Temporary Spousal Maintenance in Texas
In any Divorce case a father or husband should expect two attacks right out of the door. First, is paying for child support because most District Judges in Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin counties do not look favourably on 50/50 custody during temporary orders. Second, is paying temporary spousal maintenance to the wife.
Temporary spousal maintenance is essentially money that the Court forces a husband to pay his wife during the pendency of the divorce. Unfortunately, the District Judge has broad discretion in awarding the amount and duration of the temporary spousal maintenance. The temporary spousal maintenance is awarded based on considerations of both the degree to which the Spouse is destitute of means to pay for her necessities during the pendency of the suit and the ability of the Husband to pay.
Essentially, these considerations are determined by the Judge and if the Spouse has no job or means to support herself then, the Husband should expect a large percentage of his paycheck to go to the Spouse for the duration of the case. In many cases, if the Ex-Wife has the means to support herself, the Court will still award her spousal maintenance to some extent. The amount that the Court fixes as temporary spousal maintenance is likely permanent until the conclusion of the case and only appealable on mandamus. Usually, the appeal will cost more than paying the Spouse. Unfortunately, the Court uses temporary spousal maintenance to help settle cases by forcing the Husband to support both individuals of the party.
If you are seeking a divorce and have a job that provides well for your family, prepare to be attacked for child support and temporary spousal maintenance for the duration of the case. To mitigate the temporary spousal maintenance amount and seek 50/50 custody with your children, find an experienced attorney that can prepare you for the temporary orders. Temporary spousal maintenance is a tool the Court uses to equalize the estate and force a compromise. Divorce is a painful process and temporary spousal maintenance makes the process even more painful, but regrettably the burden primarily falls upon the Husband’s neck.
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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:
- within two years before the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage is filed or;
- while the suit is pending
The spouse seeking spousal 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 or 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.
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.
Financial Basics in Surviving Your Divorce
So you have now decided to divorce. You know it will be painful & scary, but you believe the time is right to have a single life. Financial vulnerability and risks are inevitable.
Every year, approximately three million men and women head down the emotional and financial path of divorce. Following a divorce the cost is usually 25-50% more to maintain your pre-divorce lifestyle. A single household becomes twice as expensive as each spouse losses the benefit of the other spouses income. Economic discrimination due to gender gaps place additional financial burdens on women. A woman’s standard of living may drop 27% while a man’s standard of living may increase 10%!
Now start with the financial basics in surviving your divorce! What are the basics?
A secure place to live
Create little or no debt
Protect retirement assets or income
Use of liquid money or assets
The most important of these basics is Liquid money! You will need money to find a place to live and hire an attorney. You will also need money to pay your expenses during your divorce. Liquidity will definitely come in handy and enhance your position in the proceedings.
What about Debts? If possible pay off your debts now. The uses of savings or assets you can liquidate are the cleanest methods. Many divorced people find themselves responsible for their EX’s portion of debt since the exiting spouse refuses to pay. Legally, you may be responsible if your ex-spouse does not pay. Try to start your new life free of debt and with a new sense of self confidence!
What about Cash Issues and Retirement Assets in a Divorce? If you and your spouse have retirement savings, each of you will probably be entitled to a one-half share or a portion based on a fixed ration of the number of years married and number of years of investing. This money could be kept for retirement or used to repay other current expenses or debts. Make sure you examine prospective tax treatment to avoid the 10% penalty on early withdrawal by the IRS.
Some tax questions to know about:
Are spousal maintenance payments tax deductible?
Who will be able to claim Head of Household status?
Who gets the tax exemption for the kids?
Is child support non-deductible?
Which Attorney fees are tax deductible?
Always remember to “Look at the big picture”. Keep your focus on finances and parenting. If you need help from smart professions, as your attorney, accountant, or mental-health professional, get it now! They will help you and your family with focus, objectivity and a long-term vision that is very difficult for you during this tumultuous time in your life. Now you need to be able to articulate you needs and goals for the future.
Do not forget! This time too shall pass and you may be, with planning, better than ever in the future!
