Articles Posted in Spousal Support

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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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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In a Texas divorce, the court may award spousal maintenance if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs and has insufficient earning capability to support herself or himself.  A Texas court recently considered whether spousal maintenance was appropriate when the spouse receiving maintenance had maintained employment with the same organization for over 30 years.

The couple had been married for nearly 40 years when they divorced.  The court ordered the husband to pay $650 per month for five years or until certain specified events occurred.  She was also awarded a 100% interest in the joint and survivor’s annuity of his retirement pension.

The husband appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the spousal maintenance award.  He argued the wife’s annual salary was more than sufficient to meet her minimum reasonable needs.  He also argued she had requested the marital home and that put her in a worse financial situation.

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In a recent Texas alimony decision, an ex-husband appealed the granting of spousal maintenance to his ex-wife. The couple had married in 2005. The man sued for divorce 10 years later. The woman claimed that the formal marriage had occurred in 2005, but they had married in 1999 when she was 16. They had two kids.

Around age 16, she lived with the man and his son. She was prevented from working, and he paid all of the bills and paid for food, while she cleaned and cooked and went to parent-teacher meetings for her stepson. She did finish high school and took classes to become a surgical technologist, even though she claimed she wasn’t allowed to work outside the house. She almost finished the program but was stopped from finishing by her husband. She testified later she couldn’t go back and finish the program because students weren’t allowed to re-enter after dropping out.

Once the husband sued for divorce, she worked as a waitress and then in retail. She got under $2,000 in monthly income, and her expenses were almost twice that. She didn’t have enough money, even with child support being paid, to cover her reasonable needs. She also said she didn’t have the education necessary for a better job. She estimated that getting the education she needed while caring for two kids would take five or six years, due to clinical hours.

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In a recent Texas spousal maintenance case, a husband appealed from a final divorce decree. He claimed the court made a mistake by awarding the wife $1,500 in spousal maintenance, awarding temporary spousal support of $2,500 each month, ordering him to pay $20,000 in delinquent temporary spousal support payments, failing to issue appropriate factual and legal findings, and failing to award him property he believed was solely his separate property.

In 2014, the parties agreed in court that the husband would pay the wife $2,500 each month before the divorce as temporary alimony. The wife asked for the entry of an order reflecting that. However, the husband filed a proposed rule 11 agreement, claiming an error in calculating his income. He asked for a modification of the agreement.

Another hearing was held related to the temporary orders. There, the husband’s attorney told the court that there had been an error in the first agreement. The wife’s attorney said he understood that the husband’s income was around $5,000. The husband’s attorney claimed he’d withdrawn money from his 401K, and the monthly income of about $1,400 wouldn’t be available.

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