As an attorney at The Blacknall Firm, I often advise clients on the topic of alimony, or “spousal maintenance” as it is referred to in Texas. In this post, I will explain the qualifications for receiving maintenance in Texas, the factors that are considered when determining the amount and duration of support, and the limits that Texas law places on maintenance awards.

Qualifying for Spousal Maintenance in Texas

Either spouse can request maintenance during the divorce process in Texas. However, the court can only award support if the requesting spouse doesn’t have enough property or income at the time of the divorce to provide for basic needs, and at least one of the following circumstances exist:

  • the supporting spouse was convicted of an act of family violence against the other spouse or the couple’s children within two years of the divorce filing, or while the divorce is pending
  • the spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn enough income to be self-supporting due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability
  • the couple has been married for at least ten years, and the dependent spouse lacks the ability to earn income to meet basic needs, or
  • the supported spouse is a custodial parent of a child who requires substantial care or personal supervision due to a mental or physical disability which prevents the parent from working and earning an income. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051.)

Factors for Determining Maintenance Awards in Texas

Texas law begins every maintenance case with the presumption that spousal maintenance is not appropriate. However, if requesting spouses can demonstrate they have made a good faith effort to earn an income or acquire the education or training necessary to become financially independent during the separation and divorce process (and still need support), the court will move forward with a maintenance evaluation. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.053.)

The court will evaluate the following factors to determine the nature, amount, duration, and payment method of support:

  • each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs
  • the education and employment skills of both spouses, the time necessary to acquire education or training to enable the supported spouse to earn enough income to become financially independent
  • the duration of the marriage
  • the age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
  • if child support is a factor in the case, each spouse’s ability to meet needs while paying child support
  • whether either spouse wasted, concealed, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of any community property
  • whether either spouse contributed to the other’s education, training, or increased earning power during the marriage
  • the property both spouses brought to the marriage
  • any contributions of a spouse as a homemaker
  • marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage, and
  • any history or pattern of family violence. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.052)

Duration of Maintenance Orders

Texas law requires judges to follow strict guidelines when deciding the duration of maintenance awards. If the judge orders a spouse to pay support because of a physical or mental disability, duties as a custodial parent of an infant or young child of the marriage, or another compelling reason, support can continue for as long as the conditions exist. The court may order a periodic review of the support order in the future. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.054 (2).)

For all other maintenance orders, support is limited by Texas law to:

  • five years, if the spouses were married less than 10 years and the supporting spouse was convicted of family violence
  • five years, if the spouses were married more than 10 years but less than 20 years
    • seven years, if the spouses were married for at least 20 years but not more than 30 years, and
    • ten years, if the spouses were married for at least 30 or more years. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §8.054 (1))

    It is important to note that with the exception of a physical or mental disability, custodial parent, or other compelling circumstance, Texas law requires judges to order support for the shortest reasonable period of time for the supported spouse to become self-sufficient. It is also important to remember that these are just guidelines and the court has discretion to deviate from them depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

    As an attorney, I understand that the divorce process can be a difficult and emotional time for my clients. If you are seeking spousal maintenance or have been asked to pay it, it is important to have a clear understanding of the qualifications and factors that the court will consider when making a determination. I am here to help guide you through this process and advocate for your best interests.