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.

Divorce

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Alimony involves court-ordered payments paid by one former spouse for the support of the other.  Potential divorce clients regularly inquire about their ability to receive alimony.  Except for spousal maintenance, Texas courts are not authorized to order alimony.  However, parties can agree to alimony payments as part of an agreement incident to divorce.  By approving the agreement in the court’s decree, the court is not ordering prohibited alimony.

If the parties agree to contractual alimony, one spouse will pay the other a certain amount of money each month.  If that spouse does not pay, the other party’s only recourse is to sue the former spouse for breach of contract.

Spousal maintenance differs from the standard idea of alimony in that it is generally only allowed for a short period of time and it is only available in very limited situations.

Child Supportmoney pic

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