Divorce is stressful, no doubt about it. Even when it’s for all the right reasons, spouses may not know how to predict a future that once seemed pretty reliable. Money concerns are often part of that stress. We see it in families that had strong household budgets, families that had earning or spending problems — almost no one is immune to the financial worries of a divorce.

Spousal support may be one of these concerns for you, whether you may have to pay it or whether you believe you may be owed it. If you are facing questions about spousal support, contact the Frisco family lawyers at Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC. We are here to assist clients in determining eligibility for support.

Maintenance

In Texas, spousal support is technically called maintenance, although conversationally, many people simply call it alimony. In this state the specific term reflects the fact that spousal support may not be as easy to come by as it is in other states. Here, it is awarded if there is truly a need for one spouse to financially maintain the other spouse.

Keep in mind a pre-nuptial agreement may have stipulations in it to which you both agreed that favors one party over another and supersedes the maintenance rules that the family court would normally follow. The likelihood of paying, receiving or avoiding maintenance in the face of a prenuptial agreement is a different matter.

Having Enough

The first stipulation in a Texas maintenance case is that the spouse asking for maintenance does not have enough property when the marriage ends to take care of his or her basic needs.

Property in a Texas divorce may be considered separate or part of the marriage. Separate property remains the property of the person who brought the property into the marriage. Marital property is subject to distribution by a judge — and that distribution depends on a variety of factors; it is not a 50-50 split in all or even many instances.

In order to qualify for maintenance, the spouse first of all must not have enough separate or distributed marital property to take care of himself or herself after the divorce.

Family Violence

The second determination of eligibility for maintenance relies on the behavior of the spouse that has to pay maintenance. Domestic or family violence is taken very seriously in Texas.

In fact, if you have been the victim of domestic violence, we urge you to seek professional help immediately and let our attorneys know exactly what has occurred so that we might help you and your children.

If a spouse has been convicted or received a deferred adjudication for family violence against the other spouse or children during the marriage and within two years prior to filing for divorce or while the divorce was pending, the second eligibility factor is satisfied.

This family violence factor plus an inability to meet basic needs after divorce is considered grounds for the likely award of spousal maintenance.

Other Reasons

In cases where no family violence occurs, the court has a series of additional requirements which a spouse may fulfill to be eligible. It is not necessary that the spouse requesting maintenance meet all of these criteria; one is enough.

If a spouse is unable to provide for himself or herself because of physical or mental capacity, the Texas courts will usually consider that person eligible.

If the same is true for a child under the care of the spouse requesting maintenance and the spouse cannot earn enough because of care-taking responsibilities, that is also usually considered an eligible situation.

There is only one factor in which length of marriage matters. If the spouses have been married ten years and the requesting spouse doesn’t have the ability to earn to meet basic needs, the court will consider the duration of marriage a favorable eligibility factor. The assumption is that ten years is long enough for one partner to have reasonably relied on another’s wage and fallen behind in the job market considerably.

If you believe you have an eligible situation and need assistance with a petition for maintenance as part of your divorce, please contact us immediately.