Alimony, when court-ordered, is called maintenance in Texas. Maintenance is governed by statute and can be ordered only in limited circumstances. The amount of maintenance is capped, and in most cases, so is the length of time over which it is paid. Unless a spouse tries to get a job or obtain education or training for employment during a separation and divorce, maintenance in most cases is presumed to be unwarranted.
Eligibility for Maintenance
In Texas, a spouse is eligible for maintenance when the other spouse commits a family violence crime within two years before the divorce filing or during the divorce. A spouse is also eligible for maintenance if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the party requesting support is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for minimum reasonable needs. Finally, a spouse is eligible for maintenance when she has a physical or mental disability that prevents her from working, or if a child in the spouse's custody is disabled.
Amount of Maintenance
State statute caps maintenance at $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the paying spouse's gross income, whichever is less. When deciding how much maintenance to award and how long it will last, a court considers several factors. These include the education and employment of the spouses, their physical and emotional conditions, whether either of the spouses wasted marital property, how much each spouse contributed to the marriage, how much property each spouse brought into the marriage, a spouse's contribution as a homemaker, any marital misconduct such as adultery, and any history of family violence.
How Long Maintenance Lasts
When maintenance is based upon the physical or mental disability of a spouse or a child in the spouse's custody, support payments can last indefinitely. If a court awards maintenance because of a family violence crime, payments can extend for up to five years. Otherwise, maintenance is limited to five years when the marriage lasted at least 10 years, seven years when the marriage lasted at least 20 years, and 10 years when the marriage lasted at least 30 years.
Presumption Against Maintenance
A spouse who requests support because she is unable to earn enough money to pay for minimum reasonable needs must demonstrate that inability to the court. Texas law presumes that maintenance is unwarranted unless the spouse has diligently attempted to find a job that pays enough to provide for her minimum reasonable needs. If the spouse seeking support can't find such a job, she must attempt to obtain the education or training necessary to get a good job during any period of separation and during the time the divorce is pending.