If your judge determines that spousal maintenance should be awarded to you in your divorce has to figure out how much, how long and how the payments should be made to you from your ex-spouse. To decide these issues a judge will look at the following factors:
- The separate property that you owned prior to the marriage versus the separate property that your spouse entered into the marriage with. If you lack any degree of separate property and your spouse not only has resources sufficient to pay you spousal maintenance but to also be in a strong position financially this may help the judge to award you a higher dollar value of support.
- Any bad behavior that you displayed during your marriage. Did you engage in any wasting of community assets like spending money frivolously or on items that were only expected to benefit you and not your spouse? Did you have an affair that directly impacted your marriage and led to a divorce? If so then you may not be in as strong of a position as you otherwise would be because of this factor
- Have you sought work or income beyond spousal maintenance? From my experience this is a very important factor and will be given a great deal of weight by a judge. Assuming that you are not disabled and have an education that is at least at the high school level a judge will look at your history of attempting to find work. Have you filled out applications? Have you attended courses offered at community colleges of vocational centers to update your skills? Be prepared to present this sort of evidence.
- Where do you stand financially at the conclusion of your divorce? What debts and property were you awarded out of your community estate? What sort of separate property did you enter into your marriage with? These factors get to the heart of what are your liabilities and what are your assets to determine just how bad off you are from a financial perspective If it appears that you will need some time to come out of a financial hole your spousal maintenance award could be extended out for multiple years.
- How long were you and your spouse married? The longer the marriage, the better for you as the spouse seeking spousal maintenance. Remember that to be awarded spousal maintenance you and your spouse must have been married at least ten years. As you progress into the twenty year range of marriage you can expect to receive maintenance for longer. Thirty plus years of marriage means that a judge is able to award maintenance for an even longer period of time.
- A judge will compare your employment background and education against that of your spouse. What skills have you developed (if any) in your work history? Do you have any post-high school education? Do you have to go back to school to get a reasonably good paying job? If so- for how long and at what cost will this education cost? If you are going to be the primary conservator of the children is it feasible for you to wrap up your schooling quickly rather than have to drag it out over multiple years?
- What resources will be made available to you after the divorce versus what is made available to your spouse? Will you have health insurance after your divorce? If you were a homemaker and had health insurance through your spouse your children are likely to remain on the insurance while you will have to seek private health insurance on your own. What retirement benefits does your spouse have available to them versus what you have? Again, if your spouse has been the income earner in your family since the beginning of your marriage then you will likely be sharing in those savings as a result of the division of community property. Still- if your spouse has access to resources that you do not post-divorce then these are factors that will help you maximize your return on the spousal maintenance
- What are your contributions to the home as a homemaker? The additions to your family that you made through staying at home and raising children cannot be understated. Think about the work that you do or have done on a daily basis- caring for children, cooking meals, cleaning the house, providing transportation- would be costly to your spouse if those jobs had to be replaced by someone else. As such you have provided some quantifiable services to your spouse even if you were not paid for them. This factor will be considered by a judge and given a fair amount of weight
- Finally, let’s consider a situation that I have seen happen repeatedly when it comes to spouses, particular wives, in seeking spousal maintenance. Suppose that you and your spouse have been married for thirty years. At the beginning of your marriage you stayed home to take care of your home and your children and worked at night waiting tables so that your spouse could attend medical school. Now, thirty years later, your spouse is a successful physician who is paid as such. While you may have wanted at one time to go back to school you did not do so at the request of your spouse in order so that your kids never had to attend day care and always had transportation to school activities. Given the sacrifices that you have made, a judge will take these into consideration when determining the degree to which you can be awarded spousal maintenance.
The durational and dollar amount limits of spousal maintenance in Texas
Before we conclude today’s blog post I wanted to introduce what we will be discussing tomorrow. Now that we have gone over in detail what factors a court will be looking at in terms of spousal maintenance, let’s go over the cold, hard numbers as far as what can be awarded to you in terms of support.
Unless you have a physical disability and am unable to work there is a three year limitation on spousal maintenance awards by a judge. Keep in mind also that a judge will be looking not to maximize your award, but to keep it as small and as short as reasonably possible. Whatever the minimum award that can be awarded to meet your minimum needs you can bet that this is what will take place in your case. The rationale behind making an award to you will likely to be to allow you some time to job hunt, go back to school or develop a skill that will enhance your ability to look for work. The exception to this rule is if you are physically or mentally disabled, have an infant or young child that you have to care for or have another significant reason as to why you cannot work.
We will pick up where we left off today in tomorrow’s blog post. Until then, if you have any questions about the subject matter that we covered today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with one of our licensed family law attorneys six days a week. We can answer your questions and address your concerns in order to provide you with information with which you can make intelligent decisions with.