Alimony, in Texas, is called Spousal Maintenance. Spousal Maintenance means one spouse will have to make periodic payments to the other spouse. It is very hard to qualify for spousal maintenance in Texas. If a spouse gets spousal maintenance, the amount is likely to be low and the duration short. There are two key questions that need to be answered. Does the spouse qualify? What are the factors that will be considered?
Does the spouse qualify for spousal maintenance?
Spousal maintenance may be awarded if just one of the following two scenarios apply.
Family violence. If one spouse was convicted of family violence, then that spouse may have to pay spousal support. The act of family violence has to be recent.
Marriages of long duration. Any one of the following conditions may be enough to qualify.
- Marriages of 10 years or more. The first condition is that the marriage has to be 10 years or longer. Shorter marriages will not qualify. The long-term spouse asking for maintenance also must be unable to make enough money to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs. Minimum reasonable needs means the money to pay for shelter payments (rent or mortgage), medical expenses, car expenses, insurance costs, property taxes, food, groceries, and clothing.
- A spouse with a disability. The spouse asking for maintenance has to be unable to support himself or herself because of some physical or mental disability. Medical records will normally be used to show the disability.
- Special needs children. The spouse asking for maintenance has to be the custodian responsible for a special needs child. Taking care of that special needs child has to prevent the asking parent from earning a living.
What factors are considered?
If the Texas court decides a spouse is eligible, it will then review the amount, duration and nature of the payments. It will balance a number of factors before deciding how much is due. The factors it will consider include these:
- The ability of each spouse to provide for their minimal reasonable needs
- The education level and earning skills of each spouse. If schooling is required, the court will ask how much schooling is needed? What type of schooling is needed?
- The number of years the spouses were married. The longer the couple was married the more the spousal maintenance will be.
- The age, employment history, earning ability, physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- Any child support payments that must be paid and the ability to care for any children.
- Any bad behavior of the spouse such as failing to disclose community property, destroying community property.
- Any help one spouse gave to the others spouse for education, training or ability to earn more money. Often times, one spouse will give up a career to help the other spouse advance.
- The property each spouse brought to the marriage
- Any homemaker contributions
- Marital misconduct – such as adultery or cruel treatment. Injury caused by a spouse is an important consideration.
- History of family violence
How long must spousal maintenance be paid?
Texas will either say the spousal maintenance will continue for a set period of time or as long as a disability exists (of the spouse or a child). Generally, the amount of spousal maintenance is limited to the shortest time it takes the asking spouse to be able to support herself/himself. If other factors such as the needs of a young child are involved, the spousal maintenance requirement can be longer. For really long marriages, marriages over 30 years, the time limit is no more than ten years.
If a spouse remarries or dies, then spousal maintenance ends.