Spousal Maintenance in a Texas Divorce: Truths and Untruths

Spousal Maintenance in a Texas Divorce: Truths and Untruths

If you are contemplating a divorce or are being forced to contemplate a divorce because your spouse has already taken the liberty of filing one, your financial well being is probably high atop your list of priorities. Maybe you’re a mom or a dad and then obviously your children sit atop that list, but somewhere directly below your kids and above the silverware collection lies that vast area of concern where lack of knowledge meets financial uncertainty. What we don’t know or we don’t understand can intimidate or downright scare us.

Fortunately you don’t have to go through your divorce with this feeling. You have the ability to 1) educate yourself on the law in Texas and understand its relevancy to your divorce, and 2) you can also hire an experienced family law attorney to help you apply those laws to the advantage of your family and yourself. With that said, let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief and discuss an issue that many folks I have spoken to about divorce have level of concern with- spousal maintenance. Is it easy for a spouse to ask a judge to order you to pay it? What are the circumstances that it is awarded under? Finally- how much could you be expected to pay?

Should you be concerned with having to pay spousal maintenance?

The state of Texas does not make it easy for a person to be awarded spousal maintenance in a divorce. Maintenance is lawyer-speak for alimony in case you were not aware already. It is essentially an award of money to be paid from one spouse to the other spouse for a set period of time. The most common concern for the need to pay spousal maintenance after the divorce is finalized comes from a spouse who was the primary bread winner in the family.

If you are this person and your spouse stays at home to help raise the children or to tend to the home then you too may have had the thought cross your mind as to whether or not a spousal maintenance payment would be in your future. The short answer to this question is that it is unlikely that you will have to pay spousal maintenance upon the conclusion of your divorce. There are limited circumstances where paying spousal maintenance becomes a more distinct possibility, however.

What situations call for spousal maintenance to be paid to your ex spouse?

The first qualification a court would look to in order to consider awarding your ex spouse spousal maintenance is that he or she must lack the financial wherewithal to provide for their basic needs. The court will attempt to define what “minimum reasonable needs” is exactly. This means that the judge will need to take into consideration what your spouse needs moving forward to provide a life that meets basic standards for food, shelter and clothing. What aptitude does he or she have to earn an income? What are his or her monthly expenditures? Because it is such a fact specific analysis listening to your friends about their divorce and how spousal maintenance was or wasn’t awarded won’t be incredibly helpful or productive for you.

A second bit of analysis a court must undertake in order to consider awarding spousal maintenance to your ex spouse is to determine if the reason that your ex spouse cannot provide for their minimum reasonable needs is because of a disability (mental or physical), the aforementioned inability to earn an income or if your spouse will be the primary conservator of a child that is disabled and requires a level of care that is above that of a child who lacks a disability.

How long would you have to pay spousal maintenance if it is awarded?

Before you worry yourself into a stomach-ache that you will end up paying money to your ex spouse for the rest of your life, you can take another deep breathe. While a court will consider the factors I listed above when determining an amount or duration of a spousal maintenance award there are limits to what your responsibility to pay is. The law in Texas is that if your marriage has lasted at least ten years but no more than 20 years, a spousal maintenance award can go no longer than 5 years. A marriage between 20 and 30 years in length has a maximum duration for maintenance of 7 years. Finally, a marriage whose duration was 30 or more years has a 10 year cap on spousal maintenance.

Even with the aforementioned limitations in place, a judge does not have to award your spouse the maximum length of spousal maintenance that is allowable by law. On the contrary, a judge should be limiting the duration of spousal support to the minimum that your spouse will need to begin to earn a sufficient income to take care of his or her minimum needs.

In terms of pure dollars and cents, a judge can award no more than $5,000 per month of 20 percent of your average gross monthly income to your spouse in a spousal maintenance award. With this in mind you can calculate on your own how much you would stand to have to pay your spouse in maintenance or if your marriage even qualifies your spouse to receive this sort of money from you after your divorce is wrapped up.

Additional questions on spousal maintenance? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

Spousal maintenance is a subject that we hear a lot about in movies, television and even from friends and family. While there are resources that can provide you with basic information on the subject it is best to consult with and seek the counsel of an experience family law attorney to learn more about this subject.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan represent clients across southeast Texas in divorce cases and would be honored to do the same for you. Please contact our office today to have your questions answered in a comfortable, inviting environment. A consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is free of charge and are available six days a week.

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