One area that often causes confusion for people considering divorce is spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance or what’s often referred to as alimony is a set of payments from one spouse to the other spouse after a divorce.
In Texas, spousal maintenance is intended to provide limited support to the other spouse for a specific period of time after the divorce. The Texas Family Code sets forth 3 parts that must be shown for a spouse to be eligible for spousal maintenance- (1) they must be married, (2) the spouse seeking support must show he or she can’t provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs, (3) the spouse must meet one of 4 conditions (either a ten year marriage, family violence, a disabled spouse, or a disabled child).
The minimum reasonable needs are considered on a case by case basis. Generally, courts will consider a spouse’s ability to make mortgage/rent payments, property taxes, utility bills, car payments, insurance, groceries, medical expenses, child care, and clothing costs.
Then court will then consider what property that spouse has along with that spouse’s monthly income. Generally, the court will compare that spouse’s projected income with his or her projected expenses. If the spouse’s income is less than the spouse’s expenses then the second condition may be met.
Finally, after the first two conditions are met the spouse still has to show that there has been a marriage of at least 10 years, family violence, a disabled spouse, or a disabled child.
Once it is determined that spousal maintenance is possible the amount and length has to be determined. The Family Code sets out factors to be considered such as earning power, separate property, duration of the marriage, spouse’s education and employment skills, homemaker contributions, marital misconduct, and family violence. These factors along with the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs will help the court set forth the length and amount of the maintenance. However, Texas Family Code §8.054 does set forth caps on the length of the maintenance based on the length of the marriage and special circumstances.
Eligibility and appropriateness of spousal maintenance can be an important factor in determining the proper resolution of a divorce case. It is important that clients and their attorneys discuss the ways maintenance may come into play in a divorce.