Texas Appeals Court Finds Insufficient Evidence for Spousal Support

iStock-483611874-300x200Texas spousal maintenance is allowed only in limited circumstances, including when the spouse pursuing maintenance is not able to earn sufficient income to provide for their own minimum reasonable needs due to a disability, is not able to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs after at least ten years marriage, or is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs because they are the custodian to the parties’ child who has a disability.  The court may also award maintenance in certain situations involving domestic violence.  TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 8.051.

Husband Ordered to Pay Spousal Maintenance

In a recent case, a husband appealed an order awarding spousal maintenance to the wife, arguing there was insufficient evidence supporting it.  The parties had been married nearly 13 years when the wife petitioned for divorce.  She sought spousal maintenance for a reasonable period after the divorce and the court awarded support for three years.  The husband appealed.

According to the appeals court, the trial court had ordered the husband to pay $1,458.24 in monthly child support plus all the child’s insurance.    She testified she earned $1,700-$1,800 per two-week pay period working about 32 hours per week.  She said she previously earned $35 to $36 per hour at other jobs. She said her employer was only open four days per week so she was not able to increase her hours.

The wife received an IRA worth about $21,684.30 and half of another account.  She also got $41,568.39 from the sale of the parties’ home. She paid $1650 in monthly rent and she also had utilities, insurance, and food expenses.  The car she received in the divorce came with an $850 monthly payment that was anticipated to be paid off by the end of 2021.  The wife had $60,000 in student loans, which were deferred at the time of trial. She testified she wanted to go back to school for a nurse practitioner degree, which would take about three years.  She also said she needed to establish credit.

She testified she lived with her children: the parties’ 12 year-old, and her 17- and 20-year-old children from a previous relationship.  She received $400 in monthly child support for the 17-year-old, but the 20-year-old did not pay anything toward utilities or rent.

The wife testified she had worked during the marriage.  She testified she asked for support to help build up her credit and rebuild herself. The husband testified he thought she could support herself because she had been employed throughout the marriage.

In addition to the spousal maintenance, the wife was awarded at least $63,252.69 in assets.  Her monthly income totaled approximately $5,649.90, including child support for both children.  She identified about $2,500 in monthly expenses.

The trial court ultimately ordered the husband to pay $2,000 per month in spousal maintenance for 12 months, followed by $1,200 per month for 24 months.

Appeals Court Notes Deficiencies in Wife’s Evidence

The appeals court noted the wife was awarded assets that exceeded her $60,000 student loan debt.  Her monthly income exceeded her expenses, even without including the amount she received for her 17-year-old.  The wife had offered no evidence regarding the amounts of other monthly expenses, such as utilities and food, and she had failed to show she was not able to pay those expenses.

When parties were married for more than 10 years, spousal maintenance is intended to be temporary support for a spouse who does not have sufficient property to meet their minimum reasonable needs and who is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for such needs.  The court noted maintenance is not intended to allow the spouse to maintain they lifestyle to which they were accustomed.  The wife worked as a nurse throughout the marriage and had not shown she was unable to provide for her minimum reasonable needs.

Appeals Court Reverses Trial Court’s Judgment

The appeals court concluded the trial court abused its discretion when it awarded spousal maintenance to the wife under the circumstances.  The appeals court modified the divorce decree to remove the spousal maintenance awards and affirmed the modified judgment.

Seeking or Defending Against Spousal Maintenance? Call McClure Law Group Today

A spouse seeking spousal support must generally show that they are unable to meet their own minimum reasonable needs.  Whether you are seeking or opposing support, a skilled Texas spousal maintenance attorney can help you present a strong case.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up a consultation.


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