If you are considering – or are facing – a divorce in Texas, you no doubt have many concerns. Divorce is often overwhelming, and finding the best path forward can be exceedingly difficult. Typically, child custody and financial concerns represent a divorcing couples’ primary sticking points, and these financial concerns often include the prospect of spousal maintenance. Many people have misconceptions when it comes to spousal maintenance, so it helps to understand the basics.
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In the State of Texas, what other states refer to as alimony or spousal support is known as spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance represents money that the higher earner in the couple pays the lower earner as a means of financial support. Spousal maintenance, however, is not a given in a Texas divorce. Instead, Texas has statutory requirements that must be met before spousal maintenance applies. In other words, spousal maintenance in Texas is probably less common than you think.
The Court’s Consideration
When it comes to determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate in a specific divorce, the court takes a variety of factors into consideration:
• You and your spouse’s assets and incomes
• You and your spouse’s employment histories and earning capacities
• How long you and your spouse were married
• You and your spouse’s ages and general physical and mental health
• You and your spouse’s separate abilities to provide for your own basic needs
• Whether you or your spouse committed adultery during your marriage
• Whether you or your spouse has a history of spousal or child abuse
• Whether you or your spouse contributed to the other’s education or the other’s increased earning potential
• Whether you or your spouse will be required to pay child support and if that payment will affect the payor’s ability to afford his or her own basic needs
There’s a lot to consider, and the court has considerable discretion when it comes to the determination of spousal support. An experienced Houston family law attorney will help you better understand what is most likely to happen within your unique divorce circumstances. The outcome of your divorce is likely to affect your finances well into the future, and your rights are far too important to leave to chance; consult with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer today.
Factors Closely Associated with Spousal Maintenance
To qualify for spousal maintenance, you (or your spouse) must be able to show that you have insufficient income and/or property to provide for your basic needs. There are additional factors, however, that – in tandem with this inability – are likely to require spousal maintenance:
• If your marriage lasted ten years or longer and if you, as the lower earner, cannot provide for your own basic needs
• If you are the lower earner and you are unable to provide for yourself because of a physical or mental disability
• If you are the lower earner and you have custody of your shared child who has a physical or mental disability which precludes you from forging financial independence
• If your spouse is the higher earner and he or she was convicted of committing family violence against either you or your children in the two years prior to filing for divorce
Even if spousal maintenance is ordered by the court, it is typically set for a specific amount of time that usually spans no more than 5 to 10 years, which is calculated in relation to the length of the marriage and other pertinent facts. The exception to this rule is when the lower earner has a physical or mental disability that keeps him or her back or when the lower earner has custody of the couple’s disabled child. Generally, the court is motivated to order spousal maintenance for the shortest amount of time that is reasonable.
Your Basic Needs Assessed
When the court looks at your (or your divorcing spouse’s) ability to cover your own basic needs, it looks at what kind of financial assistance you will need in the future to live on your own and to cover your basic needs. This determination will focus on several basic standards:
• Your food, clothing, and shelter needs
• The aptitude and ability you have to earn income
• Your monthly expenditures
Every divorce, like every marriage, is unique to its own specific circumstances, and the court will carefully consider the details attendant to yours in determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate.
The Duration of Spousal Maintenance in Texas
When the court orders spousal maintenance, it employs specific parameters that limit the maximum amount and duration. Again, spousal maintenance is awarded for an unlimited period only in very specific circumstances. There are prescribed limitations based on how long your marriage lasted:
• If you were married for at least ten years but no more than 20 years, the maximum period of spousal maintenance is five years.
• If you were married for 20 to 30 years, the maximum period of spousal maintenance is seven years.
• If you were married for 30 or more years, the maximum period of spousal maintenance is ten years.
Again, these are the maximum time periods allowable by law (outside of the exceptions identified above). The court need not, however, award maintenance for the maximum time period allowable. Again, the court is generally motivated to award the shortest reasonable period of spousal maintenance.
The Amount of Spousal Support in Texas
The court is also bound by specific parameters regarding the maximum amount of spousal maintenance to be awarded. Spousal maintenance cannot exceed 20 percent of the payor’s average gross monthly income, and it must be capped at $5,000 per month.
If You Have Questions about Spousal Maintenance, Consult with an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Today
If you are facing the Texas divorce process, you very likely have plenty of concerns related to your post-divorce financial future. There are a lot of misconceptions about spousal maintenance out there, but the dedicated legal team at Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston will help you better understand the likelihood that spousal maintenance will play a role in your divorce. Our experienced divorce attorneys have the skill, knowledge, and compassion to advocate for your best interests throughout the divorce process. We’re here to help, so please fill out an online evaluation using the “Contact Us” link in the menu or call us at 713-781-7775 today.
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