Spousal Maintenance: What it is and what that can mean to your Texas divorce

Spousal maintenance represents money that is paid from one spouse to the other to help support him or her after a divorce. These payments are temporary though in most cases unless otherwise agreed to. It is one thing to have your community property divided up in a divorce. This is something that divorcing persons know is coming yet can be very difficult for some people to stomach.

However, the requirement to pay spousal support can be frustrating on a whole other level for many people. On the other hand, if you are the spouse who is in a position where you need spousal maintenance to keep your boat afloat after the divorce then seeing your spouse fight you on this subject can be frustrating in an entirely different way.

Why might spousal maintenance be asked for in a divorce case

If you are one of those spouses who is in need of spousal maintenance then you are probably curious as to the reasons why a court may grant you this request. Spousal maintenance is intended as a supplement to your own income. If you have been out of work for an extended period due to your being in the home raising children then you may need some time to readjust to working full time.

Your educational level may not be much more than a high school degree while your spouse has a doctorate that you helped to pay for many years ago. What’s more- with that doctorate your spouse’s earning capabilities vastly exceeds that of your own now. These are the sort of reasons why you may want to request, and may be entitled to receive, spousal maintenance in your Texas divorce.

What are the types of spousal maintenance that can be awarded in Texas

Texas law permits two types of spousal maintenance:

  1. contractual alimony and
  2. court ordered spousal maintenance.

Let’s break down each one so that we are all clear on what the differences are.

Court Ordered Spousal Maintenance

Court ordered spousal maintenance is not surprisingly ordered by a judge in a divorce trial. This means that if you and your spouse cannot agree on the subject of spousal maintenance, in addition to any other disagreements, you can present that issue to a judge and have him or her make a decision in the matter.

Courts are generally not all that willing to award spousal maintenance. The reason is for that is based on the thought that if you are able bodied you should work for an income. Sort of a “Give a man a fish/Teach a man to fish” sort of deal. A judge is limited by the Texas Family Code to how much money can be awarded in spousal maintenance and for long it must be paid.

The idea that because you were married to a person for many years and he or she earns a great living that you will be set for life is not the way it works, at least in Texas.

Once the community estate is split a court can consider the financial positions of both spouses and whether or not an award of spousal maintenance to one spouse is still justified. Basically a judge would need to determine that you would not be able to meet your basic, minimum reasonable needs with the means already provided to you. Once this step is met you must further meet one of the four following criteria:

  1. Your marriage has lasted at least ten years and you’ve attempted during the divorce to acquire the skills and/or education necessary to sustain yourself without spousal maintenance
  2. Your spouse has committed family violence
  3. You have a disability of some sort that renders it impossible for you to work
  4. You have a child with a disability that requires your care to the extent that you are not able to earn a sufficient income to support yourself and the child without additional assistance

An important misconception that I have seen clients have in the past is that if you are not working you stand a better chance of being awarded spousal maintenance in your divorce. While not working may coincide with one the aforementioned factors, it is not necessary and may not be in your best interest to be out of work during your divorce.

Quitting a job or failing to look for a job during a divorce solely as a means to have a better “looking” case for spousal maintenance purposes is not a smart decision. Don’t put all your eggs in the spousal maintenance basket, and besides- you need to show that you are at least trying to find a job or acquire the skills you need to do so.

Is there a maximum amount of spousal maintenance that can be ordered in Texas?

If a judge has ordered your spouse to pay you maintenance then the most amount that can be paid is either $5,000 per month or 20% of your spouse’s average monthly gross income- whichever of these numbers is lower.

How long can spousal maintenance be paid?

As I touched on earlier, a court will err on the side of shorter rather than longer when it comes to spousal maintenance. The shortest length of time it will take you to get on your feet financially is probably what will be awarded. Exceptions to this rule come in the event that you are charged with caring for a disabled child or if you yourself have a mental or physical disability that inhibits your ability to work.

Durationally speaking, if you have been awarded spousal maintenance due to family violence then there is a five year maximum for spousal support purposes. Marriages that have lasted for 10-20 years has the same durational limit, while marriages that lasted between 20 and 30 years have a maximum of seven years for spousal maintenance to be paid. Finally a marriage that managed to last thirty or more years has a maximum award for spousal support of ten years.

Contractual Maintenance to be discussed in tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

Please come back to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan’s website tomorrow to learn about the second type of spousal maintenance in Texas: Contractual Maintenance.

As always, if you have any questions about the subject matter presented in today’s blog post or any other area of family law please do not hesitate to contact our office today. A free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Modification of Spousal Maintenance in Texas
  2. Spousal Maintenance in a Texas Divorce: Truths and Untruths
  3. Spousal Maintenance for a Disabled Spouse in Texas
  4. Spousal Maintenance in Texas: Maximum payable amounts and length of commitments to pay
  5. Spousal Maintenance in a Texas Divorce: Should I be worried?
  6. Spousal Maintenance in a Texas Divorce: Court Ordered Maintenance
  7. Know How to Determine Whether Alimony will be Owed and for How Long, When Preparing for Your Texas Divorce
  8. 3 Important Facts about Texas Alimony and Spousal Support
  9. Alimony or Spousal Support and a Disabled Spouse in Harris and Montgomery Counties in Texas
  10. Spousal Support, Spousal Maintenance, and Alimony in Spring and Houston Texas and when is it available?Spousal Support Availability in a Texas Divorce
  11. Military Support Without a Court Order During a Divorce in Texas

Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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