Spousal Maintenance Lawyer Dallas Fort Worth
“Spousal Maintenance” is what Texas law calls an award in a divorce where one spouse must make periodic payments of their future income to the other spouse. Many people also generally refer to spousal maintenance as “alimony” or “spousal support.”
Texas Courts award spousal support under very limited circumstance. Under Texas law, in order for a spouse to be entitled to spousal maintenance, he or she must prove at least one of the following circumstances exist:
- The paying spouse was convicted of family violence within 2 years of the date of filing the divorce.
- The marriage lasted ten years or longer and the requesting spouse lacks sufficient property (which includes property awarded in the divorce proceedings) for minimal needs and the requesting spouse cannot support him or herself through appropriate employment because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability.
- The marriage lasted ten years or longer, and the requesting spouse lacks sufficient property (which includes property awarded in the divorce proceeding) and is the custodian of a child who requires substantial care and personal supervision, making it necessary for that spouse to remain at home with that child.
- The marriage lasted ten years or longer and the requesting spouse lacks sufficient property (which includes property awarded in the divorce proceeding) to provide for minimal needs and lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to provide for minimal needs.
Even when one of these circumstances except (except where there is a conviction of family violence) the court will start by assuming that an order for spousal maintenance is not appropriate. To overcome the assumption, the spouse seeking support must provide evidence that he or she has made an effort to earn an income to provide for his or her basic need–or develop skills so that he or she can earn that income–but despite these efforts still cannot earn that income.
Once the Court determines the spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance, it has to consider the following factors to determine the amount and duration of the alimony:
- the spouses’ abilities to meet their needs independently
- the education and job skills of each spouse
- length of the marriage
- age, employment history, earning potential, and health of the spouses
- child support each spouse has to pay
- whether a spouse wasted or hid money during the marriage
- contributions by one spouse to the other’s education or earning potential
- property each spouse brought into the marriage
- contributions by a spouse to the marriage as a homemaker
- misconduct during the marriage by each spouse, including adultery
- any domestic violence during the marriage.
Texas law caps spousal maintenance at $5,000 a month or 20 percent of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever is less.
Texas law also states limits on how long a spouse may be required to pay spousal maintenance.
When the court orders support for a spouse who needs it because of a physical or mental disability or because the spouse is the custodian of a child with a physical or mental disability, then the order can continue for as long as those conditions exist. The court may order periodic hearings to be sure the circumstances haven’t changed.
All other spousal maintenance orders are time-limited by Texas law. An order for spousal maintenance can last no longer than:
- five years, if the marriage lasted less than ten years and the court ordered maintenance because the paying spouse committed an act of family violence.
- five years, if the marriage lasted between ten and 20 years long.
- seven years, if the marriage lasted between 20 and 30 years long.
- ten years, if the marriage lasted 30 years or longer.
No matter what the circumstances are, the court must limit the order to the shortest reasonable time that will allow the spouse receiving payments to be able to earn enough income to meet basic needs, unless that spouse cannot do so because of a physical or mental disability, because of duties caring for an infant or young child of the marriage, or because there is some other reason that the spouse cannot becoming self-supporting.
A former spouse is no longer eligible to receive spousal maintenance once he or she remarries or starts living with a romantic significant other, e.g., a boyfriend or girlfriend.