When a couple decides to end their marriage, they must consider the settlement terms of their divorce. Settlement terms include such things as the distribution of assets and debts, child custody and visitation, and spousal support. Issues that have to do with finances are usually among the most contentious. Even couples who agree to the basic decision to divorce may disagree about matters such as spousal support. It is helpful to understand more about spousal support in Texas.
What is Spousal Support?
Spousal support is money paid from one spouse to the other after they divorce. Spousal support is also sometimes called alimony or maintenance. Support is money paid from one spouse to the other following divorce. Support may be needed by one spouse when the person is not able or incapable of providing for his or her own living expenses. Alimony was part of many divorce settlements in the mid-1900s when most women did not work outside the home. Today, the majority of households consist of two working spouses. Therefore, there is less of a need for alimony than ever before.
Types of Spousal Support in Texas
In Texas, spousal support may be ordered by the court, or it may be agreed to by the parties. Spousal support that is agreed to by the parties is also called contractual alimony. In contractual alimony, both spouses agree to support, and it is put into a contract. When this occurs, the court will approve it, and it becomes legally binding. Court-ordered spousal support is maintenance that the judge determines as part of your divorce order.
Support may be needed on a temporary basis while the divorce is being settled. One spouse may need time to improve their work skills or education so they can obtain employment. This could be true in situations where one spouse stopped working to care for the children. Spousal support may also be part of a prenuptial agreement. In this case, support is considered a legal agreement between spouses.
Court-Ordered Spousal Support
Not all divorces have the need for spousal support. In fact, most divorces do not utilize support unless couples agree to it as part of their divorce negotiation process. In order for a spouse to seek court-ordered spousal support, they must first prove that they are unable to meet their financial needs, even after the distribution of property in the divorce. Once you prove that you need support, you must then fulfill one of these requirements:
You are disabled and therefore unable to get enough income to pay for your expenses
Your marriage lasted at least 10 years and you cannot earn enough to provide for your needs. Further, you must then prove that you have tried to become self-sufficient or have tried to get the skills you need to seek employment.
You are the full-time caregiver for a child who is disabled or has special needs that prevent you from working.
You or your child are the victim(s) of domestic violence within the last two years.
Obtaining court-ordered spousal support in Texas can be challenging. You must be able to prove that you have a real need for funds before a judge will even consider ordering support. If you feel that you need support, it is beneficial to work to obtain a support agreement with your spouse as part of your divorce settlement.
Factors That Determine Spousal Support
With court-ordered spousal support, the judge will review a variety of factors to determine support. The judge will decide whether support is warranted and, if so, how much it should be and how long it should last.
The income and earning ability of both parties after divorce
Financial resources after divorce
Age and health of the spouse requesting support
Employment history, education, and skills of requesting spouse
Length of time necessary for the requesting spouse to gain skills or further education
Separate property owned by each spouse
Whether one spouse did not work outside the home during the marriage
Whether one spouse spent, took, or sold marital property for their own use before divorce
Marital misconduct, such as adultery
Both parties will be required to submit information regarding their finances and employment so the judge can properly evaluate the situation. Every case is different and has a unique set of facts. The judge will make a decision in your case based on the facts and proof that is provided by both parties. You will need to gather the data you need to present to the court to prove your claim.
How Long Does Spousal Support Last?
The length of time spousal support lasts generally depends on the length of the marriage. If the marriage lasted less than 10 years, the court will typically not order support. When the marriage lasts between 10 and 20 years, the court will order up to five years of support payments. When the marriage lasts 20 to 30 years, the court will order support for up to seven years. If the marriage ended after more than 30 years, the court might order support to last for up to 10 years. It is important to note that the maximum length of time you can receive spousal support in Texas is 10 years.
Some unique situations may warrant differing lengths of spousal support. For example, if the marriage ended due to domestic violence, the judge may order support for up to five years, even if the marriage lasted less than 10 years. When there is a contractual agreement for spousal support, the length of support is determined by the parties and does not need to comply with these guidelines.
Seeking Spousal Support
Spousal support may be a necessity in some cases. If you feel that you meet the requirements for support, it is best to discuss the matter with a knowledgeable divorce attorney as soon as possible. It is often advantageous to come to an agreement with your spouse regarding spousal support. If your spouse is seeking support that you feel is unwarranted, you can take steps to resolve the matter.
If you are going through a divorce in Texas, you may have to request or pay spousal support. An experienced divorce attorney can help guide you. Contact us today at Sosa Law at (956) 317-5443 to discuss your case.