The idea of spousal maintenance usually raises an eyebrow among many men going through divorce. This article is intended to alleviate some of the anxiety that can be created regarding the potential of paying spousal maintenance.
Almost every man facing divorce in Texas has asked his divorce lawyer “Will I have to pay spousal support after the divorce is final?”
In Texas, spousal support – legally referred to as “spousal maintenance” – is a two-step process for determining if, when, and how long you might have to pay.
Step One: Eligibility For Texas Spousal Support
A spouse requesting post-divorce support in Texas must be eligible to receive spousal maintenance before a court can grant the request. The court cannot award spousal maintenance to a non-eligible spouse on its own. However, parties are free to agree and contract for post-divorce support even when the court would not have the power to do so.
In order to be eligible, the spouse seeking maintenance must lack sufficient property once the divorce is final (including separate property) to provide for her minimum reasonable needs.
Additionally one of the following two scenarios must apply:
1. The paying spouse must have been convicted of or received deferred adjudication for an act of family violence as defined by Texas law. Additionally, the act of family violence must have been committed either:
a.) During the marriage (but no more than two years before the date the divorce suit was filed); or
b.) While the divorce suit was pending.
2. The spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for her minimum reasonable needs and:
a.) Her inability is due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability; or
b.) Her inability is due to her responsibilities as the custodian of a child of the marriage who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability; or
c.) She has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or more.
If your wife cannot meet the conditions set out in at least one of the above scenarios, the she is not eligible for court-ordered, post-divorce spousal maintenance.
Step Two: How Much Support and For How Long
Just because a spouse is eligible to receive post-divorce support does not mean she will actually receive it.
Once eligibility is established, the divorce court is charged with looking at a variety of factors to determine whether an actual award of spousal maintenance (including how much and how long) is appropriate.
These factors include educational background, duration of the marriage, age of the requesting spouse, employment history, infidelity, contributions to the family as a homemaker, efforts to find employment, etc.
After careful consideration of the relevant factors, the court has the power to rule that the requesting spouse receives no support, the maximum support allowed, or something in between.
How Long Does Texas Spousal Support Last?
If the court decides to award spousal maintenance, the following parameters set the boundaries for how long the award can last.
1. Up to 5 years of post-divorce support. This the applicable cap if the marriage lasted less than 10 years and the requesting spouse can show eligibility under scenario #1 above or the marriage lasted at least 10 years but less than 20 years.
2. Up to 7 years of post-divorce support. This is the maximum duration allowed if the marriage lasted at least 20 years but less than 30 years.
3. Up to 10 years of post-divorce support. This is the maximum duration allowed if the marriage lasted 30 years or more.
4. For scenarios #2(a) and #2(b) above, the support award can last indefinitely so long as the underlying eligibility criteria continue to exist.
Texas Maintenance: How Much Will I Have To Pay?
The court is also limited on how much money may be awarded on a monthly basis.
A court awarding post-divorce spousal maintenance may only order monthly payments up to the lesser of $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income.
This article is only a brief review of some of the laws in Texas relating to spousal maintenance and is not meant as a substitute for the advice of counsel. It is important to consult a Texas divorce attorney in each case before taking any action.
*This article only addresses spousal maintenance paid once a divorce is final. Other rules apply to when a court can award spousal support during a divorce proceeding.