All couples experience stress, and one of the top stressors in a marriage is finances. It’s no surprise then that when a spouse is contemplating a divorce, a key concern is, if I get divorced, will I be able to get support. Spousal maintenance, support and alimony are terms that people use interchangeably to refer to a person’s legal obligation to provide financial assistance to a former spouse upon divorce. However, there’s a subtle difference between spousal maintenance and alimony.
Texas law recognizes the importance of respecting a person’s right to enter a contract with another. As a result, a married couple may sign a contract with a provision concerning alimony, as in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or divorce agreement.
Can I receive alimony?
A court will honor a written agreement between the spouses as if it were any other contract. The terms providing for alimony must be specific and definite. If a spouse agreed to pay a certain amount of money per month to the other spouse for a set period, then the recipient spouse can potentially sue for breach if she/he is not paid under the terms in the contract.
Receiving alimony in this manner fosters a cooperative spirit between the spouses. However, the ability to modify or enforce the contract is limited since it was agreed upon between the spouses outside the purview of the court.
If you are contemplating a divorce and entered into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with your spouse, consider a consultation with our attorneys to review your situation.
Can I receive maintenance?
A court can order maintenance for either spouse if the spouse seeking it will lack sufficient assets to provide for minimum reasonable needs. Generally, maintenance will not be awarded unless the spouse seeking it meets a statutory basis, the most common being a marriage that has lasted for 10 years or more. The spouse requesting support must also prove that she/he lacks the ability to earn enough income to provide for minimum reasonable needs, and that she/he made diligent efforts to earn sufficient income or develop the necessary skills to provide for one’s minimum reasonable needs. If this is proven by the requesting spouse, then the amount received will not exceed the lesser of $5,000 or 20% of the other spouse’s average monthly gross income.
How long will maintenance last?
In Texas, the duration of a maintenance award will depend on the length of the marriage, but courts are required to limit it to the shortest reasonable period that allows a party to earn sufficient income to provide for her/his reasonable needs. The caps for the duration of a spousal maintenance order will depend on the length of the marriage, the basis of the order, or a combination. Spousal maintenance can last for up to 60 months for a marriage over ten years; 84 months for a marriage over twenty years; and 120 months for a marriage over thirty years. A spousal maintenance order should state that the obligation terminates if either spouse dies or if the recipient spouse remarries.