Under Texas law, alimony is also referred to as “spousal maintenance” or “spousal support.” Spousal support is designed to provide temporary support for a spouse following divorce, rather than being a long-term proposition. A spouse’s eligibility to receive spousal maintenance following the entry of a final divorce decree has been significantly expanded since it was created almost twenty years ago. Spousal maintenance has grown from protecting only stay at home spouses who have been out of the workforce for many years to also including spouses who are responsible for disabled children, disabled spouses and spouses who have experienced family violence.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature made substantial revisions to alimony eligibility. To qualify, a person must claiming spousal support must establish through evidence that:
1. The person actually a spouse – or at least claiming to be a spouse such as under a “common law” or informal marriage. Living together or cohabitating does not qualify a person to receive spousal support in Texas.
2. The person does not have sufficient property to provide for the person’s “minimum reasonable needs.”
3. The person meets one of the four following criteria: married for at least ten years and unable to earn a sufficient income, experienced family violence, spouse is disabled or child is disabled.
In deciding whether a person has “sufficient property”, the court can consider a variety of property types including the person’s income, which includes salary, bonuses, child support and other received money. The court can also consider the income earned from property such as a rental property owned by the person. Also included in the court’s analysis would be any separate property and the value of the share of community property received by the person in the property division in the divorce decree.
This standard is not specifically defined by the Texas Family Code and is rather left to the family court to determine what a person’s minimum reasonable needs are. Of course, this determination is based on evidence presented to the judge and can include a variety of expenses including housing, utilities, automobile related expenses, insurance, credit cards, medical costs and child care expenses, among others.
The ten year requirement is calculated from the date of marriage until the date of trial, rather than the date the divorce petition was filed. Additionally, the person seeking spousal support must prove she lacks the ability to earn a sufficient income and that she has made a diligent effort to earn a sufficient income or develop skills.
If you intend to pursue a divorce in Houston or one of the surrounding counties, spousal maintenance is one of many issues that a family law attorney can assist you with to protect your interests. Contact Erik Larson today at 713.221.9088 for a free consultation.