When it first took effect in 1997, many practitioners believed that the limited spousal support law would be gradually expanded over time until there was a presumption in favor of long-term alimony in Texas. But the law has been significantly expanded only once – in 2013 – and given the current political climate, it may not be expanded again. At the very least, it seems like spousal maintenance will never reach the level that many advocates hoped it would.
In many states, most notably Florida, there is an intense debate regarding the nature of alimony and its place in modern divorces. Texas lawmakers have embraced a system whereby needy spouses have extra cash available, but the payments are not designed to equalize the standard of living between the ex-spouses.
Section 8.053 contains a rebuttable presumption against spousal maintenance. To overcome that presumption, the requesting spouse must make a diligent effort to:
- Earn sufficient income to meet their “minimum reasonable needs,” or
- Develop sufficient skills to provide for their “minimum reasonable needs.”
The presumption can also be overcome if the requesting spouse is disabled or has custody of a disabled child.
Once there is a sufficient amount of evidence in the record, the judge may award maintenance for the absolute minimum amount of time necessary. For example, assume that Wife has limited job skills and intends to enroll in a six-month program at a local technical college. In that case, the judge may award maintenance for six months.
Amount and Duration of Payments
Once legal eligibility for alimony is established, the judge may consider a number of factors to determine the specifics, including:
- Comparative Economic Status: This factor essentially balances the obligor spouse’s ability to pay with the obligee spouse’s need.
- Future Economic Status: For example, if one spouse is considerably older than the other, that spouse has less future income-earning potential.
- Child Support Obligation: A large monthly payment impairs the obligor spouse’s ability to pay spousal maintenance.
- Noneconomic Contributions: In this context, a full-time caregiver is given equal weight with a full-time wage earner.
- Fault in the Breakup of the Marriage: The statute specifically mentions adultery and cruel treatment.
The judge may also consider dissipation (waste) of community assets and the separate property of each spouse.
Payments are capped at the lesser of $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the obligor spouse’s gross monthly income. There is also a duration cap of five years (for marriages that lasted fewer than two decades), seven years (20 to 30 year marriage), or ten years (more than 30 years).
Limited alimony is available in Texas. For a free consultation with an aggressive McKinney family law attorney, contact the Law Office of Bryan D. Perkins today. The sooner you call, the sooner we can stand up for your legal and financial rights.