By: Alexandra Willen, Associate Attorney
If you’ve watched a movie or read the news in the past twenty years, it is likely that you have heard the term “Alimony.” You may be wondering, if I get divorced, will I have to keep paying my ex-wife or ex-husband?
First, there is no alimony in Texas. In Texas, it is called Spousal Maintenance. Spousal maintenance is the payment of money after a divorce to an ex-spouse that is not part of any property award. The purpose of spousal maintenance is to provide temporary support to an ex-spouse after a divorce while they “get back on their feet.”
There is a two-prong test in Texas to determine if someone is eligible to receive spousal maintenance. 1. The spouse has to show that they lack sufficient property or assets to provide for their minimum reasonable needs; and 2. That they have been married for at least ten years, that there was family violence committed during the marriage, or show that they have a physical or mental disability that prevents them from earning income.
“Minimum reasonable needs” does not have a specific legal definition, but it is often considered to be a spouse’s ability to pay for their mortgage or rent, property taxes, utility bills, car payments, gas and groceries, medical expenses, clothing, transportation costs, and other necessary expenses in life. If a spouse would be unable to pay for those things on their own, then it is likely that the court would determine that they cannot meet their minimum reasonable needs.
If a spouse can show that they meet those two prongs above, they may be entitled to spousal maintenance. There are various factors that go into determining if a spouse is entitled to receive post-divorce spousal maintenance, but the Court will consider the question of eligibility on a case-by-case basis.
If a spouse requesting spousal maintenance meets the ten-year requirement for marriage, it is likely that they would need to show that they do not have the ability to earn sufficient income to cover their minimum reasonable needs.
An ideal candidate for spousal maintenance may be something like the following scenario. If a couple who was 70 years old got divorced, and the wife had been a homemaker their entire marriage, she may need spousal maintenance. She must show that they had been married for at least ten years, that she did not receive any property or other assets in the divorce that she could use to support herself, and that she lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to meet her minimum reasonable needs. At 70 years old, she likely does not have any relevant workplace skills if she did not work for over 40 years, and it would be difficult for a woman of her age to start a career.
If someone is eligible to receive spousal maintenance, the next question is “how much money will they receive and for how long?” Well, in determining how long a spouse will receive spousal maintenance, you have to look at how long they were married.
- 10 Years of Marriage: If spouses were married for at least ten years, but less than 20 years, spousal maintenance can be awarded for up to 5 years.
- 20 Years of Marriage: If spouses were married for at least 20 years, but less than 30 years, spousal maintenance can be awarded for up to 7 years.
- 30 Years of Marriage: If spouses were married for 30 years or more, spousal maintenance can be awarded for up t 10 years.
Ten years is the maximum amount of time post-divorce that a Court can order spousal maintenance to be paid. However, if a spouse is disabled, it can continue indefinitely.
Regarding the amount of spousal maintenance that can be ordered, there is no standard calculation. The court will look at all of the facts including what the paying party earns, what the receiving party is eligible to earn, the amount they need to meet their minimum reasonable needs, and many other factors which are considered on a case-by-case basis.
However, an award of post-divorce spousal maintenance cannot be more than 20% of the paying spouse’s monthly income or $5,000.00.
An award of spousal maintenance can also cease if the receiving spouse remarries, dies, or cohabitates with a boyfriend or girlfriend in which they have a dating relationship.
As with all legal issues, there are many nuances, and no case is the same. The above only provides a brief overview of spousal maintenance in Texas, and your case could involve additional legal requirements.
If you have any questions regarding spousal maintenance in Texas, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your case with you, and answer any questions that you may have.