Dividing a household and its associated finances can be a challenging and highly contentious part of a divorce process. It’s particularly difficult if one spouse earns significantly more than the other, or one spouse stopped working to raise the couple’s children. The non-working spouse finds his or herself out of the workforce for a longer period of time and may have a difficult time finding another job.
He or she may also need additional education and/or training in order to find work that will allow them to adequately support themselves, and possibly the children (or pay sufficient child support.) However, if one spouse is disabled and unable to work, he or she may need spousal support whether or not they are the main conservator (the “custodial parent.”)
Will you be able to receive spousal maintenance? Or will you be required to pay it?
A spouse must establish their inability to support themselves and provide for their own minimum needs. Once established, one of these two conditions must apply:
spouse’s inability to provide for themselves, and:
- A physical and/or mental disability
- Caring for a child from the marriage that has a physical and/or mental disability and needs exceptional care as a result
- The marriage lasted in excess of ten years
paying spouse committed an act of family violence for which he or she was
convicted or received deferred adjudication. The act was committed either:
- During the divorce process, or
- During the marriage, and no more than two years before the divorce was filed
Spousal support is not automatic. Once an eligibility condition is met, the court will then decide the amount and duration.
Texas statutes are exact about how much support can be awarded by the court. The maximum spousal maintenance that a court can order on a monthly basis is capped at $5,000 or 20% of his or her gross income, whichever is lower. This can include:
- Wages and salaries, including tips, commissions, overtime and bonuses
- Income from self-employment
- Net rental income, i.e., rent payments minus mortgage payments and operating expenses
- Income from royalties, interest and dividends
other income, such as:
- Retirements and pensions
- Trusts and annuities
- Capital gains
- Interest income from notes
- Unemployment benefits
- Spousal and other maintenance payments
However, income does not include items such as:
- Accounts receivable
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- VA benefits for a service-connected disability
- Disability benefits, Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Payments for care of a child in foster care
- Payments from federal public assistance programs or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The duration of support depends on several factors, as well as eligibility, such as:
- If the marriage lasted less than ten years and one spouse was abusive, or from ten to twenty years, maintenance can be awarded for five years.
- If the marriage lasted from twenty to thirty years, maintenance can be awarded for up to seven years.
- If the marriage was longer than thirty years, maintenance can last as long as ten years.
- Indefinite maintenance may be awarded if the spouse or a dependent child is disabled, for as long as disability exists, and as long as the spouse is eligible. It is not contingent on the length of the marriage.
If you are paying spousal maintenance in Texas, the expense is a deductible tax expense. However, if you are receiving spousal maintenance in Texas, the money is considered taxable income.
The entire code for spousal support is available for Texas Family Code Section 8.051.
What If I Have A Partner?
Dating after a divorce is fine (unless your divorce decree specifically prohibits it.) However, if you decide cohabitate with a “romantic partner,” the court may decide to terminate your spousal maintenance. Should you decide to cohabitate with someone to share housing and save money, discuss it with your divorce attorney before proceeding to make sure that the living arrangement doesn’t interfere with the spousal maintenance order.
Spousal Support Assistance In Fort Worth
Wendy L. Hart has been helping people in the Fort Worth area with all of their family law issues since 2001. She represents both men and women in all aspects of divorce, including spousal and child support matters.
Visit our Mansfield office at 2363 Highway 287 N, Suite 108, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336. Don’t try to handle a divorce, spousal maintenance or other family law matter by yourself. Contact of The Law Office of Wendy L. Hart and get the help you need.