San Antonio Alimony Lawyer
One of the most challenging parts of getting a divorce is that a couple who built a financial life together now have to build two separate financial lives. This can be especially difficult on the spouse who earned less money than the other, especially if she is dependent on the other spouse to meet her basic needs.
In some cases, one parent stayed home to raise children while the other one worked or made other sacrifices in education or career to support the other spouse. There may be other cases where one spouse is disabled or it is too late for him or her to start a new career.
The purpose of alimony (also called “spousal maintenance”) is to provide support for a spouse after divorce. There is a myth that alimony is difficult or impossible in Texas, but that is not true. You can get spousal maintenance upon divorce in Texas under the right circumstances.
On this page, we will answer some of the most frequent questions people have about alimony in Texas — specifically, who is eligible, how much the alimony will be, and how long it will last.
Eligibility for Alimony
To be eligible for spousal maintenance in Texas, you must prove that you (i) meet one of the four statutory bases for spousal maintenance and (ii) lack sufficient property to provide for your minimum reasonable needs.
There are four situations in which you can ask for alimony under Texas Law.
- You have been married for at least 10 years.
The most commonly-used basis for a claim of alimony is that you have been married for at least 10 years. The ten-year period is measure from the date of marriage to the date of trial (not the date of separation or the date the divorce petition was filed).
In addition to showing a marriage of 10 years, you also have to show that you are not able to earn sufficient income to support yourself. You also have to show that you have made diligent efforts to earn sufficient income or to develop the skills to do so.
- You are disabled.
You can also be eligible for alimony in Texas if you show that you suffer from an incapacitating physical or mental disability. The disability must be severe enough that it prevents you from earning a sufficient income to support yourself.
- You have a disabled child.
Another basis of eligibility is if you have a disabled child of the marriage, you are the custodian of that child, and you are unable to earn sufficient income because you have to take care of the child. The child must be “of the marriage”, meaning biological or adopted children of both spouses but not step-children.
The child can be of any age, so even an adult child would qualify you for spousal maintenance if he is disabled and requires care. Whether a child or adult, the child must have a disability that requires substantial care and personal supervision, and the care and supervision must prevent you from earning sufficient income.
- You are a victim of family violence.
You can also be eligible for alimony if your spouse was convicted or or received deferred adjudication for a family violence criminal offense against either you or your child. The act must have been committed during the marriage and within two years of when the divorce petition was filed.
Minimum Reasonable Needs
Even if you meet one of the four bases above, you still have to show you lack sufficient property to meet your minimum reasonable needs. How do you show this? The courts will look at the specifics of your particular case, which is why it is very important to put on a strong showing of why you need support.
Courts will consider your necessary expenses, such as: mortgage or rent payments, property taxes, utilities, car payments, insurance, gas, good, credit cards, medical expenses, clothing, and child care.
The courts consider what resources you have to meet you necessary expenses. They will look at your income, your property, and what assets you will be given in the divorce to determine whether you can meet your expenses on your own or require additional support.
Amount and Duration
Once you have shown that you are entitled to spousal maintenance, the next question is how much you should get and how long it should last. Again, these issues are very dependent on the facts of your case and how strong of a case you make to the judge.
To calculate the amount of the award, the court must consider all relevant factors, including the following statutory factors:
- each spouse’s ability to provide for minimum reasonable needs
- the effect of child support payments
- one spouse’s contribution to the earning power of the other (for example, supporting the other spouse in school)
- the separate property each spouse brought into the marriage
- the duration of the marriage
- your personal history, such as age and health
- each spouse’s education and employment skills
- fraud committed by one spouse during the marriage (like hiding assets or excessive spending)
- homemaker contributions
- marital misconduct
- family violence
Courts can also look at any other factors they think are relevant.
Taking all of these factors into account, the court will calculate a base amount of support. This base amount is typically calculated by comparing your monthly necessary expenses with your monthly income. The base amount is the different between what you earn and what you need.
Once this base amount is determined, the court will look at whether it exceeds the statutory cap. Your spouse will not be required to pay more than $5000 or 20% of his or her gross income.
The Texas Family Code caps the duration of an award of spousal maintenance. Generally, the duration of a spousal maintenance order must be limited to the shortest reasonable time that allows the petitioner to earn sufficient income to provide for her minimum reasonable needs.
But an award of spousal maintenance does not have to be limited in this way if there is evidence that her ability to earn a sufficient income is substantially or totally diminished because of her physical or mental disability, her duty to care for children of the marriage, or other impediments to earning sufficient income.
If the alimony award is based on marriage of at least 10 years, the duration will be limited as follows:
- Marriage of 10-20 years — duration of alimony limited to 5 years max
- Marriage of 20-30 years — duration of alimony limited to 7 years max
- Marriage of 30+ years — duration of alimony limited to 10 years max
If the alimony is based on disability of yourself or your child, there is no statutory limit on the duration of the award. The alimony can last as long as the disability exists and continues to prevent you from earning sufficient income to meet your needs.
Contact our San Antonio Alimony Lawyers
Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is often one of the most contentious areas of dispute in any divorce. For the person asking for alimony, the money may be essential to maintain their lifestyle in the future. For the person who is being asked to pay, ongoing alimony payments can be a huge burden. The law in this area can be complex and often requires extensive evidence at trial. The attorneys at Salmon Haas Law are experienced in pursuing and defending family law claims, including spousal maintenance. Contact us today for a free consultation.