Spousal Maintenance Law for a Texas Divorce

The origin and basis of family law statutes and precedent in Texas were heavily influenced by the predecessor Spanish/Mexican Law prior to the formation of the Texas Republic. Spanish Law required in large measure that a husband and wife share ownership and if a divorce was granted then a 50/50 split of all property would ensue. Though there are exceptions to this, a general tenant of Texas property law states that both spouses will receive half of all the property they accrue during the marriage called “community property”, not inherited or received by gift. The influence of Spanish Law is a primary reason that for many years Texas has not favored any type of permanent alimony (also called spousal maintenance) after divorce.

In 1995 the Texas Legislature passed the first Spousal Maintenance Law that allowed a limited type of alimony. The law has been amended many times but in its current form it allows, upon proper proof, a spouse, under specific conditions to receive post-divorce money from their spouse for future support.  The eligibility for Spousal Maintenance in Texas is limited and narrowly constructed.

Texas Family Code 8.051 states the requirements for a spouse to be eligible for Spousal Maintenance (alimony) as follows:

The spouse in which requests the spousal maintenance has been a victim of family violence by their husband or wife and the offense occurred:

  1. within two years before the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage is filed or;
  2. while the suit is pending

OR

The spouse seeking spousal maintenance:

  1. is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability;
  2. has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or longer or lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; or
  3. 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.

The qualifications are narrow. Spousal Maintenance focuses on a spouse who has been a victim of family violence, has a mental or physical disability, or has been married for at least 10 years. The amount of money the Court will allow to be paid to a spouse monthly cannot exceed the lessor of 5,000 or 20% of a spouse’s average monthly gross income per Texas Family Code 8.005.

If you are in the process of divorce, and have been a victim of family violence or have been married for at least 10 years, then speak with an experienced attorney about the possibility of obtaining Spousal Maintenance. Spousal Maintenance is not a permanent fix but a temporary solution until you can get back on your feet. Texas Courts are hesitant in granting spousal maintenance because the spouse of a marriage generally receives half of all property accrued during the marriage. If the required extraordinary circumstances are present it is possible to receive some type of alimony for a limited amount of time.

Contact an experienced attorney that deals with matters to inform you if spousal maintenance is possibility. If you have been a victim of family violence or have been a stay at home mom for at least 10 years then you may have the ability to receive a limited form of alimony to help aid you with the daunting task of finding a new job and starting a new life.

Domestic Violence Against Men: The New Intimate Partner Epidemic ?

When you think of domestic violence or Intimate Partner Violence between couples what usually comes to mind? A woman being hurt or abused? This is the majority of public thought in the United States, yet the latest studies on domestic violence are showing a new and very alarming trend: notable rising rates on Intimate Partner Violence against Men.   

In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This was a serious eye opener on violence and men.  In the United State for the previous 12 months, app. 5,365,000 men had been victims of intimate Partner physical violence compared with 4,741,000 women. This physical violence includes slapping, pushing, & shoving.  Also tracked were more serious threats of being beaten, burned, choked, kicked, slammed with a heavy object or hit with a fist. Roughly 40% of the victims of severe physical violence were men. Again in 2011 the CDC repeated the survey and the results were almost identical!

Domestic violence (intimate partner violence) against men include emotional, sexual, verbal, physical abuse or threats of abuse. It happens in heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Have you ever felt scared of your partner and changed your behavior since you were afraid of what your partner might do? If so, you may be in an abusive relationship.

Are you being abused? What are the warning signs? What kind of abuse are you experiencing?

