As discussed in my post on alimony, Texas courts cannot order alimony unless the parties have agreed to contractual alimony. Courts can, however, order spousal maintenance. “Spousal maintenance” involves periodic payments from the future income of one former spouse to another. Spousal maintenance is separate and above any child support payments that may be ordered.
Spousal maintenance is intended to support a former spouse for only a brief period of time after a divorce, until that spouse can get on his or her feet. It also protects disabled spouses, spouses who care for disabled children, and spouses who have been the victim of domestic violence.
In my experience, I have found that courts do not like to award spousal maintenance, and it can be extremely difficult to obtain. In order to qualify, you must establish (1) that you lack sufficient property to provide for your minimum reasonable needs, and (2) that you meet one of the statutory requirements for spousal maintenance.
Whether or not you have sufficient property to provide for your minimum reasonable needs is determined on a case-by-case basis, and courts have generally found evidence of expenses (rent or mortgage payments, car payments, insurance payments, etc.) as evidence of the amount of minimum reasonable needs. The court will consider the spouse’s monthly income and the amount of the spouse’s property in determining whether or not the spouse qualifies.
There are four statutory bases for spousal maintenance, and you must qualify under one of these provisions. They are: (1) the parties have been married for 10+ years and one spouse has an inability to earn a sufficient income; (2) one spouse has been convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that constituted family violence against the other spouse or that spouses’ child within the past two years; (3) one spouse is disabled and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income; or (4) one spouse must care for a disabled child, which keeps that spouse from earning sufficient income.