It’s not uncommon for spouses to make sacrifices for each other. This is especially true when it comes to one spouse giving up their career in support of the other spouse and major life moments such as changing careers or moving forward in a successful career. Typically, we see this in the form of a stay-at-home mom or dad who focuses their attention on raising children and caring for the home while the other spouse focuses primarily on their education or career. Even in dual-career couples, it’s not uncommon to see a larger focus on one career over the other. While there’s nothing wrong with this sacrifice, it can lead to problems when the marriage ends in divorce.
Several situations can contribute to a couple’s need to divorce. Money is quite often the culprit. Other times it could be domestic abuse, domestic violence, emotional abuse, intimacy issues, anger and resentment, finances, or other personal issues. Some couples work on saving the marriage but more often than not, many people end up working their way through the divorce process.
Whatever the cause, when a man or woman has made sacrifices to support their spouse, suddenly the prospect of divorce can be quite daunting. It’s not uncommon to have fears such as:
- How will I support myself?
- How will I support my children?
- How will I pay for childcare while I work?
- How will I learn a skill to make money?
These fears aren’t unusual for men or women who’ve spent many years out of the workforce or those who find themselves suddenly changing careers or trying to get a full-time job. This is where a qualified divorce attorney makes a big difference.
Does Texas Have Alimony?
Thankfully, the state of Texas does have alimony. You may also hear it referred to as spousal maintenance. These two terms essentially mean the same thing. Alimony, spousal maintenance, or spousal support all refer to a payment that one spouse makes to another during and after their divorce. Texas courts use the term “spousal maintenance” or simply “maintenance.”
During a Texas divorce, either spouse can request maintenance. However, support is generally only awarded when one spouse doesn’t have enough property to provide for their basic needs and they fall under a specific set of circumstances.
In addition, Texas courts generally favor alimony payments decided in private through mediation or as a private contract over court-ordered alimony. The court can order spousal maintenance as long as the requesting spouse meets the requirements.
How Hard is it to Get Alimony in Texas?
Texas is one of the most difficult states in the country to win alimony in divorce proceedings, especially without qualified divorce lawyers. Most divorcing couples settle on spousal support amounts and durations outside the courtroom with help from their attorneys.
It’s important to remember that spousal maintenance is separate from child support and child custody. They are not tied together in any way.
Texas courts begin every divorce with the presumption that spousal support is not appropriate. However, if the requesting husband or wife can prove that they’ve made a good faith effort to either earn income or acquire needed training to become financially independent and still show a need for support then the court will move forward with a spousal maintenance evaluation.
Spousal Maintenance Evaluation
During the evaluation, the court evaluates the following items to decide on the nature, amount, duration, and method of spousal support. However, for them to consider spousal support at all, the requesting spouse must meet one of the following circumstances:
- The couple has been married for at least 10 years and the dependent spouse lacks the ability to earn enough income to meet basic needs.
- The spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn enough income to be considered self-supporting due to an incapacitating mental or physical disability.
- The supported spouse was convicted of an act of family violence against the other spouse or the couple’s children during the divorce or within two years of the divorce filing.
- The spouse seeking maintenance is the custodial parent of a child requiring substantial care or personal supervision due to mental or physical disability, thereby preventing the parent from working and earning an income.
Once the court decides that the requesting partner meets one of these circumstances, they review the following:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The property both spouses brought to the marriage.
- Whether either spouse contributed to the other’s education, training, or increased earning capacity during the course of the marriage.
- Any contributions of the requesting spouse as a homemaker or the primary caregiver staying home with the kids.
- The ability of each spouse to pay for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
- The age, physical and emotional condition, earning ability, and employment history of the requesting spouse.
- The education and employment skills of both partners and the time needed to acquire education or training to enable the supported spouse to earn enough to be financially independent
- If child support is a factor, then the court will evaluate each spouse’s ability to meet needs while paying child support.
- If either spouse concealed, destroyed, wasted, or disposed of any community property.
- Marital misconduct includes but is not limited to adultery and cruel treatment by either spouse.
- Any history or pattern of family violence.
If the court decides that the requesting spouse is entitled to maintenance payments, the next phase covers the amount and duration of the maintenance orders.
How Much is Spousal Support in Texas and How Long Does It Last?
In Texas, there’s a limit on how much support a court can order. This is another of the reasons why most spousal support cases are settled outside of the court system. Texas spousal support payments cannot exceed more than 20% of the spouse’s average monthly gross income or $5000 per month, whichever is less. The judge will typically order payments to be made monthly.
As far as the duration of spousal maintenance, it can vary depending on circumstances. However, the judge must abide by guidelines set in place by the Texas Family Code. If spousal support is awarded due to the requesting spouse’s mental or physical disability or their duties as a custodial parent of an infant or young child, or any other reason the court deems compelling, then the support may continue as long as the situation continues, dependent upon periodical reviews.
However, for all other situations, Texas law limits the duration of support as follows:
- Five Years
- If the marriage was less than 10 years and the supporting spouse was convicted of family violence
- If the marriage lasted more than 10 years but less than 20 years
- Seven Years
- If the marriage lasted more than 20 years but less than 30 years
- Ten Years
- If the marriage lasted at least 30 years
It is important to note that Texas law requires the judge to order support for the shortest duration necessary for the requesting party to become self-supporting except in cases of mental or physical disability, custodial parenthood, or another reason that compels the court.
Maintenance support will be required for the ordered time frame unless:
- Either spouse dies
- The spouse receiving support remarries
- The spouse receiving support cohabitates with a third-party while in a romantic relationship
- Upon further review or future order of the court
Getting Spousal Maintenance in Texas
Going through a divorce is a major life change. For sacrificing spouses, it feels unfair. They’ve spent their lives taking care of everyone else and haven’t had the time to learn the skills they need to get the work they need to support their family.
While this is a difficult time, please understand that with the support of a qualified divorce attorney, you may be able to get support as you work through this transition period. At The Jimenez Law Firm, we’re dedicated to fighting for your rights. We want to help you through your divorce while thinking about your future at the same time.