Emotional & Verbal Abuse:

  • Calls you names, belittles you, or puts you down regularly
  • Is jealous and possessive and accuses you without just cause of being unfaithful
  • Tries to isolate you from family and friends
  • Tries to totally control your life: how you spend your money, what you wear and where you may be going
  • Constantly makes unreasonable demands for your attention.
  • Blames you for her violent behavior and says you deserve it
  • Gets very angry or violent when drinking alcohol or using drugs

Physical Abuse:

  • Biting, burning, or choking you
  • Hitting, punching, or slapping
  • Pushing, shoving, or throwing things at you
  • Knifing or burning you
  • Forcibly holding you down
  • Hurting you, your children or your pets

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
  • Hurting you during sex
  • Forcing you to have unsafe sex

Threats and Intimidation:

  • Threatens to hurt / kill you
  • Threatens to kill themselves or the children
  • Stalks you
  • Reads all your emails, texts, or mail
  • Destroys things that belong to you

Being a man in an abusive relationship,  it may seem hard finding the help that you need. It has been estimated that about 20% of men who call the police to report an abusive spouse /partner are themselves arrested for domestic violence.

You do not have to stay in an abusive relationship. You need to start by discussing your situation with either someone you trust or a health professional who can give you guidance. Gather evidence on what is happening, photographs of any injury or bruises experienced during a confrontation, threatening emails or texts that can be used in a court of law, make a list of people who have experienced confrontations between you and your intimate partner.

Stay away from any type of violence with your partner since she may try to put you into a damaging situation with the police to make you look like the abuser or try to entrap you.

You can overcome these challenges and escape from the abusive intimate partner.  If you have a family or are concerned for your well-being, contact a legal professional who can help you break from this situation and also work to get your children out of harm’s way.  Just remember, if you are not available for her domestic violence, a predator will look for someone else to take your place and children are easy targets!

Fathers Rights and Legal Presumptions of Fatherhood in Texas

The presumption of fatherhood in Texas is strong, and positively impacts a father’s claims upon his children. Without the presumption of fatherhood, a father would face significant barriers in asserting his rights. The presumption of fatherhood supports access, rights, and duties, allowing the father to assert his right to help raise his child as he deems fit.

The presumption of fatherhood is determined in the Texas Family Code 160.204 and states that a man is presumed to be the father of a child regardless of genetic testing in the following circumstances:

  1. If the man is married to the mother and the child is born during the marriage;
  2. If the child is born before the 301st day after the day the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, invalidity, or divorce;
  3. If the man is married to the mother before the  birth of the child in apparent compliance with the law;
  4. If the man married the mother after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with the law and voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child by:

a. The assertion in a record filed with the vital statistics unit
b. The man is voluntarily named as the Child’s father on the child’s birth certificate or
c. He promised in a record to support the child as his own occurrence

    5. The man during the first two years of the child’s life resided in the household in which the child lived and the man represented to others, (held out) that the child was his own.

These five factual series support the presumption of a father without actually filing a Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship.

Only the 5th element pertains to men that are not married to the mother of the child. A man that is not married most likely will not legally be presumed the father even if the child is the man’s genetic son or daughter. This is a shock to many men if the relationship between the mother deteriorates and the mother decides to leave town. The father of the child will have no enforceable rights to his genetic son or daughter absent the filing a suit to establish the paternity of the father.

If a father is not married to the mother of his child, then the only option to the father is that he must continuously live with the mother and his child for the first 2 years of the child’s life and hold out to the public that the child is his own. This usually does not happen because of the stress involved in the beginning stages of raising a child and other factors. The father may have an active role in his child’s life but if he does not live with his child continuously for the first 2 years of his child’s life, then the mother may take exclusive possession of his child and move anywhere in the U.S. and the father will have no way to stop her unless he petitions the court for emergency relief, which will likely result in genetic testing.

If you have fathered a child out of wedlock and have not continuously lived with your child for the first 2 years of the child’s life, then it is wise to secure a genetic test and file suit to adjudicate yourself as the father of your child so you may receive the rights of a parent as a matter of law. It is prudent to contact an experienced family law attorney for the process because the innate right to see, guide, and teach your child is too important to forfeit. A man never knows what the future holds in a relationship, and if you have a child out of wedlock it is important to protect your right to be a part of that child’s life. To do this seek an experienced attorney to ensure your right is not infringed or sabotaged.