Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code pertaining to Texas Spousal Maintenance has significant changes. The Texas Spousal Maintenance changes became effective for divorce cases filed on or after September 1, 2013. The overall goal of the changes is to allow courts to provide more help to spouses who have been out of the work force, are disabled, are victims of family violence, or are the primary custodians of a disabled child. If you are thinking about dissolving your marriage and any of these categories apply to you, contact your Collin County Divorce Attorney so that you can better understand how the changes in spousal maintenance will affect you.

In Texas, spousal maintenance and spousal support are two different forms of financial help and occur at two different times of a divorce. Spousal support is temporary, and can be ordered by the court during divorce proceedings in order to ensure that the receiving spouse can meet "reasonable minimum needs" while going through the economic and social upheaval of a divorce. Spousal maintenance is the only form of post-divorce payment obligation enforced by the courts in Texas. Spousal maintenance is, as the term suggests, ordered for a limited period of time after the divorce the court determines the seeking spouse will need financial help to maintain, or meet "reasonable minimum needs."   

In order to be eligible for spousal maintenance, the spouse seeking it must prove that he or she lacks sufficient separate property and the means to provide for "minimum reasonable needs," and one of the following applies:

     (1). Family violence (resulting in a conviction or deferred adjudication) has been committed against the spouse or child within the last 2 years (during the marriage);

     (2). Spouse or child of the marriage has an incapacitating physical or mental disability;

     (3). The spouses have been married for 10 years or more

The changes to the Code also increased the maximum monthly amount of spousal maintenance from $2,500 to $5,000 (though it is still capped at 20% of the payer’s average gross monthly income). 

The duration of spousal maintenance was increased, ranging from 5-10 years, depending on the length of the marriage and the reason the spouse is eligible for spousal maintenance. For instance if the eligibility for spousal maintenance arose because of family violence and the parties were married for less than 10 years, then the court may not order spousal maintenance for more than five years.  Addtionally, if the spouseses were married between 10 and 20 years, the court cannot order spousal maintenance for more than 5 years.  If the spouses were married between 20 and 30 years, the spousal maintenance order cannot remain in effect for more than seven years, and if the parties were married for more than 30 years, the spousal maintenance order cannot remain in effect for more than 10 years. 

Spousal maintenance can be ordered for an indefinite term if the receiving spouse is incapacitated by a physical or mental disability, or is the custodian of a child who requires substantial care. For a better understanding of the new monetary and time ranges associated with spousal maintenance, see your Collin County Divorce Attorney.   

Modification of a spousal maintenance order is similar to modification of a child support order; the person seeking the modification would need to show the court a substantial change in circumstances since the original order was issued. However, it is important to note that spousal maintenance can only be modified one direction – reduction.  

Absent a modification, spousal maintenance terminates on the date stated in the order.  However, there are a few circumstances that will cause a premature termination.  One such circumstance is if the supported spouse remarries.  Another is if the court determines that the supported spouse is living with another person in a romantic relationship.  In these situations, the supported spouse can no longer be said to lack the ability to provide for "minimum reasonable needs."   

If you would like more information about Spousal Maintenance under the Texas Family Code, consult your Collin County Divorce Attorney at Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC today.