Articles Posted in Alimony

iStock-172302804-195x300A trial court may order Texas spousal maintenance, sometimes referred to as “spousal support” or “alimony,” if certain criteria are met pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051..  If the marriage lasted at least 10 years, a court may order spousal maintenance to a spouse who does not have sufficient property or earning ability to provide for their own minimum reasonable needs.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051(2)(B). A court may also award spousal maintenance to a spouse who does not have sufficient property and is not able to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs due to their own incapacitating disability or the disability of the parties’ child.

Husband Order to Pay Spousal Maintenance

A husband recently challenged an order requiring him to pay spousal maintenance, arguing the wife had been awarded sufficient property to meet her reasonable minimum needs. The wife petitioned for divorce after nearly thirteen years of marriage.  The trial court ordered the husband to pay $2,500 in monthly spousal support for two years and he appealed.

The marriage had lasted for more than 10 years, so the wife was eligible to pursue spousal maintenance if she did not have sufficient property or the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for her minimum reasonable needs.  The trial court had awarded her assets worth $830,871.60 and she estimated her expenses to be $6,791 per month.

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Spousal maintenance (which is commonly compared to other states’ alimony) is a payment from one spouse to another to help the other spouse meet their “minimum reasonable needs” after divorce. A Texas divorce court will determine what is considered to be a spouse’s “minimum reasonable needs,” and can take many factors into consideration when making this determination. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.001) Thus, whether a spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance is decided on a case-by-case basis.

A spouse who is seeking spousal maintenance must first demonstrate one of the following to be considered for maintenance (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051.):

  • The marriage lasted 10 or more years;

iStock-1183385986-scaledA court may order Texas spousal maintenance if the spouse requesting it is not able to earn enough to provide for their own minimum reasonable needs due to an incapacitating disability. The incapacitating disability may be either physical or mental.  Tex. Fam. Code 8.051.  A former husband recently challenged a spousal-maintenance award, arguing that the former wife had not shown her disability was “incapacitating.”

Husband Files for Divorce

The couple separated in September 2016 and the husband petitioned for divorce in 2018.  At trial, the wife testified she had fallen down the stairs in April 2016.

The wife testified she had lost her vision for several days as a result of the fall. She also experienced seizures.  She was in the hospital for several days and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury with severe memory loss.  She said she had difficulty with words and processing things.  She testified she recently started regaining her memory and taught herself to read again.  She also testified her short-term memory had gotten better than it had been.  She admitted that she could currently drive and do math with a calculator.

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iStock-1183385986-scaledTexas divorce cases can involve multiple areas of law. Contract law applies to pre-marital and post-marital agreements. Contract law may also apply to agreements the parties enter into as part of a divorce.  In a recent case, a portion of a wife’s claims for contractual alimony was barred by the contract statute of limitations.

When the parties divorced in 2012, they entered into a written agreement.  Their divorce decree included a provision for “Contractual Alimony,” with the parties agreeing that the husband would pay the wife $4,000 per month, payable on the first of the month with a five-day grace period before the payment would be considered late.  The contractual alimony was to be paid from June 2013 to May 2015. The decree further stated that the wife could accelerate the payments if the husband defaulted and failed to cure within 30 days of receiving notice of intent to accelerate.

Wife Moves to Enforce Contractual Alimony

The wife moved to enforce the alimony requirements on March 26, 2019. She alleged the husband had failed to make the payments starting in December 2013.  She asked the court to order him to pay the past due payments, interest, and fees and costs.

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As a result of his illustrious career, Dr. Dre’s net worth currently sits at a whopping $820 million – but maybe not for long. After 24 years, Dr. Dre’s wife, Nicole Young, is filing for divorce from the producer, rapper, and hip-hop icon. Reports indicate that the couple did not execute a premarital agreement prior to their 1996 marriage, which opens up Dr. Dre to significant financial exposure. In the absence of a premarital agreement, California – a community property state much like Texas – provides that property accumulated during marriage is owned by the community estate. Put simply, all of Dr. Dre’s income during the marriage, from his royalties as a solo rapper to his profits from Beats by Dre, is up for grabs. This means that Dr. Dre could see his hard-earned fortune be split in half right before his eyes in the coming months. Continue Reading ›

In a Texas divorce, if one spouse does not have sufficient property to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs and is not able to earn enough income to provide for those needs and certain other circumstances are met, the court may order spousal maintenance. Tex. Fam. Code § 8.051.  The duration of spousal maintenance is generally based on the length of the marriage, with 10 years being the greatest duration, for marriages longer than 30 years.  However, in some circumstances, the court may order maintenance for a longer duration.  When the spouse is unable to provide for their needs due to disability, the court may order maintenance for as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.  Tex. Fam. Code § 8.051.

