Although eligibility for spousal support is limited, and the length and amount of spousal support is limited, spousal misconduct may be considered in establishing the award.
Spousal maintenance, traditionally called alimony, is the payment of monetary support from one ex-spouse to the other, and in Texas, as compared with most other states, the law severely restricts who is eligible for spousal maintenance after divorce.
Although court-ordered alimony is difficult to get in Texas, the parties to a divorce may negotiate a contract for the payment of alimony that contains terms more generous than a judge could order under the law. Due to narrow grounds for support in divorce law, the negotiation of support as a contractual obligation can become a significant consideration between divorced spouses in Texas.
However, if the issue ends up before a court in a divorce proceeding, the court does not have nearly as much discretion as courts in many other states do to craft alimony awards. To be eligible to receive spousal maintenance in Texas, the spouse seeking maintenance must show that he or she will not have sufficient property after divorce to provide for his or her “minimum reasonable needs.” If the spouse has sufficient property to meet the minimum reasonable needs, the spouse is not eligible for spousal support.
If the minimal reasonable needs cannot be independently met by the spouse applying for support, one of these needs must also be true:
- The paying spouse has committed a crime of domestic violence in the two years preceding the filing of the divorce suit or while the lawsuit is pending against the other spouse or child of that spouse.
- The beneficiary cannot earn enough money because of a “physical or mental disability”.
- The marriage lasted at least 10 years, and the beneficiary “does not have the capacity” to earn enough to meet minimal reasonable needs.
- The recipient cannot earn enough because he or she will care for a child of the marriage, adult or minor, who needs “substantial care and personal supervision” because of a physical or mental disability.
If eligibility is established, the court must consider “all relevant factors” in the award of support, including 11 specific elements set out in the legislation:
- Each spouse’s capacity to meet their minimum reasonable needs.
- Each of their studies and professional skills, how long would it take to improve them enough to make enough money, and if education and training are available and doable.
- Marriage length
- The age, work history, ability to earn income, and health of the beneficiary spouse.
- Impact of a spousal support or support obligation.
- Either they spent too much, or they destroyed, concealed, or fraudulently disposed of goods.
- One spouse helped increase the income potential of the other.
- Possessions entered the marriage by one of them.
- Homemaker contributions
- Spousal misconduct, including “adultery and cruel treatment” (a factor that some states do not allow to consider)
- Family violence
Texas law also restricts the duration of a maintenance order depending on eligibility, length of the marriage, the time needed to become able to earn enough money for minimum reasonable needs, disability, custodial parent duties, or “another compelling impediment” to earning enough for minimum needs.
Consult Gomez Law, where you will receive advice to resolve your conflict situation.