as a percentage of obligor income – some states apply the percentage to gross, others to net income. Some states apply a lower percentage at lower income levels, and a correspondingly higher percentage at higher income levels. With some exceptions this method does not take into account the custodial parent’s income or “add-on” expenses the custodial parent might have such as child care or extraordinary medical expenses. With some exceptions this method does not adjust for joint or shared custody, or the obligor’s later born children.