Will Your Divorce Require You to Pay or Receive Spousal Support?
Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a common part of divorce proceedings throughout Texas. Spousal support is additional money paid from one spouse temporarily to their spouse to support them when the divorce has been finalized. The money paid isn’t part of the division of marital property or child support, and if paid during the divorce proceedings, is called temporary spousal support.
While Texas law does allow for the possibility of spousal support during and after divorce, how much and whether or not spousal support will be awarded will depend on the facts specific to your case. While a spouse can voluntarily pay spousal support, if one spouse is requesting it without the other’s consent, the demanding party must first establish that they are eligible for the support.
Does My Situation Qualify for Spousal Support?
In 2011, Texas changed its rules for court ordered spousal support. Under the new laws, a spouse must prove that when the divorce is final (after assets and liabilities have been divided) there won’t be significant property to meet their necessities, which typically means their monthly expenses. If they can prove that, they also must prove at least one of the following:
- The spouse responsible for paying has received a plea deal or been convicted for domestic violence.
- The spouse seeking support cannot earn sufficient income to pay for their necessities due to mental or physical disability, due to their custodial parent responsibilities for a child from the marriage who needs special care due to their mental or physical disability.
- The marriage last ten or more years.
If the requirements for receiving spousal support are met, then it is up to the court to determine the amount that will be required to be paid and how long the support will have to be paid.
How Much Spousal Support Will I Pay or Receive?
If a judge finds that one of the spouses is eligible for spousal support, the court will also determine how much support will be paid. Typically, the amount determined is the difference between the spouse’s monthly expenses and their monthly income, but that isn’t always the case. According to law a judge also must take into consideration the following.
- The financial resources of both parties after the divorce is final.
- How paying the support will affect both spouses’ ability to pay their bills.
- The age, employment history, physical and emotional condition of the requesting spouse, and earning ability.
- Each spouses’ education and employment skills and how long it would take for the requesting spouse to get education or training.
- Homemaker contributions.
- Marital misconduct of either spouse and family violence.
- Whether either spouse inappropriately spent joint funds or disposed of joint property during the marriage.
In the State of Texas, the cap on spousal support is set by statute. The amount of support the judge orders a spouse to pay cannot be more than $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever is lower.
How Long Will I Pay or Receive Support?
Generally, the court ordered support will be limited to the smallest time period that will allow the spouse being paid the money to being earning enough money to meet their monthly expenses unless the spouse has a physical or mental disability, is caring for a young child or infant, or there is another reason they cannot meet their own needs.
The maximum amount of time one spouse can be ordered to pay support to another depends on the length of their marriage. The time could be as long as five years if the marriage was no more than nine years and the spouse ordered to pay was abusive or if the marriage lasted between 10 and 20 years. The judge could order up to seven years of support if the marriage lasted between 20 and 30 years long, or as long as 10 years of support if the marriage was more than 30 years. The support could be ordered indefinitely if the receiving spouse or their dependent child is disabled.
Know Your Rights
Financial decisions such as spousal support during a divorce can be difficult. Paying or receiving the amount you deserve is important to both parties and an attorney experienced in family law can help you determine what your options are. The attorneys at Lindamood & Robinson, P.C. can help you move forward and understand your options under Texas law.