Spousal support is more commonly referred to as alimony, but the Texas Family Code actually refers to spousal support as “maintenance.” The term maintenance is defined under Texas Family Code § 8.001(1) as “an award in a suit for dissolution of a marriage of periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse.”
Unlike child support, spousal support is not required in a divorce decree. A court has the power to order a spouse to pay maintenance, but such a decision is often based on several factors, including how long the spouses were married and the difference between spousal incomes as well as convictions for family violence. Are you or your spouse seeking a maintenance award as part of your divorce in Southeast Texas? Or, do you need help with a modification or enforcement of spousal support? If so, you will want to make sure that you contact our firm for help protecting your rights.
Texas Spousal Maintenance / Alimony Information Center
- Texas Spousal Support Laws
- Duration of Spousal Support Awards in Texas
- Harris County Spousal Support Resources
Spousal Maintenance / Alimony Laws
Spousal maintenance is covered under Subchapter B of Chapter 8 in the Texas Family Code. Texas Family Code § 8.051 establishes that a court can order maintenance for either spouse only if the spouse seeking maintenance will lack sufficient property, including the spouse’s separate property, on the dissolution of the marriage to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs and:
- The spouse from whom maintenance is requested was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that also constitutes an act of family violence committed during the marriage against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child and the offense occurred within two years before the date a suit for dissolution was filed; or
- While the suit is pending the spouse seeking maintenance:
- is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability;
- has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or longer and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; or
- is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age 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.
Texas Family Code § 8.054 states that it is a rebuttable presumption that maintenance is not warranted unless the spouse seeking maintenance has exercised diligence in earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs or developing the necessary skills to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs during a period of separation and during the time the suit for dissolution of the marriage is pending.
A court determining that a spouse is eligible to receive maintenance must also determine the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments by considering all relevant factors, including:
- Each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs independently, considering that spouse’s financial resources on the dissolution of the marriage;
- The education and employment skills of the spouses, the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income, and the availability and feasibility of that education or training;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- The effect on each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs while providing periodic child support payments or maintenance, if applicable;
- Acts by either spouse resulting in excessive or abnormal expenditures or destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community property, joint tenancy, or other property held in common;
- The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
- The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
- The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
- Marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage; and
- Any history or pattern of family violence.
Duration of Spousal Maintenance / Alimony Awards in Texas
Texas Family Code § 8.054(1) establishes that a court cannot order maintenance that remains in effect for more than:
- Five years after the date of the order, if the spouses were married to each other for less than 10 years and the eligibility of the spouse for whom maintenance is ordered is established under Texas Family Code § 8.051(1) or the spouses were married to each other for at least 10 years but not more than 20 years;
- Seven years after the date of the order, if the spouses were married to each other for at least 20 years but not more than 30 years; or
- 10 years after the date of the order, if the spouses were married to each other for 30 years or more.
Under Texas Family Code § 8.054(2), the court must limit the duration of a maintenance order to the shortest reasonable period that allows the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs, unless the ability of the spouse to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs is substantially or totally diminished because of:
- Physical or mental disability of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- Duties as the custodian of an infant or young child of the marriage; or
- Another compelling impediment to earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
There are also limits to the amounts that a court can order in regards to maintenance payments. The court cannot order maintenance that requires an obligor to pay monthly more than the lesser of $5,000 or 20 percent of the spouse’s average monthly gross income. Gross income includes 100 percent of all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services (including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses); interest, dividends, and royalty income; self-employment income; net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not including non-cash items such as depreciation); and all other income actually being received, including severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, unemployment benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source, gifts and prizes, maintenance, and alimony.
Gross income does not include the return of principal or capital; accounts receivable; benefits paid in accordance with federal public assistance programs; benefits paid in accordance with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program; payments for foster care of a child; Department of Veterans Affairs service-connected disability compensation; supplemental security income (SSI), social security benefits, and disability benefits; or workers’ compensation benefits.
The obligation to pay future maintenance terminates on the death of either party or on the remarriage of the obligee. After a hearing, the court must order the termination of the maintenance obligation if the court finds that the obligee cohabits with another person with whom the obligee has a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis.
Harris County Spousal Maintenance / Alimony Resources
Texas Family Code | Chapter 8. Maintenance — View the full text of Texas state laws governing maintenance in divorce cases. Learn more about maintenance requirements under this chapter of the Texas Family Code. Statutes in this chapter cover modification, enforcement, and termination of maintenance orders.
Spousal Support | Texas Attorney General’s Office — As this section of the Attorney General website notes, the Texas Constitution was amended in 1999 to permit wage withholding for spousal maintenance and the Texas Legislature added income withholding provisions for spousal support to the Family Code during the 2001 legislative session. Learn more about wage withholding on this website. Find information about multiple orders, determining the amount to be withheld, and additional withholding categories.
Contact an Alimony Attorney in Houston, TX
If you or your spouse are attempting to obtain a maintenance award for your divorce in Harris County, it is in your best interest to retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Contact The Gonzalez Law Group. Our divorce attorneys in Houston assist individuals throughout Harris County, Friendswood, Pearland, Seabrook, League City, Deer Park, Pasadena, La Porte, Galena Park, Baytown, and many others. You can have our lawyers provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call (832) 530-4070 or fill out an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.