Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally charged process, and the complexities can be overwhelming when it comes to financial matters. Spousal maintenance is one aspect of divorce that often requires legal assistance.
If you’re in Houston and are considering or going through a divorce where spousal maintenance may be a factor, it’s crucial to understand what it is and how the eligibility, amount, and duration of spousal maintenance are determined. A Houston spousal maintenance lawyer is essential in helping you navigate these financial complexities. Don’t hesitate to contact The Stout Law Firm today.
What Is Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as spousal support or alimony, is financial support paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce. Generally, in Texas, it’s designed to be short-term, with the length of the marriage playing a significant role in determining if a spouse qualifies for support.
Spousal support differs from child support agreements and the division of assets and liabilities. Its primary purpose is to help the lower-earning or financially disadvantaged spouse maintain the standard of living necessary to support their minimum reasonable needs, which is not necessarily their standard of living pre-divorce.
How Is Eligibility for Spousal Maintenance Determined?
In Texas, eligibility for spousal maintenance is not automatic. First, a person must be legally married. Living together without being married does not make someone eligible for post-divorce maintenance. Further, a spouse may only receive spousal support if, upon divorce, they will lack sufficient property, including separate property, to provide for their “minimum reasonable needs” and:
- The couple’s marriage lasted ten years or longer, and the recipient spouse is unable to meet their minimum reasonable needs;
- The paying spouse has a conviction for family violence against the other spouse or their child within two years of filing for divorce or while the divorce was pending;
- The requesting spouse is unable to earn sufficient income for their minimum reasonable needs due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability; or
- The requesting spouse is responsible for a child from the marriage who requires significant care or supervision due to a physical or mental disability that prevents the parent from earning a sufficient income to meet their needs.
The determination of whether the person requesting spousal support can provide for their “minimum basic needs” is based on a multitude of evidence presented to the court. Sources of income, which can include paychecks, interest, child support payments, royalties, and income from other sources such as dividends, is compared to the requesting spouse’s expenses, including housing, car-related expenses, utilities, insurance, child care expenses, healthcare costs, and other additional expenses.
A spousal maintenance attorney in Houston can help determine if a person is eligible to request spousal support.
How Is the Amount of Spousal Maintenance Determined?
A variety of factors determine the amount of spousal maintenance. Under Texas law, these factors include:
- The spouses’ ability to provide for their individual needs;
- Each spouse’s education level and employment skills, and the amount of time needed to seek education or training by the supported spouse to become financially independent in the future;
- The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
- The length of the marriage;
- The age, earning ability, employment history, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- The contribution of a spouse as a homemaker;
- Marital misconduct, such as cruelty or adultery, by either person throughout the marriage;
- The impact of child support on the paying spouse’s ability to pay spousal support;
- The contribution of one spouse to the training, education, or increased earning power of the other; and
- Any history of family violence.
In addition to these factors, the amount of spousal maintenance in Texas varies based on income. Typically, it is calculated as the lesser of $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s average gross monthly income. Gross monthly income includes salary, retirement income, tips, investments, and properties.
How Is the Duration of Spousal Maintenance Determined?
In Texas, post-divorce spousal support is not permanent. Generally, the duration of spousal maintenance depends on the length of the marriage. For marriages lasting 10 to 20 years, spousal maintenance may be awarded for up to 5 years. For marriages lasting 20 to 30 years, it may be granted for up to 7 years. For marriages lasting 30 years or more, spousal support may be awarded for up to 10 years.
However, some circumstances may allow spousal support to be paid longer. If continued support is necessary due to reasons like a physical or mental disability of a spouse or for duties as a parent of a disabled child, the court may order maintenance to be paid as long as that condition lasts.
What Can a Houston Spousal Maintenance Lawyer Do for Me?
Navigating the intricacies of spousal maintenance in Houston can be challenging without legal guidance. A skilled spousal maintenance lawyer in Houston can offer the following services:
- Legal expertise. Our attorneys, who specialize in family law, specifically spousal maintenance, have in-depth knowledge of the Texas Family Code and relevant case law. We can provide legal advice tailored to your unique situation.
- Negotiation. We can negotiate on your behalf to reach a fair spousal maintenance agreement or advocate for your rights in court if an agreement cannot be achieved through negotiation.
- Documentation. Our lawyers can assist in gathering the necessary documentation to support your case, including financial records and evidence of contributions to the marriage.
- Representation in court. In cases where spousal maintenance disputes go to court, we will represent your interests, presenting a compelling case to the judge.
- Modification and enforcement. If you are already receiving or paying spousal maintenance and circumstances change, such as a change in income, our attorneys can help you seek modifications or enforce existing court orders.
To learn more about what an experienced spousal maintenance lawyer can do for you, reach out to us today.
Contact an Attorney
Spousal maintenance can be a complex and sensitive issue during divorce proceedings. Hiring a Houston spousal maintenance lawyer can provide the expertise and support needed to navigate the challenging aspects of divorce, ensuring a fair resolution that protects your financial interests.
The Stout Law Firm, PLLC, exclusively practices family law, and our family law attorneys have the requisite skills and knowledge to protect your rights while providing peace of mind. Contact us today for your initial consultation.