Texas is different from most other states when it comes to alimony, also called maintenance. In other states, judges freely make awards that require one spouse to make payments to the other for some period of time following divorce. The law is quite different in Texas. Maintenance is the exception, rather than the rule, and few people ultimately get it.
With all that said, many people wonder: Should I even make a request? We think you should. Alimony can provide a critical financial pillar of support to men and women trying to get back on their feet after leaving a marriage. Without it, you might struggle to pay your bills or even keep a roof over your head. And you can’t receive something unless you request it first from the judge. Contact our League City spousal support lawyer to discuss this issue in more depth.
When Texas Judges Award Maintenance
Under Section 8.051 of the Texas Family Code, a judge will only award maintenance if you will have insufficient property upon divorce to pay for your “minimum reasonable needs.” Furthermore, one of the following must also be true:
- In the past two years, your spouse must have been convicted of domestic violence or received deferred adjudication, or
- You have a disability, are the full-time custodian of a disabled child, or were married for at least 10 years and can’t earn sufficient income.
In other states, you can request maintenance if you make significant contributions to your spouse’s career or if you can’t maintain the lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to. Not so in Texas. Judges are only interested in whether you can pay for your “minimum” needs. If you can’t, then they will consider your request.
Why You Should Still Ask for Alimony
So is it hopeless to request? Not really. First, we need to take a full look at your financial situation. It might be that you do not have much community property and no separate property of your own. Or you might have massive debts that eat up all your income. That means you might not be able to take care of yourself and pay minimum expenses like rent, health care, or food.
If you have a disabled child, or are disabled yourself, then you certainly should request alimony. In our experience, judges are more open-minded about alimony when disability is involved. And your child’s disability will certainly come up when considering child support, which judges usually decide at the same time as whether to make a maintenance award.
You should also request maintenance because it’s a bargaining chip in your divorce. Putting the law to the side, spouses can always agree to spousal maintenance between themselves. So long as the marital settlement agreement is reasonable, a judge will approve it.
You might include a request for maintenance in your divorce petition. During negotiations, you might agree to waive any maintenance in exchange for more community property, like retirement assets or the family home. If you never make the request in your divorce papers, then your spouse (and their lawyer) don’t have to even consider it’s a possibility during negotiations. Unless you are independently wealthy, it’s not a bad idea to make the request for maintenance.
Strategize with Your Attorney
If you want to seek maintenance, then there are certain steps you should take in the runup to divorce. For example, section 8.053 says that it’s a rebuttable presumption that you aren’t entitled to maintenance unless you diligently tried to earn adequate income or developed skills during your separation.
In plain English, this means a judge will assume you shouldn’t get maintenance unless you’ve been trying to earn money or get training so you can land a job. You can push back (“rebut”) this assumption, but it’s hard.
The better bet is to try to get a job or jump start your education in the runup to divorce. This is one reason to meet with a lawyer whenever you first consider divorce. There are steps to take that improve your chances of getting the money you deserve—all it takes is some planning.
Should You Request Alimony? Let’s Talk!
Tad Nelson & Associates has handled many divorces in League City and Galveston. We are eager to help in any way we can. If you want to discuss maintenance or any other issue like child custody, please contact our law firm. We will provide you with targeted advice based on the most up-to-date knowledge of Texas family law. All you need to do is call us.