Although they sound the same and are sometimes used interchangeably, the terms spousal support and spousal maintenance refer to two very different types of relief that may be available in your divorce proceeding.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is a temporary payment made by one spouse (the "payor-spouse") to, or on behalf of, the other spouse (the "recipient-spouse"). The payments are temporary because they are only available while a divorce suit is pending, during temporary orders. Types of payments that can be ordered on behalf of the recipient-spouse include, but are not limited to: mortgage payments, car notes, electric/utility bills, etc.

To successfully make a claim for temporary spousal support, the recipient-spouse must show that he/she is unable to pay his/her necessary expenses, and the payor-spouse can afford to pay the amount sought. The amount awarded for temporary support is meant only to pay the recipient-spouse's necessary expenses; it is not intended to be an equal division of monthly income, nor is it intended to equalize the standard of living of the spouses.

You may qualify for temporary spousal support during your divorce. Call the law firm of ALSTON & ENGELHAUPT, PLLC today to speak with an experienced divorce attorney.

Spousal Maintenance

Spousal Maintenance is short-term support paid periodically from the payor-spouse to the recipient-spouse. It is intended to provide limited rehabilitative support during a defined period after the divorce is finalized. It is designed to protect (and assist) long-term homemakers, disabled spouses, spouses who care for disabled children, and spouses affected by family violence.

Limits of Spousal Maintenance: Duration and Amoun

Spousal maintenance is limited; the Texas Family Code sets caps on the duration and amount of the payments.

The maximum term for spousal maintenance is for 3 years following the date of your divorce decree (some exceptions apply). When setting the term for spousal maintenance, the court is required to limit the duration of a maintenance order to the shortest reasonable period that allows the recipient-spouse to meet his or her reasonable needs. The shortest reasonable period may be less than three years, thus an order for spousal maintenance could mandate payments for 6 months, 1 year, etc.

The monetary limit on spousal maintenance is the lesser of $2,500 per month or 20% of the payor-spouse's gross monthly income. In calculating the appropriate amount for spousal maintenance payments, the court will first determine the recipient-spouse's reasonable needs (typically his or her monthly expenses), and then subtract this amount from the recipient-spouse's monthly income. The difference between the two serves as an upper limit for any spousal maintenance award.

The court must also consider the following factors in determining the amount of the spousal maintenance payment it will award:

  • The financial resources of the spouse requesting maintenance payments;
  • The financial resources of the spouse that would have to make maintenance payments;
  • The relative financial resources of the spouses;
  • One spouse's contributions to the other spouse's earning power;
  • Separate property brought into the marriage;
  • Duration of the marriage;
  • The requesting spouse's personal history i.e., age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition);
  • The spouses' education and employment skills;
  • Fraud on the community;
  • Homemaker contributions;
  • The requesting spouse's marital misconduct (if any); and
  • The requesting spouse's efforts to seek employment counseling.

Are you Eligible for Spousal Maintenance?
In order to receive spousal maintenance, you must meet the statutory requirements based on a 10-year marriage or family violence.
Under the 10-year marriage option, the following requirements must be met:

  • You've been married at least 10 years;
  • You have insufficient property to meet your minimum reasonable needs;
  • You cannot support yourself because of disability, a child's disability, or lack of earning power.

Under the Family Violence option, the spouse requesting maintenance payments must establish that the other spouse was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that constituted an act of family violence within the two years before the divorce suit was filed, or during the pendency of the divorce.

If you think you qualify for spousal maintenance, or would like to learn more on the topic, contact the law firm of ALSTON & ENGALHAUPT, PLLC to speak with an attorney today.

For more information about family law in Fort Bend County, Harris County, Galveston County and Brazoria County including Sugar Land, Missouri City, Stafford, Richmond, Rosenberg, Fresno, Clear Lake, League City, Webster, Friendswood, Pearland, and the Houston metropolitan area, or if you require a family law attorney, please contact us.