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When Is Spousal Maintenance Awarded in Texas?

Dec. 1, 2020

In most married couples, one spouse earns more than the other does. Sometimes, this difference is small, yet there may be significant disparity between you and your spouse’s incomes. If you two are divorcing, you may wonder whether spousal maintenance will be a factor in your marital separation agreement. The threshold for paying or receiving it, though, is higher in Texas than in most other states.

How Spousal Maintenance Works in Texas

In Texas, the court will only make an award of spousal maintenance if you or your spouse earns insufficient income to support yourself. Yet, even for this to happen, one of two factors must also be present. The first is if the payer of maintenance, whether you or your spouse, received a conviction for a family violence offense against the recipient or their child. To warrant maintenance, though, this must have happened no more than two years before you or your spouse filed for divorce. Or, it must have happened while your divorce was pending.

The second factor that could warrant spousal maintenance is if your circumstances include one of the following:

  • You or your spouse have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from working

  • You or your spouse’s childcare responsibilities make you unable to work

  • Your marriage lasted for 10 or more years

How Value and Duration Are Determined

Even if spousal maintenance ends up being a factor in your divorce, the court will place a cap on the value of your award. In Texas, monthly maintenance payments must not exceed $5,000 or 20% of the payer’s income – whichever is the lesser of the two.

The duration of your spousal maintenance award will depend on the court’s reason for awarding it. Generally, it will last:

  • No more than five years in cases of family violence

  • No more than five years if you were married between 10 and 19 years

  • No more than seven years if you were married between 20 and 29 years

  • No more than 10 years if you were married for 30 or more years

  • Indefinitely if you or your spouse’s earning ability is limited due to a disability

  • Indefinitely if you or your spouse’s earning ability is limited due to caring for a child with a disability

Texas courts are often wary of awarding significant spousal maintenance in divorce cases. Yet, it may be a factor in yours if your circumstances warrant it. Whether you will pay or receive it, a family law attorney can help you understand its potential effects on your finances.