In Texas spousal maintenance cases, the trial court has wide discretion in dividing the estate. The court may divide the property unequally if there is a reasonable basis to do so. It may consider a number of factors, including the capacities and abilities of each spouse, benefits the spouse who was not at fault would have received if the marriage had continued, their relative physical conditions, and their relative financial conditions and obligations. Although the trial court may also consider fault in causing the divorce, it does not have to do so and cannot use property division to punish the at-fault spouse.
A recent case examined whether an equal division of property and an award of spousal maintenance were proper. The couple married in 1999 and had two children together. During the marriage, the husband developed a substance abuse problem and was incarcerated for six years. In 2014, he was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and was sentenced to 17 years. The wife filed for divorce on the day of his conviction.
The husband had previously received a $900,000 settlement for personal injuries, netting him more than $400,000. About $70,000 was used to pay household expenses and community debts, including mortgage payments and getting a car that was ultimately awarded to the wife. At the time of the last divorce hearing, he still had more than $300,000 held in his attorney’s trust account.