Spousal support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, may be one of the terms of your divorce. It is possible for spouses to agree on an alimony amount, but the court may also order an amount to be paid by one spouse to the other. The purpose of spousal maintenance is to help one spouse pay for their basic needs, but there are restrictions to alimony. Below is information about the details of spousal maintenance in Texas.
What Qualifies a Spouse for Alimony?
A court can order spousal maintenance if the spouse who is seeking alimony will not have enough property at the time of the divorce to provide for themselves. They must also meet one of these requirements:
- One spouse has been convicted of committed domestic violence during the divorce or within two years prior to the divorce against the other spouse or their offspring.
- The spouse who is seeking support is unable to earn enough to provide for their basic needs due to a mental or physical disability.
- The couple was married more than 10 years, and the spouse seeking support is unable to earn enough to support themselves.
- The spouse seeking support has custody of a child produced by the marriage, who is in need of special care and supervision due to a physical or mental disability, and the spouse is unable to earn enough income to support themselves as a result.
In any of the above situations—except for domestic violence—it is presumed by the court that it wouldn’t be appropriate to order spousal support. It is on the requesting spouse to demonstrate that they have made an effort to earn an income or develop skills to support themselves during the divorce proceedings. If you are planning to seek spousal, support, keep this important requirement in mind.
What Factors Are Considered When Deciding Spousal Maintenance?
Once you have demonstrated that it is appropriate to consider spousal maintenance, the court will need to consider a list of factors to decide how much support should be awarded and the length of time the support should be paid. These factors include:
- The financial resources of each spouse at the time of the divorce, and each spouse’s ability to provide for their basic needs
- The education and employment skills of each spouse, how long it would take and how manageable it would be for the requesting spouse to get education or training, and the availability of opportunities for education or training
- The length of the marriage
- The age, physical and emotional health, employment history, and earning ability of the spouse seeking maintenance
- Any child support orders that have been issued, and how they affect the finances of the spouses
- If any of the community property was concealed, destroyed, spent excessively, or fraudulently disposed of
- Whether the spouse who is seeking maintenance contributed to the education, training, or increased earning ability of the other spouse
- What property was brought into the marriage by each spouse
- Whether one spouse was a homemaker in the marriage or primarily cared for the couple’s children
- If there were any acts of cruel treatment or adultery by either spouse
- If there was a history of family violence
How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Last?
By Texas law, all spousal support orders must be time-limited, unless they are granted due to a physical or mental disability of the requesting spouse or the spouse has custody of a child with a mental or physical disability. In these cases, there may be periodic hearings to reevaluate the orders, but they are legally permitted to continue as long as the conditions exist.
All other spousal support orders, however, must meet one of the following limits:
- 5 years for marriages lasting less than 10 years and support was ordered due to domestic violence.
- 5 years for marriages lasting between 10 and 20 years.
- 7 years for marriages between 20 and 30 years long.
- 10 years if the marriage lasted more than 30 years.
Regardless of the circumstances, the court may only order the shortest reasonable time to allow the receiving spouse to become self-supporting, unless there is a situation in which the spouse is unable to support themselves, as outlined above.
Maintenance orders are terminated when:
- One spouse passes away
- The receiving spouse remarries
- The receiving spouse is found by the court to be living in a permanent home with another person in a romantic relationship
How Much Support Will Be Ordered?
There are limits to the amount of support that can be ordered. In Texas, this amount cannot exceed $5,000 or 20% of the paying spouse’s average gross monthly income—whichever amount is less. It’s also worth remembering that the receiving spouse will need to pay income taxes on the amount, so it can be against their best interests to pursue and overly-large spousal maintenance amount.
Whether you are seeking support, or looking for answers about the support you are expected to pay, our Katy divorce attorneys can help! At Adams Law Firm, we are passionate about supporting families as they face the legal challenges and changes that come with a divorce. Our experienced team can help you through every step of your divorce and ensure that your best interests are protected. Schedule a consultation to discuss your legal options with our team today.
Contact our firm online, or by calling (281) 764-6087.