The factors that determine who receives spousal maintenance in Texas

Learn about which spouses may be ordered to pay spousal support in Texas and how those payment amounts are determined.

In 2010, the Court of Appeals of Texas ruled that a woman would be entitled to receive spousal support payments despite her ex-husband's objection. According to court documents, the woman alleged that her spouse committed violence against the family, forcing her to flee with her children. The couple divorced soon after, with a lower court ruling that the woman should receive alimony, among other types of support. The husband contended that his wife did not qualify for payments.

The appellate court heard the case and determined that, based on previous case law and the state's guidelines for alimony, the woman would receive payments for three years. Anyone facing a divorce should have a clear understanding of when maintenance may come into play.

Texas laws

Texas sets strict guidelines for who may receive such payments. In order to be eligible for payments, the law states that the spouse seeking alimony must lack the means to pay for his or her minimum basic needs and one of the following must be true:

1. The length of the marriage

According to state law, how long a couple was married plays a key role in spousal maintenance eligibility. Someone who has been married for at least 10 years may qualify for the payments as long as the person will not be able to make enough money to cover his or her basic needs.

2. The presence of a disability

The law states that a spouse seeking support may be eligible if he or she has either a physical or mental disability that affects his or her ability to earn an income. Further, the law addresses situations in which the spouse filing for alimony has custody of a child from the marriage who needs supervision due to a disability. If that supervision interferes with the spouse's ability to make enough money to cover his or her minimum reasonable needs, the other spouse may be ordered to make maintenance payments.

3. The presence of family violence

Texas laws take into account domestic violence. Even if the couple has been married for fewer than 10 years, the court could order spousal maintenance. The law states that this will be the case if one spouse has committed abuse against the other or the other's child within two years of the divorce filing or during the dissolution proceedings. According to the law, the spouse must have either received a deferred adjudication or a conviction for the crime. Unlike in other situations, the court will presume that spousal maintenance is appropriate when there has been abuse.

How Texas determines maintenance

Once a court finds that one spouse should receive support, a judge will use the following factors to determine how much the installments should be and how long the payments will last:

  • How long the couple was married
  • Both spouses' ability to earn an income as well as the education, employment history and age of each
  • Any marital misconduct
  • Any misconduct in which a spouse attempted to conceal assets

As the Texas Bar Association points out, the length of time payments are made is directly tied to how long a couple was married. For example, a spouse married less than 10 years but who suffered domestic abuse is only eligible for payments for five years or less. Conversely, couples married for more than 30 years could see an order to pay alimony for no more than 10 years.

Anyone with questions about spousal maintenance in Texas should consult with an attorney.