Texas “Spousal Support”

A sports agent once told me that one of their marketing tools to attract athletes to Texas is spousal support. I thought about it for a second knowing well the reason; the low cap on the amount the Court can award.

Spousal maintenance (its Texas Legislative name),otherwise known as spousal support or alimony, is periodic payments made after a divorce by one spouse to another to cover the other spouse’s minimal reasonable needs.     

            The Court may order spousal support if you lack sufficient property on dissolution of the marriage to support your reasonable minimal needs and one of the two scenarios apply: 

(1) your spouse was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for family violence (committed against the spouse or child within two years of filing for divorce or while the suit is pending), or

(2) the spouse seeking support:   

(a) is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability;

(b) has been married for ten years or longer and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs, or

(c) is the custodian of a child of the marriage who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.     

            What is sufficient income?  A person doesn’t earn sufficient income if they can’t afford to meet their minimal reasonable needs.  Texas courts have held that a mortgage, utilities, car payments, insurance, medical expenses, and groceries can be “minimum reasonable needs.”  But the type and amount of expenses necessary will be determined on a case-by-case basis. 

            The court has a great amount of discretion in ordering the amount of spousal support.  It determines the amount and duration of payments by evaluating multiple factors.  These can include but not limited to: each spouse’s ability to provide for their minimum reasonable needs; the education and employment skills of the spouses and the time and feasibility it would take to get education; duration of the marriage; property brought to the marriage by either spouse, and marital misconduct such as adultery.

            How long will I have to pay?  The court must limit the duration of maintenance to the shortest reasonable period that allows the spouse to get back on his or her feet.  But the maximum duration of the payments is limited to:

            (1)  five years of payments if the spouses were married for less than 10 years (with showing of family violence) or at least 10 years but less than 20 years

            (2)  seven years if the spouses were married for at least 20 but no more than 30 years, and

            (3)  ten years if the spouses were married for at least 30 years.

            However, maintenance can be ordered indefinitely if the spouse’s ability to provide minimum reasonable needs is substantially or totally diminished because of  (1) a physical or mental disability, (2) duties as custodian of a young child of the marriage, or (3) another compelling impediment to earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs. 

            How much will I have to pay?  The amount of spousal maintenance the Court can award is limited to no more than the lesser of $5,000 per month or 20% of the spouse’s average gross monthly income.  

A premarital agreement can address spousal support obligations; eliminate it or provide for it even when the Court is unable to award it.

Spousal support is an area of law where the court has a lot of discretion.  If you have questions about spousal support or prenups, experienced attorney Chante Prox can help.  Call Barnes Prox Law, PLLC at (817) 649-2700 for answers. 

            This article only addresses post spousal support and not temporary spousal support during a divorce proceeding

            Disclaimer:  This information should not be considered as legal advice.  Decisions should be based on consultation with a licensed attorney.  This blog is for informative purposes only.

           Chante Prox is a family law attorney and mediator practicing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area @ www.barnesproxlaw.com

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