Texas Divorce and Spousal Maintenance

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 couple’s primary sticking points, and these financial concerns often include the prospect of spousal maintenance. Many people have misconceptions about spousal maintenance, so it helps to understand the basics.

For an overview of the divorce process, please read Texas Divorce: The Basics

Spousal Maintenance

In 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 financial support. Spousal maintenance, however, is not a given in a Texas divorce. Instead, Texas has statutory requirements to meet 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 considers a variety of factors:

  1. You and your spouse’s assets and incomes
  2. You and your spouse’s employment histories and earning capacities
  3. How long you and your spouse were married
  4. You and your spouse’s ages and general physical and mental health
  5. You and your spouse’s separate abilities to provide for your own basic needs
  6. Whether you or your spouse committed adultery during your marriage
  7. Whether you or your spouse has a history of spousal or child abuse
  8. Whether you or your spouse contributed to the other’s education or the other’s increased earning potential
  9. 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 much to consider, and the court has considerable discretion when determining spousal support. An experienced Houston family law attorney will help you understand what will most likely happen in 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 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 before filing for divorce

Even if the court orders spousal maintenance, it is typically set for a specific amount of time that usually spans no more than 5 to 10 years, calculated by 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 in the shortest possible time.

Your Basic Needs Assessed

When the court looks at your (or your divorcing spouse’s) ability to cover your basic needs, it looks at what kind of financial assistance you will need to live on your own and 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 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 only awarded for an unlimited period in specific circumstances. There are prescribed limitations based on how long your marriage lasted:

  • The maximum period of spousal maintenance is five years if you have been married for at least ten years but no more than twenty 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 periods allowable by law (outside of the exceptions identified above). The court need not, however, award maintenance for the maximum time 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 likely have plenty of concerns about your post-divorce financial future. There are a lot of misconceptions about spousal maintenance out there. Still, the dedicated legal team at The 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 or call us at 713-781-7775 today.

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