The divorce process is an emotional and difficult time. On your wedding day, as you said, “I do,” you likely did not have a divorce in mind. It is an unfortunate fact of life that divorce is sometimes the only option left in a marriage. Divorce is not only tough in that it leaves you without your partner, but it also may leave you in a difficult financial situation. If you find yourself in a situation where you are wondering how you will be able to take care of your needs after a divorce, contact Adams Law Firm to see if you have grounds to seek spousal support.
What Is Spousal Support?
The state of Texas expects married couples to provide for each other while married. If the couple is pursuing a divorce, Texas courts may order a temporary spousal support to support a spouse while the divorce is pending. However, these alimony payments are temporary and will no longer be ordered once the divorce is final. Post-divorce support is a different order entirely and requires the grant from a Texas court. There are strict guidelines for a spouse to seek maintenance after a divorce is finalized. If you have questions regarding spousal maintenance in Texas, contact a Katy spousal support lawyer from Adams Law Firm at any time.
Spousal Support In Texas
In Texas courts, spousal support is called spousal maintenance. It is important to consider that Texas courts’ default position at the beginning of any spousal maintenance case is that spousal maintenance is not necessary. This is written into the law in Texas family code 8.053. This means that you should not go into court with the expectation that spousal support will be granted. Rather, you must prove to the court that you have reasonable needs that require financial support to maintain.
Eligibility for Spousal Support in Texas
To seek this type of maintenance after a divorce, a spouse must lack sufficient property after the divorce to provide him or herself with reasonable needs. On top of that, one of the following must be true:
- The spouse that will be paying support must have been convicted (or have received deferred adjudication) for an act of family violence under Texas law. This act had to have been committed during the marriage or when the divorce was pending.
- The spouse that is seeking support is not able to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her reasonable needs, and one of the following is true:
- The marriage lasted for at least 10 years.
- The inability to earn sufficient income is due to a mental or incapacitating physical disability.
- The inability to earn sufficient income is due to responsibilities as the custodian of a child in the marriage. The child of the marriage must have some requirement for significant care and supervision due to a disability.
If you do not fit into one of the following categories, you may not be eligible to pursue spousal maintenance. Also, just because you are considered eligible for post-divorce support does not necessarily mean that you will receive it. The court still has the decision ahead of them after looking into several factors.
Determining Spousal Support in Court
After you are deemed eligible to pursue support, the court will then decide whether or not you will actually receive it. The order will specify the amount ordered and the length of time that it will be in effect. The factors taken into consideration by the court include:
- Education background of the spouses
- The length of the marriage
- The age of the spouse requesting support
- The employment history of the spouses
- Any instance of infidelity
- The requesting spouse’s contribution to the family as a homemaker
- The requesting spouse’s effort to find some type of employment
The decision following could be that the spouse will not receive any support; they will receive the maximum support allowed or some amount in between.
There is also the option of coming to an alimony or support agreement through a contract with your spouse. The order does not necessarily need to be made in court. If you can agree with your spouse regarding an alimony payment, you may be able to avoid court altogether. Team up with a family lawyer in Katy that can help you through this process.
Considerations For Seeking Spousal Support in Texas
Texas law makes seeking spousal support relatively difficult when compared to other states. Texas is what’s known as a community property jurisdiction. This means that both spouses equally own any property obtained during the marriage. This affects spousal support because Texas law stipulates that the spouse seeking spousal support show sufficient financial need after property and other assets are divided up. In other words, if you are seeking spousal support, you must prove that you require this support after community property assets are divided.
If you currently do not have a job, it is recommended to look for work as Texas law requires that the spouse seeking alimony make an effort to seek employment (or obtain training and education that would enable employment). The goal is to show the judge that you are making efforts to be financially independent. It is recommended to speak to an experienced family attorney when seeking spousal support, as many complex factors may increase or decrease your chances of qualifying.
What Amount Will I Receive in Texas?
Texas is one of the few states with strict limits on the maximum amount that a spouse can receive in spousal support. Texas family code section 8.055 stipulates that:
“A court may not order maintenance that requires an obligor to pay monthly more than the lesser of:
(1) $5,000; or
(2) 20 percent of the spouse’s average monthly gross income.”
Gross income is the pre-tax amount of the spouse’s wages and salary. It also includes things like net rental income in cases where the spouse ordered to pay owns rental property. Dividends from stock options are also counted as part of the spouse’s income. Other potential income sources include; retirement benefits, annuities, unemployment benefits, royalty income, trust income, severance pay, capital gains, and the monetary value of gifts and prizes.
Things not counted as part of the obligor’s (the spouse who is ordered to pay) income includes; social security payments, worker’s compensation, supplemental security income (SSI), and disability payments from various sources like the Department of Veteran Affairs.
How Long Will I Receive Spousal Support?
Texas law has strict and specific rules regarding the duration of spousal support. The duration depends on many factors, including; how long the marriage lasted, the specific needs of the person receiving spousal support, parental responsibilities, and other considerations. In some cases, spousal support continues as long as the conditions that warrant it persist. For example, if spousal support was granted due to physical or mental disability, the judge may order that support be paid for as long as the disability exists. If you have children, the judge may determine the duration of spousal support based on the child’s need, especially in the case of infants.
Assuming no other factors, the guidelines for spousal support duration in Texas are as follows:
- If the marriage lasted for less than ten years, and the spouse required to pay was convicted of family violence or domestic abuse, spousal support can be granted for up to five years.
- If the marriage lasted for more than 10 years but less than 20, spousal support can be granted for up to five years.
- If the marriage lasted for more at least 20 years but less than 30, spousal support can be granted for up to seven years.
- If the marriage lasted for 30 or more years, spousal support could be granted for up to 10 years.
Post-divorce life can be exceedingly difficult, especially since marriage often creates a complex intermingling of finances. You may have sacrificed your career to take care of the home, leaving you dependent on your spouse’s income. To get the longest duration that will work best for your case, it is important to speak to an experienced divorce/family law lawyer.
Spousal Maintenance Terms May Be Subject To Change
After spousal support is issued, it can later be changed, modified, or dropped depending on certain conditions. Changes to spousal support can be requested by either the spouse making the payments or receiving the payments. For example, if the spouse making the payments loses their job or becomes disabled, they might ask the court to lower their payment amounts based on the new circumstances affecting their income. If the spouse receiving the payments begin co-habitation with a new romantic partner, that may be grounds for the payer spouse to seek to end spousal support payments. Spousal support will end if the spouse receiving payments remarries.
Changes to spousal support do not happen automatically (unless stipulated in the original agreement by a judge or contract). A court must officially order the changes for them to take effect. Until the court formally orders changes, the payer spouse must continue to make the payments as ordered, or they will face legal consequences.
Adams Law Firm Can Help With Spousal Support Cases
If you are going through a divorce and interested in seeking spousal support, contact our firm. Our attorneys have more than 35 years of experience assisting clients in their divorce and family law matters. We can help you determine if you are eligible for support and help you pursue it through a contract or court. Contact Adams Law Firm today for the help you need!