Going through a divorce in Texas is not easy. It can seem like you are navigating through a maze, with many decisions to make and concepts to understand.
An important concept to grasp is the difference between spousal support and spousal maintenance. While the two might sound the same, they have significant differences in their legal application.
What is spousal support?
Spousal support is an amount of money that one spouse agrees to pay to the other during separation or after the divorce. This is not court-ordered but rather a voluntary agreement between the two parties. It is typically set out in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. The purpose of spousal support is to help the lower-earning spouse maintain a lifestyle similar to the one they had during the marriage.
The amount and duration of the spousal support depend on factors like the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse and the financial needs of the spouse receiving the support.
What is spousal maintenance?
On the other hand, spousal maintenance is a legal obligation that the court orders. In Texas, the court orders spousal maintenance under specific circumstances, such as when the spouse seeking maintenance does not have sufficient property or income to provide for their reasonable needs.
The court also considers if the spouse is either disabled or is the primary caretaker of a disabled child, or lacks earning ability to provide for their minimum reasonable needs. In addition, if a spouse is a sponsored immigrant, they could request that the court order the sponsor to provide 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines until they have earned 40 credits of work history or become a U.S. citizen.
Understanding the difference between spousal support and spousal maintenance will not only guide you in making informed decisions but also help prepare you for the financial changes that come with the divorce process.