Alimony or spousal support allows one spouse to receive periodic payments to ensure that the partner without sufficient income has support while they get back on their feet. Spouse support in Texas is designed to ensure that both spouses can meet their basic needs after the divorce.
In Texas, alimony is legally referred to as “spousal maintenance,” but the term “alimony” is so well-known that the terms are often used interchangeably. Calculating whether spousal maintenance is appropriate is based on a fact-intensive review of the couple’s situation. Determining the amount will also require a close examination of the relative income and earning capacity between the parties.
Qualifying for Spousal Maintenance in Texas
In Texas, the spouse awarded maintenance must not have the ability to provide for their minimum reasonable needs independently, taking into account their financial resources on the dissolution of the marriage. In addition, the Court must consider the following criterion:
- Was the spouse from whom maintenance is sought convicted of committing domestic violence against the seeking spouse or the child of the seeking spouse either during the divorce proceedings or within two years of the filing of the divorce action?
If the answer to the domestic violence question is “no”, then the Court must further consider the following:
- Is the spouse seeking maintenance unable to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability? or
- Have the parties been married for at least ten years and does the seeking spouse lack the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs? or
- Is the seeking spouse the custodian of a child of the marriage (of any age) who 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 spouses’s minimum reasonable needs?
Texas is not considered an “alimony friendly” state. As you can see, Texas has very limited situations in which spousal maintenance may be appropriate. That is, in part, because Texas is a community property state and so each party should, ideally, walk away with 50% of the community assets. The result is that those who request maintenance in Texas have a higher burden to meet than in other states to obtain alimony.
Factors the Court Will Consider in Awarding Spousal Maintenance
Once the court has determined that an award of alimony is appropriate, he or she will look at several factors to determine how much the support should be. These factors will also influence how long the support will last as well.
Factors the Court will consider include the following:
- Each spouse’s ability to provide for their own minimum reasonable needs independently, considering that spouse’s financial resources on dissolution of the marriage;
- The education and employment skills of the spouses, including the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income and the availability and feasibility of that education or training;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- The effect on each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs while providing periodic child support payments or maintenance, if applicable;
- Acts by either spouse resulting in excessive or abnormal expenditures or destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community property, joint tenancy, or other property held in common;
- The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
- The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
- The contribution of a spouse as a homemaker;
- Marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage; and
- Any history or pattern of family violence as defined by the Texas Family Code.
The court is obligated to limit the support to the shortest reasonable time possible to accomplish the goals of spousal maintenance, and time limits can be imposed based on the length of the marriage, among other considerations.
Dealing with maintenance issues in Texas can be tricky. It’s unusual for it to be awarded, and so it is a particularly a good idea to call on an experienced family law attorney for help. Contact Christina Hollwarth today for more information.