The difficulties surrounding divorce are only worsened by the financial disruption in your life as you wonder how you will afford to maintain your lifestyle. We will try to answer some of your general questions related to spousal support in Texas, but for a more in-depth discussion of your rights, obligations and options, contact the spousal support lawyers at The Ashmore Law Firm for an honest evaluation of your specific situation. There is a lot of confusion between the terms Alimony, Spousal Maintenance and Spousal Support in Texas. For our purposes, we’ll call it Spousal Support.
Spousal Support by Agreement
Getting a court to order your spouse to pay spousal support in Texas is difficult. However, there is nothing that limits a couple’s ability to negotiate a binding agreement on spousal support. In fact, most judges encourage couples to reach agreements, including spousal support, and will sign such agreements making them fully enforceable. Therefore, you should speak with one of our lawyers to discuss whether a divorce agreement, including spousal support, is possible or even advisable in your situation, and what the best overall plan may be to achieve the results that you need.
Spousal Support During the Divorce Process
After a divorce has started, either spouse can ask the court for temporary spousal support. The purpose of temporary spousal support is to establish some level of stability during a divorce process while information is being gathered, agreements are explored, or issues are set up for a judge to decide. However, under Texas law, the spouse requesting temporary spousal support has the burden to show:
- That they have a significant financial need,
- That they have used their best efforts to become self-supporting, and
- That they cannot meet their minimum monthly expenses.
Even if successful, temporary spousal support only lasts for the duration of the divorce process. Once the divorce is finalized, the temporary spousal support ends unless a more permanent order is made.
Spousal Support in a Final Divorce Decree
The guidelines for spousal support in Texas are relatively strict. In fact, under Texas law, there is a presumption that spousal support is not needed. To successfully request spousal support at the end of a divorce process, a spouse must demonstrate, with proper evidence, despite their best efforts, they will not be able to meet their minimum financial needs after the marital property is distributed and the divorce is finalized.
How to Qualify for Spousal Support
Under Texas law, you must prove that despite your best efforts, you will not have sufficient resources to meet your minimum financial needs when the divorce process is over. You will also need to prove one of the following:
- Either your spouse was convicted of a domestic crime against you or a child within two years of the divorce filing or during the divorce; You cannot support yourself due to a disability;
- The marriage lasted for at least 10 years, and you cannot earn enough to support yourself; or
- That you must care for an infant or disabled child of the marriage.
Therefore, for example, if you have been married for only two years and need supplemental income but don’t fit any other criteria, a court is not able to order your spouse to pay spousal support.
Factors a Court Considers Regarding Spousal Support
If you meet the initial qualifications for spousal support, the court will then consider several additional factors, including:
- The financial independence of each spouse;
- Each spouse’s education level, employment background, earning ability, and the time it would take to get financially independent with training;
- Length of the marriage
- Age of the spouses;
- Whether either spouse did something to diminish the value of marital property;
- Whether one spouse contributed to the education or career of the other spouse;
- Homemaker contributions;
- Any family violence; and
- Any marital misconduct.
Based on the evidence showing these factors, the court can then decide on the amount and length of a potential spousal support order.
Duration Of Spousal Support In Texas
Texas law also limits the duration of spousal support. If the spouse is disabled or caring for an infant or disabled child, the court can order spousal support until the condition no longer exists. Otherwise, payments are limited to:
- Five years for marriages that lasted less than 10 years with a domestic violence conviction,
- Five years for marriages lasting from 10 to 20 years,
- Seven years for marriages lasting more than 20 and less than 20 years, and
- Ten years for marriage of longer than 30 years.
Spousal support also ends when the recipient spouse remarries or cohabitates with a domestic partner or when either spouse dies.
Amount of Spousal Support
Spousal support orders are limited to either 20% of the paying spouse’s gross monthly income or $5,000 per month, whichever is less. Therefore, even a high-earning spouse will pay no more than $5,000 per month.
Modification of Spousal Support Award
Finally, orders may be modifiable based on evidence of substantial change in circumstances. If the court is convinced that a spouse’s circumstances have substantially changed by circumstances beyond their control, the court may examine the factors listed above to decide if the spousal support award should change. Based on this information, the court may change the amount or the length of the previous order. Do not underestimate the importance of properly analyzing your situation. Whether you and your spouse may be able to reach agreement on spousal support or if a judge will need to decide the situation, an experienced spousal support lawyer can help you evaluate, properly value and then either negotiate a settlement, or, if settlement is not possible, represent your interest in court proceedings and get the best possible outcome for you.
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