The correct term for spousal support/alimony in Texas is “spousal maintenance.” However, no one ever calls it that; most people prefer to use “spousal support” or “alimony” instead. There two types of spousal maintenance in Texas: temporary spousal maintenance and post-divorce spousal maintenance. If you are located in the Texas Panhandle and need help understanding the issues related to spousal support/alimony, a divorce lawyer at Woodburn and Watkins can help to explain your rights and obligations.
Temporary Spousal Support/Alimony (Maintenance) in Texas
The awarding of temporary spousal support/alimony has been available to courts and used by judges since the earliest days of the Texas legal system. Either spouse at a temporary hearing may ask the court to award spousal maintenance in the form of cash or in the form of payment of expenses. In determining whether to award spousal support/alimony, the Court will consider the extent to which the requesting party is able to meet their minimum financial needs and the extent to which the other party has the ability to afford to pay spousal maintenance and still meet his or her minimum financial needs.
At a temporary hearing, the Court will expect both parties to provide a financial information statement that details his or her monthly income and expenses. In theory, since virtually all of the income is community property and subject to being divided at the conclusion of the case, the Court is more likely to award temporary spousal support/alimony at a temporary hearing than spousal or separate maintenance at a final hearing.
Eligibility for Post-Divorce Spousal Support/Alimony (Maintenance)
It is much more difficult for a spouse to be awarded post-divorce spousal support/alimony in Texas for several reasons. First, not every spouse is eligible for post-divorce spousal maintenance. To be eligible for post-divorce spousal maintenance, the requesting party must be:
- Married for at least ten years, lack ability to earn sufficient income to meet financial needs, and made a diligent effort to earn sufficient income or develop skills to meet needs; or
- Married to a spouse who was convicted or placed on deferred probation for violence against the spouse within the past two (2) years; or
- Disabled and unable to earn sufficient income to meet their minimum financial needs; or
- Caring for a child who is disabled, which prevents the caregiver spouse from earning sufficient income to meet their needs.
Duration of Post-Divorce Spousal Support/Alimony (Maintenance)
In Texas, a judge is required to only award spousal support/alimony for the shortest reasonable amount of time that allows the party requesting spousal maintenance to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs. There are a number of factors that the Court will consider in determining the shortest reasonable time – but there is also a hard cap on the length of time for which the court can order spousal maintenance to be paid.
- If the spousal maintenance is based on the disability of the child or the spouse, a party can be obligated to provide spousal maintenance for as long as the spouse or child is disabled.
- Generally speaking, if the spousal maintenance is based on inability and the marriage was at least 10 years but less than 20, the court will have a cap on the duration of support at 5 years. For a marriage between 20 and 30 years, the cap is no more than 7 years of spousal support. For a spouse seeking spousal maintenance for a marriage longer than 30 years the cap is no more than 10 years of spousal support, depending on the ability to support oneself.
- There is no cap on spousal support/alimony for a spouse caring for an invalid child
- Different rules apply to a spouse convicted or pleading guilty to family violence spousal abuse
Maximum Amount of Post-Divorce Spousal Support/Alimony (Maintenance)
The court will determine the amount of any spousal support/alimony after considering the needs of the requesting party and the ability to pay of the obligated party. However, there is a limit to the maximum amount of support that the obligated party will have to pay. The maximum amount that a party can be obligated to pay in spousal support/alimony is no more than 20% of his average monthly gross income or $5,000 – whichever is lower.
Modification of Spousal Maintenance
The court maintains continuing jurisdiction to modify the amount or duration of support as long as it is in place
Meeting the Challenge
If you are located in the Texas Panhandle and are in need of a family law attorney who has the knowledge and experience to meet these issues head-on, contact Woodburn and Watkins today. With offices in Amarillo, the family lawyers at Woodburn and Watkins know the ins and outs of family law in Texas. We have successfully represented both potential recipients and payors of spousal maintenance, and we can advise you on a reasonable approach to this complicated and often emotional matter. We stand ready to serve.