Spousal Maintenance, which is also known as “alimony” or “spousal support,” is court-ordered payments made from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse.
Although the parties in a divorce matter can agree to any type of support, known as “contractual maintenance,” the court is very limited in its ability to order spousal support if the parties cannot reach an agreement.
Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code specifically delineates the parameters for the Court to order spousal maintenance as a result of a divorce. If spousal maintenance is court-ordered, it is often as enforceable as child support and failure to pay it may result in fines or even jail time.
A Judge can order spousal maintenance if the paying party has been convicted of, or received deferred adjudication, for an act constituting family violence within the two years prior to filing, or during, the divorce.
A Judge can also order spousal maintenance if the parties have been married for at least 10 years, the receiving spouse does not have sufficient property to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs and is either disabled, is caring for a child that is disabled or lacks the earning ability to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs.
Once the court determines that a party is entitled to alimony, the court then determines how much the person should receive per month and how long he or she should receive it.
The Court is limited on the amount of support it can order and the duration of the support. A Judge must only order what is necessary to meet the minimum reasonable needs of the receiving spouse, but, in no case, can the Judge order more than $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s gross monthly income, whichever is less.
Spousal Maintenance awards are also limited to a period of time based upon the length of the marriage, unless the receiving spouse cannot provide for his or her own support due to an incapacitating mental or physical disability or because that spouse is providing care for a child with mental or physical disabilities.
Reducing Your Exposure to Spousal Maintenance:
If the divorce is not going to occur for some time, the spouse who earned more money should consider the following actions to reduce their exposure to alimony:
* reduce the current household expenses;
* if the parties have separated, establish a precedent of the spouse supporting their own needs with little or no financial support from the other spouse;
* reduce debt;
* help get the spouse a job or more education;
* maximize time with the children;
* investigate marital misconduct;
* don’t engage in marital misconduct;
* allow a temporary disability to improve; and
* if income is trending down, it would make sense in holding off the divorce to use a lower income in calculating maintenance.
Terminating or Reducing Spousal Maintenance
There are myriad other reasons that may terminate or reduce support, but the basic idea is that if there is no longer a need for support, then you can argue that it should be terminated. In general, support will likely stop upon the receiving party getting remarried, cohabitating with another individual in a marriage-like relationship.
Spousal Maintenance will depend on the circumstances of you and your spouse. Attorney Vince Handler will evaluate the facts and provide guidance as to whether Spousal Maintenance may be a factor. Contact us today.