There are a few types of financial relief options a spouse has during and
after divorce to facilitate their transition to a new normal. One such
option is spousal maintenance, often paid by one spouse to another to
help them become self-supporting. To better understand Texas’ spousal
maintenance laws, it is important to consider how long payments will last,
whether you are the paying or supported spouse. Keep reading today’s
blog to learn about what factors may determine the duration of spousal
Who Is Eligible for Spousal Maintenance in Texas?
In Texas, either spouse can request
maintenance during the divorce process.
The main guiding principle for awarding such support, though, is if: (1)
the requesting spouse does not have enough property at the time of the
divorce to provide for their basic needs, and (2) at least one of the
following circumstances exist:
- the supporting spouse was convicted of domestic violence against the other
spouse or their children within 2 years of the divorce filing or while
the divorce is pending;
- the spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn enough income to be self-supporting
due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability;
- the couple has been married for at least 10 years, and the dependent spouse
lacks the ability to earn income to meet basic needs; or
- the supported spouse is a custodial parent of a child who requires substantial
care or personal supervision due to a mental or physical disability which
prevents the parent from working and earning an income.
Note that unlike other states, Texas has a cap for the amount of support
the court can order. Maintenance awards may not be more than $5,000 per
month or more than 20% of the spouse’s average monthly gross income,
whichever is less. It is also common for a judge to order periodic monthly
payments of spousal maintenance by issuing an income withholding order
that directs the paying spouse’s employer to deduct maintenance
payments from the paycheck and forward it to the proper court agency for
the supported spouse.
How Long Do Payments Last?
Payments can be short-term or long-term, depending on the circumstances
of the spouses. More specifically, if the judge orders a spouse to pay support because of the other’s
physical or mental disability or their duties as a custodial parent of
an infant or young child of the marriage, support can continue for as
long as the conditions exist. The court will likely order a periodic review of the support order in
the future to reexamine the existence of these conditions.
For all other maintenance orders, support will last for the following durations:
- 5 years if the spouses were married less than 10 years and the supporting
spouse was convicted of domestic violence;
- 5 years if the spouses were married 10-20 years;
- 7 years if the spouses were married for 20-30 years; and
- 10 years if the spouses were married for at least 30 or more years.
In most cases other than when a spouse has a physical or mental disability
or is a custodial parent, Texas judges will seek to order support for
the shortest duration necessary for the supported spouse to become self-supporting.
Note that maintenance orders may end before the established termination dates if:
- either party dies;
- the supported spouse remarries;
- the supported spouse cohabitates with a third-party while in a dating or
romantic relationship; or
- upon a review or future order of the court.
Questions? Contact the Law Office of Kathryn Marteeny.
Whether you are a supporting spouse or supported spouse, it is important
to know how long payments will be required. The main goal of spousal maintenance
is to help a less self-supporting spouse adjust to life after divorce,
which may require some financial support to help them gain employment,
support a shared child, or pay off certain marital bills. The duration
of spousal maintenance in Texas depends primarily on the length of the
marriage and special factors such as the presence of domestic violence
or the physical or mental disability of the other spouse or child of the marriage.
If you have further questions about spousal maintenance in Houston, contact the Law Office of Kathryn Marteeny