Spousal maintenance eligibility in Texas Divorce

Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is a crucial aspect of many Texas divorce cases.

Determining eligibility and the amount of spousal maintenance involves several key considerations.

Eligibility Criteria

Under Texas Family Code Section 8.051, eligibility for spousal maintenance is specific.

The spouse seeking maintenance must lack sufficient property, including the spouse’s separate property, on dissolution of the marriage to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051).

Additionally, one of the following conditions must be met:

  1. The spouse from whom maintenance is requested was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that also constitutes an act of family violence… against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child… within two years before the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage is filed or while the suit is pending” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051(1)).
  2. The spouse seeking maintenance: (A) is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability; (B) has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or longer and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; or (C) is the custodian of a child of the marriage… who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051(2)).

Factors Influencing Maintenance Amount

Once eligibility is established, the court considers several factors to determine the amount and duration of spousal maintenance.

These factors include:

  • The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including the community and separate property apportioned to that spouse” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(1)).
  • “The educational 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” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(2)).
  • “The duration of the marriage” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(3)).
  • “The age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(4)).
  • The effect on each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs while providing periodic child support payments or maintenance” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(5)).
  • 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” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(6)).
  • “The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(7)).
  • “The property brought to the marriage by either spouse” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(8)).
  • “The contribution of a spouse as homemaker” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(9)).
  • “Marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(10)).
  • “Any history or pattern of family violence, as defined by Section 71.004” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052(11)).

Duration of Spousal Maintenance

Texas law limits the duration of spousal maintenance.

The maximum duration depends on the length of the marriage and other factors:

  • “For marriages lasting less than 10 years and involving family violence, up to five years” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.054(a)(1)).
  • “For marriages lasting between 10 and 20 years, up to five years” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.054(a)(2)).
  • “For marriages lasting between 20 and 30 years, up to seven years” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.054(a)(3)).
  • “For marriages lasting 30 years or more, up to ten years” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.054(a)(4)).
  • If the spouse receiving maintenance has a disability, cares for a disabled child, or another compelling reason, the court may order maintenance for as long as the condition persists” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.054(b)).

Modification and Termination

Spousal maintenance is not necessarily permanent.

It can be modified or terminated under specific circumstances.

These include:

  • “The remarriage of the receiving spouse” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.056(a)(1)).
  • “The cohabitation of the receiving spouse with another person in a permanent, supportive relationship” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.056(a)(2)).
  • “A significant change in the financial circumstances of either spouse” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.057).

Case Law

Several cases illustrate the application of these principles:

In Dalton v. Dalton, the court stated, “A spouse who is unable to earn sufficient income because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability may be eligible for spousal maintenance” (Dalton v. Dalton, 551 S.W.3d 126, 130 (Tex. 2018)).

In re Marriage of Martz noted, “The court must consider the statutory factors in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments” (In re Marriage of Martz, No. 09-21-00048-CV, 2022 WL 2251731, at *7 (Tex. App.—Beaumont June 23, 2022, pet. denied)).

In Chisolm v. Chisholm, it was established that “The duration of spousal maintenance is determined by the length of the marriage” (Chisolm v. Chisholm, 209 S.W.3d 96, 98 (Tex. 2006)).

Ammann v. Ammann reinforced the court’s discretion, stating, “The trial court has broad discretion in determining the amount of spousal maintenance” (Ammann v. Ammann, No. 03-09-00177-CV, 2010 WL 4260955, at *1 (Tex. App.—Austin Oct. 28, 2010, no pet.)).

Conclusion

Understanding spousal maintenance in Texas requires navigating complex legal standards.

Each case is unique, requiring careful consideration of various factors.