What is Spousal Support or Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal support is money one spouse pays the other spouse after a divorce. It is intended to help provide financial stability for both parties and help offset the financial difficulties a lower-wage-earning or non-wage-earning spouse might face during the transition from married to single life. Spousal maintenance payments are separate from marital property, child support payments, or other payments.
Texas has three different types of spousal support or spousal maintenance.
Temporary Spousal Support or Maintenance
The court may order one spouse to pay spousal support or maintenance temporarily to the other spouse when a couple separates while their divorce is pending. This type of spousal support will end when the divorce is finalized.
Short-term Spousal Support or Maintenance
Short-term spousal support is often referred to as rehabilitative support. When a couple separates, one spouse might need time to find gainful employment and become self-sustaining. This type of spousal maintenance lasts until a specific date when the recipient no longer needs financial help.
Permanent Spousal Support or Maintenance
Permanent support is an order of support from a Texas court that does not have a specific end date. This type of spousal support will continue until the death of the payor or recipient or if the recipient remarries.
Who Qualifies for Spousal Support?
In Texas, spousal support is determined on a case-by-case basis, and the family law judge will look at many factors when deciding whether or not spousal support should be awarded.
There are four ways in which a spouse might qualify for spousal support:
- The spouse responsible for paying spousal support (also known as the payor or obligor) has either been convicted or granted deferred adjudication for committing an act of family violence against the other spouse or their child. This incident occurred either during the ongoing divorce proceedings or within two years prior to the divorce filing. The length of the marriage is irrelevant.
- The duration of the marriage has been at least ten years.
- The spouse seeking spousal support payments (also referred to as the recipient or obligee) lacks sufficient income or property to provide for their reasonable needs and
- either a) has a disability or b) is the primary caretaker of a child who has a disability, or c) lacks the earning ability to provide for their minimum reasonable needs.
- The parties may reach an agreement that spousal support will be provided for a predetermined duration.
- If a spouse is a sponsored immigrant, they can enforce the Affidavit of Support executed by the other spouse and request that the court order the sponsored spouse to provide the immigrant spouse with 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines until the immigrant spouse either becomes a citizen of the United States citizen or has earned 40 credits of work history.
What Is the Maximum Amount of Spousal Support That Can Be Awarded in Texas?
In Texas, the maximum amount of spousal support that a court can order one spouse to pay to another is 20% of the paying spouse’s net resources or $5,000 per month, whichever amount happens to be less. However, if there is a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that is settled on a different or higher amount, the court will most likely honor that amount instead.
How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Be Paid?
The length of time spousal support payments must be paid varies and depends on each case’s circumstances. In Texas courts, the judge can order a temporary or permanent spousal support period. Temporary orders are meant to provide help covering short-term basic needs, while longer-term orders are put in place to provide financial security.
For long-term spousal support, the Texas Family Code has set forth three specific time limits based on the duration of the marriage that cannot be surpassed.
- The duration of spousal support cannot exceed five years if:
- One spouse is awarded spousal support because the other spouse has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense while the divorce was pending or within the two years prior to the filing of the divorce, or
- the marriage lasted at least ten years but less than 20 years.
- Spousal support can be at most seven years if the marriage lasted at least 20 years but less than 30 years.
- Spousal support cannot exceed ten years if the marriage lasted 30 years or more.
Is the Maximum Duration of Spousal Support Always Awarded?
In some cases, the maximum duration isn’t consistently awarded. The court might order that spousal support will remain in effect for the length of time the spouse is not able to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs because they have a disability or are the primary caregiver of a child who has a disability.
Some judges might not award the maximum duration of spousal support based on the following:
- awarding of separate assets or debts or property division
- child support payments or receipts
- non-criminal domestic violence or abuse or family violence
- noneconomic marriage contributions
- the reason for the dissolution of marriage
When Does Spousal Support End?
Payment of spousal support will end if
- the award time period has ended;
- either spouse has died, or the spouse receiving the support has remarried;
- the spouse receiving the support permanently lives with someone with whom they have a romantic relationship.
An Experienced Divorce Attorney Will Protect Your Rights
Suppose you have questions about your particular situation and the options available for paying or receiving spousal support or divorce. In that case, a qualified family lawyer can review your case and ensure you get the most favorable outcome. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can protect your rights and ensure that spousal support payments are fair and reasonable under Texas laws.