When you are going through a divorce in Texas, one of the primary aspects in reaching a satisfactory divorce agreement is the determination of spousal support payments. Typically, each party has questions regarding whether they will have to pay this “spousal maintenance,” as it is referred to in Texas, to their partner after the divorce is finalized, and if so, how much they will have to pay. The legal process for determining if, when, and for what length of time an individual will have to pay this support involves two steps.
Before a court grants a spouse’s request to receive spousal maintenance after a divorce, the individual must be considered eligible to receive it. If a party is determined to be ineligible for spousal maintenance, a court will not award the support to the individual on its own; however, the party who wishes to receive spousal support may contract for post-divorce support.
For one of the spouses to be eligible for spousal maintenance, that individual must lack sufficient property to provide for their basic reasonable needs once the divorce is finalized. This includes separate property, which is not divided between each spouse equally under the terms of the divorce. Two additional scenarios may also apply for a spouse to be considered eligible.
If a party doesn’t meet the conditions mentioned in at least one of these scenarios, he or she is not eligible for post-divorce, court-ordered spousal maintenance.
A couple’s requirement to have been married for ten years or more for an individual to be considered eligible for spousal support is referred to as the Ten-Year Rule. This time frame is measured from the date the couple was married to the date of the divorce hearing. This means that the couple may not necessarily have been married for ten years when the petition for spousal maintenance was filed. Even if the couple was not married for ten years when they separated, the time is still measured throughout their separation. They are still considered legally married until a judge grants their divorce. When this requirement is being considered as an eligibility requirement for spousal support, the courts may look at other factors as well. Simply being married to an individual for ten or more years does not automatically guarantee eligibility for spousal maintenance.
The first step of determining eligibility does not guarantee that the individual will receive the support. After they have been declared eligible for spousal maintenance, the courts will consider a range of factors that they will use to decide if the award of support is appropriate. This includes the award’s financial amount and the time frame for which it will be paid.
The other factors that the courts consider when determining spousal maintenance specifics include efforts to find employment, contributions to the family as a homemaker, infidelity, employment history, age of the spouse requesting support, length of the marriage, and educational background. Once the court has carefully considered all these relevant factors, it may rule that the party requesting spousal support receives the maximum amount allowed, no support at all, or an amount in between.
Once a court has decided to award spousal maintenance to an individual, there are parameters that they follow to determine how long the support must be paid, including:
It is important to note that the first two circumstances may last indefinitely if the eligibility criteria behind the support continue to exist.
The final question of how much support will be awarded must also follow certain guidelines. The courts are limited by these guidelines when determining how much money the paying spouse will pay the eligible spouse every month.
Texas law dictates that a court awarding spousal maintenance payments to an individual may only order the monthly payments up to 20% of the average of the paying spouse’s monthly gross income or $5,000. The award must be the lesser of the two, so average income is always a factor in the determination.
Having a skilled Texas divorce attorney on your side is crucial when going through a divorce. If you face a spousal maintenance hearing, the lawyers at The Law Office of William A. Walsh are here for you. Visit our website or call us today at (682) 500-1077.