In the event of a divorce, it is extremely common for each of the parties to have differing income-earning abilities during and after the divorce process. Often, one of the divorcing parents had stopped working full time during a marriage in order to care for children or otherwise maintain a household. In order to compensate for the value of the labor that a stay-at-home spouse has contributed to marriage and household, Texas courts regularly award spousal maintenance (commonly referred to as alimony) in order to equalize the parties’ standards of living and income-earning abilities. The Court of Appeals of Texas recently affirmed a family court’s ruling that granted alimony to the ex-wife while rejecting the ex-husband’s arguments that the alimony award was improper.
The parties from the recently decided case were married in 2007 and separated in 2020. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the husband had at least 2 affairs and fathered a child with another woman during the marriage to his wife. As part of her divorce claim, the woman requested both temporary spousal support to help her while the divorce moved along, as well as a spousal maintenance award to assist her with supporting herself and developing employment skills which she had put on hold during the marriage. In order to award long-term spousal support, Texas law requires parties to have been married for at least 10 years and also requires a finding that the beneficiary spouse lacked adequate property and income-earning ability to provide for their basic needs.
At trial, the court accepted the evidence as to the parties earning abilities and assets and divided the marital estate equitably. In addition to the division of property, the court awarded the woman spousal support in the amount of $250 per month for a period of eighteen months. Although the woman testified that she was able to pay her bills without the support, the court found that this admission was made only because the woman was on federal food stamp assistance and needed to borrow money from her family several times to make ends meet. Based on the woman’s testimony that she was able to pay her bills, the man appealed the trial court’s alimony award, arguing that she had adequate property and income-earning ability to survive without the support.
On appeal, the high court deferred to the trial court’s judgment, finding that there was adequate evidence to determine that the woman was unable to support herself without a spousal support award. The Court found that the value of the government benefits received by the woman, as well as any funds she received from her family for assistance, were rightfully not included in her income-earning calculus. As a result of the appellate court ruling, the spousal support award in favor of the woman will remain in effect.
Are You Navigating a Dispute over Spousal Maintenance?
If you or a loved one is considering a divorce, it is important to understand the factors considered by a court in awarding spousal support or alimony. If a divorcing party is unable to support themselves or afford a lawyer during a divorce, courts are entitled to award temporary support through the pendency of the action. If the right requirements are met, a substantial long-term spousal support award may also be appropriate. If you have questions about spousal support or another divorce issue, the experienced Dallas County family law attorneys with Guest and Gray can help you decide the best course of action. We understand the factors that courts consider when ordering spousal support, and we know how to argue successfully in favor of or against spousal support requests. If you have any questions about a family law issue, contact us to discuss your case. Contact our offices at 972-564-4644 and schedule a free consultation today.