In matters related to spousal support (also commonly referred to as alimony and spousal maintenance), the Texas courts are famous for stinginess. It is, simply put, quite difficult for individuals seeking payment from their former spouse - even those who most need it - to receive court-ordered spousal support.
The bar is high, and hard to clear
The courts begin with the assumption that, barring extraordinary circumstances, both spouses should be able to generate their own incomes. This may surprise spouses who sacrificed their careers for their family, have been out of workforce for decades, and are facing divorce from a high earner. The burden is on the support-seeking spouse to prove that he or she has tried, and was unable, to earn a sufficient livelihood. (With this in mind, it can be essential to hire an attorney who knows how to demonstrate before a judge one's need for maintenance.)
Even if the state decides that spousal support is merited, there are a number of restrictions. For example, the duration of support is extremely limited. The maximum length, reserved for individuals married 30 years or more, is 10 years of maintenance. Those married for shorter periods of time will not typically receive support for more than five years. Likewise, the amount of alimony is capped at a limit of $5,000 per month or 20% of the payor's income (whichever is less).
What are "extraordinary circumstances"?
The cases wherein support is awarded more easily are scarce - but they do exist. If a spouse has special physical or mental needs, or has custody of a child with special needs, the state will be more likely to grant alimony. Regardless of "special needs," a divorcing spouse who diligently pursues education to re-enter the workforce may get help with that. Also, if the high earning spouse has been convicted of domestic abuse, the law permits judges to award maintenance even in short marriages.
Taking matters into their own hands
Many couples create their own support agreements that are far more generous than what the state might decree. There are advantages for both spouses to doing so. Specifically, the support-paying spouse will be able to deduct alimony contributions from his or her taxes, thus enabling both spouses to achieve some financial benefit. Other couples collaborate to ensure that, although the marriage is ending, both spouses can continue on comfortably in life.
Get a well-qualified Texas family lawyer to help you
Don't despair and assume you can't get post-divorce support! Whichever side of the alimony issue you may be on, consult a qualified Texas family lawyer to guide you. A competent, creative and caring lawyer can make a big difference.