In Texas, alimony or spousal support is called “spousal maintenance.” When a married couple decides to get a divorce, the divorcing parties may agree to spousal maintenance in advance of the final divorce decree. A court may also order spousal maintenance in a contested hearing or final trial if certain factors are met and/or proven.
If the spouses are in agreement, it is up to the divorcing parties to decide how support will be paid during and after the divorce process. It is essential that if you are about to enter a divorce proceeding, you work with a family law attorney to help you draft any agreements, guide you through the divorce proceedings, and protect your rights throughout the process.
What Texas Law Says About Spousal Maintenance
As with many things in domestic litigation but also concerning spousal maintenance, Texas family courts prefer the divorcing parties work it out themselves rather than have the court rule on the matter. Divorcing spouses are encouraged to enter into a written agreement concerning the liabilities and maintenance of either spouse if at all possible. Most courts will accept any agreements between the parties without issue.
However, if the court decides that the terms of the agreement are not acceptable, it can ask the spouses to submit a revised agreement or alter the agreement at the judge’s discretion.
Often the parties to a divorce are unable to come to agreements regarding spousal maintenance and thus, the issue must be argued in a contested hearing and ruled upon by a judge. That is why it is so important to work with an experienced attorney to protect your rights.
How Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) is Determined
There are specific requirements related to demands for alimony. Texas courts are notoriously averse to granting a spousal maintenance request. The laws governing spousal maintenance are very strict and the burden to obtain or even qualify for spousal maintenance is very high. The spouse requesting alimony must first establish eligibility. The most common qualifier is if the parties have been married for 10 years or more. You may also qualify for spousal maintenance if you can show that there has been family violence within the two years prior to filing for divorce, if a spouse has a mental or physical disability that prevents them from working, or if a child of the marriage has a physical or mental disability that prevents a parent from working. Once a spouse has proven that they qualify to request spousal maintenance, that spouse must prove to the court that they cannot afford to support their minimum reasonable needs.
If a court determines that an award of spousal maintenance is appropriate, the court must then determine the amount and the duration of the payments. Calculating spousal maintenance is not a simple matter. There is no set formula to determine the amount of or duration of spousal maintenance when ordered by a judge, and each couple has different needs. There are maximum amounts and maximum durations the judges cannot exceed pursuant to the Texas Family Code, but it is an extremely broad rangeAn experienced attorney familiar in divorce case law can help you create your case, protect your needs, and protect the needs of your children. Here are just a few of the factors that may apply to your case:
- The income and property of each spouse
- The earning capacity of each spouse
- Whether there are any children involved and who will be raising the children
- Standard of living
- The duration of the marriage
- The property awarded to each in the division of the marital estate
The purpose of spousal maintenance is to balance the financial effects of a divorce depending on each individual’s unique circumstances.
Spousal maintenance is only paid as long as it is necessary for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting, for example, finishing school, finding a new or more lucrative job, or getting remarried. Payments will be periodically reviewed to determine if they should be adjusted, continued, or ended.
How Long Must Spousal Maintenance Be Paid?
A spousal maintenance award ordered by the court can last for up to a maximum of ten years under certain circumstances.
On the death of the paying party, the payments do not necessarily end. For example, in cases where the recipient spouse can’t find a job due to age or health considerations, the court may order that support be provided from the payer’s estate or from the proceeds of a life insurance policy.
Important Social Changes in Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
In the past, alimony meant payments to former wives by former husbands. As our culture has changed, and most marriages include two employed, income-earning spouses, women are viewed as less dependent, and men are more able to take care of children as a primary caretaker.
The courts recognize such changes, and spousal maintenance awards have reflected this trend. More and more, the tradition of men paying and women receiving support is ending, and orders of alimony payments from an ex-wife to an ex-husband are on the rise.
Utilize an Expert Attorney to Guide You Through Divorce Matters
Alimony is a complicated and difficult part of any divorce proceeding, as many conditions and requirements come into play. The amount to be paid, and for how long, is determined by the court, so you’ll want to work with an expert who knows how to guide you every step of the way.
Furthermore, it is important to work with an attorney who will help protect your assets, your family, and your rights. My practice is exclusively focused on family law, which means I can help you understand the law in Texas and navigate the system with full confidence. My goal is to protect your share of your marital estate while also ensuring that you receive full legal support during this transition.
Because I focus my attention solely on domestic litigation, I am firmly committed to providing you with the best possible legal counsel. I’m confident I will offer the expertise you need on spousal maintenance in family law matters to help you feel safe and secure navigating your case.
Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss the specific details of your divorce case. I work with people just like you in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. Contact me today to find out how I can help you reach the best possible outcome in your divorce proceeding.