The end of a long-term marriage introduces many issues during divorce proceedings, including how it will impact the lifestyle and financial well-being of spouses. In order to reduce any unfair economic impact, Texas courts may order post-divorce spousal maintenance, which is payment one spouse makes to the other. Spousal maintenance is intended to provide the income a non-working spouse requires to meet minimum reasonable needs.
While spousal maintenance is available if a person meets requirements under the Texas Family Code, it is not guaranteed. The duration and amount of maintenance will also vary on a case-by-case basis. As such, it is important to understand your rights when initiating the divorce process and handling matters related to spousal maintenance, and to work with proven attorneys who can protect your interests.
Who Qualifies for Post-Divorce Spousal Maintenance?
In Texas, one spouse may be entitled to maintenance payments after a divorce – which are separate and apart from the division of assets and any child support payments – if they meet certain strict requirements. Examples of qualifying circumstances may include:
- Victims of domestic violence
- Disabilities that prevent one spouse from maintaining gainful employment
- Being the primary caregiver for a child with physical or mental disabilities, which impedes their ability to work and earn sufficient income
- A spouse married for 10 years or longer lacks employability (i.e. experience, skills, training, education, etc.) needed to earn a reasonable living standard
Amount & Duration
The Texas legislature has broadened the maximum possible duration and amount of post-divorce spousal maintenance in recent years. Today, no maintenance order can exceed 20 percent of the paying spouse’s gross monthly income or $5,000 – whichever amount is less. However, Texas still views maintenance as a need based matter, which means that maintenance is not only not guaranteed, but that any amount paid will not exceed the amount needed. Judges may also consider other factors when determining maintenance, including separate property owned by a requesting spouse and overall property division settlements.
When determining the duration of spousal maintenance, Texas law sets time limitations (with the exception of special circumstances, such as those involving a disability). Although each case is unique, post-divorce maintenance payments will generally not exceed:
- 5 years if a marriage lasted fewer than 10 years and maintenance was ordered due to domestic violence; OR a marriage lasted between 10 and 20 years
- 7 years if a marriage lasted between 20 and 30 years
- 10 years if a marriage lasted 30 years or more
Maintenance may also be terminated prior to these time limitations, particularly in situations where:
- One spouse dies
- A receiving spouse remarries
- A receiving spouse lives with a new partner