Originally published by Robert Epstein.
A court in a Texas divorce case may only order spousal maintenance if certain conditions are met. The court must then consider relevant factors in determining the duration, amount, and manner of the payments. The other spouse may challenge a maintenance award if there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of eligibility for maintenance or if the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the specific award.
In a recent case, a husband challenged a maintenance award and the property division in his divorce.
Under Tex. Fam. Code Section 8.051, a spouse may receive spousal maintenance if he or she cannot earn enough income to meet his or her “minimum reasonable needs” due to certain specified circumstances. In this instance, the applicable provision of the statute provides that a spouse may be eligible for maintenance if he or she does not have the ability to make sufficient income to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs and has been married for at least 10 years.
Maintenance is generally only available under this provision if the spouse has been diligent in trying to develop skills to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs during the separation and while the divorce case is pending, but this is a rebuttable presumption.
The husband argued the court had not made sufficient findings regarding the wife’s minimum reasonable needs to support its maintenance order. The court considered several factors and found the wife earned $76,000 per year from working full time. The court also found good cause to require the husband to pay $1,500 per month in spousal support from March 2018 to May 2021.
The appeals court found the express findings made by the court supported an implied finding the wife was eligible for a maintenance award. The appeals court also found evidence in the record supporting the implied finding. The wife had testified she needed the support to adjust to maintaining a household and improving her career. She also provided a budget showing her monthly expenses exceeded her gross-monthly income and the child support she received. The appeals court found this evidence was sufficient to show that her combined income and child support did not meet her minimum reasonable needs.
With some evidence supporting a trial court finding the wife had rebutted the presumption against maintenance, the appeals court could not find the trial court had abused its discretion.
The husband also argued the evidence did not support the amount of the award based on the statutory factors in Tex. Fam. Code Section 8.052. Under the statute, courts are to consider several factors in determining the amount and duration of a maintenance award. In this case, the trial court considered those factors.
The appeals court found evidence supporting the statutory factors. The wife had spent most of the 19-year marriage supporting the husband in his education and career. She testified she had worked part-time for several years so she could be home with the children. She had to increase her hours since the divorce case was filed. She testified she would have a hard time finding a similar position locally if she lost her current job and that her employment was limited by the geographic restriction on the children’s primary residence designation. She also testified to having a serious medical condition.
There was evidence the husband made approximately $193,000 per year. They had used their retirement to buy their first house. The appeals court noted the husband had been able to fund his accounts in the years since, but the wife had not. The wife testified regarding her lack of retirement savings, and there was evidence of an account in her name with $15,325.91.
The appeals court found there was evidence relating to the statutory factors the trial court could have based its determination on regarding the amount and duration of the maintenance payments. There was no abuse of discretion as to the amount, manner, or duration of the maintenance award.
The husband also argued the trial court abused its discretion in awarding the wife 70% of the community estate. The divorce was granted on the grounds of insupportability. The wife had spent most of the marriage caring for the children as a homemaker and supporting the husband’s pursuit of his own education and career. The appeals court noted that the wife’s job and the geographic restriction limited her ability to obtain other employment. Furthermore, most of the assets she received in the property division were not liquid. She would not have immediate access to those funds if she or the children needed them. The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in the property division.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
In this case, the appeals court found sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s order. If you are facing a divorce, an experienced Texas divorce attorney will work with you to identify the evidence to support your case. Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to schedule a consultation.