Spousal maintenance was originally intended to protect “long-term homemakers” when it was passed into law in the mid-nineties. However, Texas has since expanded the use of spousal maintenance to include spouses affected by domestic violence, and to protect spouses caring for disabled children or spouses that are disabled.
If the claim for spousal maintenance is based on a marriage that has lasted 10 years or longer, then the person requesting spousal maintenance must establish that the duration of the marriage was 10 years or longer (measured from the date of marriage to the date of trial, not the date that the petition is filed). They also must prove that the spouse requesting spousal maintenance lacks sufficient property to meet his/her minimum reasonable needs, and he/she cannot support themself because of his/her own disability, his/her child’s disability, or his/her lack of earning capacity.
It would appear that the duration of the marriage would be apparent, and it is to a certain degree when the parties to the divorce had a ceremonial marriage, however, the date of marriage may become more murky when the parties were married informally, or if the marriage was a putative marriage.
A question that many people have when they come into my office is “what does minimum reasonable needs really mean?” The Texas Family code does not provide a definition of what a person’s minimum reasonable needs are and the answer is provided through case law to a certain degree, but remains a fact-specific determination that ordinarily is established by the trial court.
To establish the spouse does not have the earning capacity to meet their minimum reasonable needs, that spouse must show that they have made diligent efforts in either seeking suitable employment or developing the necessary skills to become self-supporting. The above mentioned criterion does not mean that an employed person does not qualify for spousal maintenance.
If the court determines that a person is eligible to receive spousal maintenance, the court must also establish the duration the spousal maintenance will last, the amount of spousal maintenance to be awarded, and finally, the manner (weekly, monthly ect..) of the award.
The court must consider certain statutory factors in calculating the amount of an award for spousal maintenance, and I will briefly discuss a few factors.
In determining the amount of the award, the court must consider the financial resources of the person awarded spousal maintenance, including the person’s ability to meet their minimum reasonable needs independently of the former spouse. However, the court must also consider the obligor’s ability to meet his or her own personal needs when determining the amount of spousal maintenance to be awarded as well as considering the relative financial resources of both spouses.
On September 1, 2011, statutes relating to the amount of spousal maintenance that can be awarded, as well as the statutes relating to the duration of the award that were amended during the 2011 Texas legislative session went into effect. For more information pertaining to spousal maintenance please call my office to schedule a consultation.
Austin Divorce Lawyer
512 East 11th Street, Ste. 202
Austin, Texas 78701