A wife recently challenged her divorce decree, in part because of the duration of the maintenance award.  After the husband filed for divorce, the wife requested temporary spousal support and spousal maintenance after the divorce.  The husband was ultimately ordered to pay $400 per month temporary support, starting November 15, 2015.   The wife moved to enforce the order after the husband failed to start paying on time, and he began paying the following April.

At a hearing in October 2018, the wife testified she was disabled and it affected her ability to get employment.  She testified regarding her retirement, her disability benefits, and her monthly expenses.  She said she would not be able to pay for her expenses without spousal support.

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In a Texas divorce, a spouse who cannot support herself or himself because of an incapacitating disability and does not have sufficient property to meet their needs may be eligible for spousal maintenance. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051.  Spousal support is generally limited in time, but a court may order spousal maintenance indefinitely to a spouse who is disabled.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.054.  There are statutory limits to the amount of spousal maintenance a court can award.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 8.055.

A husband recently challenged an award of spousal maintenance to the wife.  He filed for divorce after the couple had been married for more than 18 years.  The wife filed a counterpetition and sought spousal maintenance.

At trial, the wife testified she owned as separate property a house she received in a previous divorce.    She expected to receive $96,000 in proceeds from its sale to put toward buying a new home.  She testified she would “barely have enough to pay for [the new] house.”

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In many cases, when a person seeks to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States, also known as a green card, they must have a sponsor who agrees to support them.  If the person is moving to the United States as a spouse of or to marry a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen, the spouse often serves as the sponsor.  The sponsor must sign a Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is a legally enforceable contract in which the sponsor agrees to use their financial resources to support the person who intends to immigrate.  After the person becomes a lawful permanent resident, the sponsor’s support obligation generally continues until one of the specified conditions is met, including the immigrant becoming a US citizen or earning 40 work quarters toward Social Security.  Divorce is not one of the conditions that relieves the sponsor of his or her support obligation.  Therefore, the support obligation may become an issue in a Texas divorce involving an immigrant who has not become a US citizen.

The support obligation was at issue in a recent case.  The wife had moved to the United States from Mexico to be with the husband in 2014. They married in June 2016.  The husband signed an I-864 affidavit of support in August 2016, agreeing to provide the wife with any support needed to keep her income level at at least 125% of the federal poverty level.  The wife later became a lawful permanent resident.

The husband filed for divorce in July 2017.  In her counterpetition, the wife asked the court to order the husband “to support her under his federal contractual obligation” based on the form I-864.  The trial court heard evidence and granted the divorce, but took the issue of the husband’s obligation pursuant to the I-864 affidavit under advisement to review the case law submitted by the parties.  The court held multiple hearings on the issue.

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A court in a Texas divorce case may only order spousal maintenance if certain conditions are met.  The court must then consider relevant factors in determining the duration, amount, and manner of the payments.  The other spouse may challenge a maintenance award if there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of eligibility for maintenance or if the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the specific award.

In a recent case, a husband challenged a maintenance award and the property division in his divorce.

Under Tex. Fam. Code Section 8.051, a spouse may receive spousal maintenance if he or she cannot earn enough income to meet his or her “minimum reasonable needs” due to certain specified circumstances.  In this instance, the applicable provision of the statute provides that a spouse may be eligible for maintenance if he or she does not have the ability to make sufficient income to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs and has been married for at least 10 years.

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Courts may award spousal maintenance to provide temporary and rehabilitative support to a spouse who meets specific statutory requirements in a Texas divorce case.  Generally, the spouse requesting maintenance cannot have enough property to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs and must meet other statutory requirements.  A spouse seeking maintenance must overcome a presumption that spousal maintenance is not warranted.  This presumption can be rebutted if the spouse requesting maintenance shows that he or she was diligent in trying to earn enough income to provide for his or her reasonable needs or in developing the necessary skills to provide for those needs during separation and while the case was pending.  The spouse seeking maintenance must make this showing even if the other spouse does not participate in the case.

A former husband recently challenged the spousal maintenance awarded to his wife following a trial he did not participate in.  The couple had been married nearly 15 years when they separated.  The wife filed for divorce about a year later.  The husband was served, but failed to answer or appear.  The trial court held a short hearing and granted the divorce.  The court also awarded the wife the family home, retirement from her husband’s income, retirement in her own name and two vehicles. The court also ordered the husband to pay $500 spousal maintenance per month.

The husband appealed the spousal maintenance award.  He argued the trial court abused its discretion because there was insufficient evidence that the wife lacked the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for her minimum reasonable needs.  He also argued there was no evidence to rebut the presumption against awarding maintenance.  Additionally, the award was made in perpetuity.  Finally, he argued the award was greater than the statutory maximum.

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