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
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
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
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
our office today to have your questions answered in a comfortable, inviting
with one of our licensed family law attorneys is free of charge and are
available six days a week.