Although people tend to use the umbrella term of alimony, there are actually three types of spousal support recognized by Texas state law. Each comes with its own set of requirements and conditions that determine who is eligible and how long they are eligible for. Here is a basic guide to the three types of spousal support in Texas:
Temporary Spousal Support
This type of support is granted by the courts when one spouse is unable to financially support themselves while the divorce is pending. The payment can be made monthly or in lump-sum depending on the specific facts of the case. The purpose of the order is to preserve status quo and to ensure that the party needing temporary spousal support has the ability to meet their monthly needs.
When determining whether to grant temporary spousal support, how much to grant, and how long to grant it for, the court usually will look at the ability of both spouses to support themselves, the employment skills, and earning ability of the spouse seeking support.
This type of arrangement is not court-ordered but instead made by agreement. Both spouses enter into a payment contract that lays out how much will be paid, how frequently it will be paid, and how long it will be paid for. This option allows for more flexibility and is a commonly used method to make sure that the lesser earning spouse is cared for until such time as they can get on their feet and begin caring for themselves.
Court-ordered post-divorce maintenance
The Court may also award periodic post-divorce spousal maintenance to a party. The eligibility for maintenance is strict. In order to be granted spousal maintenance after the divorce has been finalized, the requesting spouse must prove that after the divorce, the requesting party will lack sufficient property to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable need and one of the following:
- The other spouse is guilty of family violence within 2 years before the divorce was filed or while the suit is pending
- The requesting spouse has a disability which prevents them from getting gainful employment;
- The requesting spouse is the primary caregiver of a child from the marriage who has a mental or physical disability that prevents the caregiver from working enough to earn sufficient income.
- The requesting spouse spent the duration of the time that the divorce was pending actively seeking gainful employment attempting to learn skills that could lead to gainful employment and failed to find employment; or
- The requesting spouse has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or longer and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs
How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated?
The court will examine many factors when determining how much spousal maintenance to award the requesting party. There is no simple math equation to determine how much will be granted. Instead, the judge will take into account factors such as:
- The financial situation of both spouses.
- Whether or not a spouse acted as a homemaker, and to what extent.
- The age, employment history, education, health, and earning ability of the requesting spouse.
- The ability of the paying spouse to provide for their own needs.
- Any financial misconduct that may be been committed on the part of the requesting spouse.
- Any spousal violence that may have occurred.
- How difficult it will be for the requesting spouse to obtain gainful employment.
- Any marital misconduct that may be a factor.
Texas law puts a limitation on the maximum amount that can be awarded in spousal maintenance. The amount awarded must not exceed the lower value of $5,000 or 20% of the paying spouse's gross income.
Before awarding the spousal maintenance, however, the spouse seeking maintenance must show that he/she has exercised due diligence in earning sufficient income to meet the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; or developing the necessary skills to provide for the minimum reasonable needs.
How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Last?
Under most circumstances, the court-ordered spousal maintenance is not indefinite. The exception to this is when a disability prevents the requesting spouse from working. When that is the case, the court may grant indefinite maintenance.
If the marriage lasted 10 years, or there was spousal violence, spousal maintenance can be granted for up to five years. Marriages lasting 20 years are eligible for up to seven years of maintenance and marriages lasting 30 years or more are eligible for up to 10 years.
The maintenance order will be terminated early if the receiving spouse is remarried or enters into cohabitation with a new partner. Spousal maintenance typically does not survive
Tell us about your case – and we’ll tell you how we can help.
When it comes to post-divorce spousal maintenance, it is not guaranteed and based on the facts and circumstances surrounding your divorce case, there can possibly be many creative ways to address this issue. To explore your options in spousal support, contact the experienced and award-winning Houston divorce lawyers of Hendershot Cannon Martin and Hisey, P.C., today! We have the resources to deal with any alimony or maintenance issue and the litigation experience to take any case to trial. Call (713) 909-7323 to schedule a consultation or contact us online.