Texas Divorce Spousal Maintenance Calculator
Texas is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to ordering spousal support; or “maintenance” as it is defined in the Texas statute. Texas House Bill 901 changing the spousal maintenance law in the Texas Family Code became effective for divorce cases on September 1, 2011. The bill revised the conditions that establish eligibility for spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony and changed the factors required to be considered by a court in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments for a spouse who is eligible to receive maintenance.
The court that determines a spouse is eligible to receive maintenance shall determine the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments by considering all relevant factors, including:
(1) each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs independently, considering that spouse’s financial resources on dissolution of the marriage;
(2) 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;
(3) the duration of the marriage;
(4) the age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
(5) 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;
(6) 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;
(7) the contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
(8) the property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
(9) the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
(10) Marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage; and
(11) Any history or pattern of family violence, as defined by Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code.
The maximum amount of spousal support that courts may award is the lesser of $5,000.00 per month or 20 percent of the payer’s average gross monthly income. This is the maximum amount of maintenance the court orders.
However, in all circumstances, the law provides that the Court shall order maintenance for the shortest reasonable period that allows the recipient to earn sufficient income to meet his or her “minimum reasonable needs” and as follows:
The Texas law mandates the maximum duration of support as follows:
Maintenance shall be paid for a maximum of:
• 5 years, if due to family violence conviction and marriage is under 10 years;
• 5 years, if marriage is between 10 and 20 years;
• 7 years, if marriage is between 20 and 30 years;
• 10 years, if marriage is 30 years or more;
except in the case of an incapacitating physical or mental disability, in which case the award may last as long as the disability.
In addition, the law allows the Texas Family Law Courts to terminate maintenance if the recipient “cohabits with another person in a permanent place of abode on a continuing, conjugal basis.”
Sample Calculation of Texas Spousal Support Maintenance:
Big Changes in Texas Spousal Support Laws
Texas House Bill 901 changing the spousal maintenance law in the Texas Family Code became effective for divorce cases filed on or after September 1, 2011. The bill revises the conditions that establish eligibility for spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, and changes the factors required to be considered by a court in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments for a spouse who is eligible to receive maintenance.
Eligibility for spousal maintenance requires that the spouse seeking maintenance lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
The new law provides potentially increased relief to spouses who have been out of the work force, are disabled, are victims of family violence or are the primary custodians of a disabled child.
Major changes to the Texas spousal support law are:
1. The maximum amount of spousal support that courts may award increased from $2,500 to $5,000.00 per month, although still limited to 20 percent of the payer’s average gross monthly income.
2. The duration of spousal support extended from a maximum of 3 years to a maximum of 5, 7 or 10 years, generally depending on the length of the marriage.
3. The law clarified that if a person has primary care for a disabled child, the custodial parent may be prevented because of the child’s disability from earning sufficient income to meet the custodial parent’s minimum reasonable needs.
4. The law also clarified that a person may not be held in contempt for failing to pay spousal support which is in an agreed order and extends beyond the period of time provided under the law.
In order to receive “maintenance,” (which is the statutory term for spousal support), the spouse seeking support must lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s “minimum reasonable needs”, AND one of the following:
(1) The recipient must be unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating mental or physical disability;
(2) The marriage lasted for 10 years or longer and the recipient lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs;
(3) The recipient 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; OR
(4) The person ordered to pay support was convicted of or received deferred jurisdiction for an act of family violence during the pendency of the suit or within two years of the date the suit is filed.
Under the previous law, under most circumstances, the court could only order maintenance for a maximum of three years, regardless of the length of the marriage. Under the new law, the court can order maintenance to continue for:
(1) 5 years if the parties were married less than 10 years and the maintenance is awarded due to family violence;
(2) 5 years if the parties were married more than 10 years, but less than 20 years.
(3) 7 years if the parties were married more than 20 years, but less than 30 years;
(4) 10 years if the parties were married for more than 30 years.
In cases where the maintenance is awarded due to the mental or physical disability of the spouse or a child of the marriage, the court may order that the maintenance continue as long as the disability continues.
However, in all circumstances, the law provides that the Court shall order maintenance for the shortest reasonable period that allows the recipient to earn sufficient income to meet his or her reasonable needs.
If you are contemplating dissolving your marriage and have questions concerning your financial future, seek competent legal counsel to help you determine whether you could be eligible for spousal support under the expanded provisions of the new law.