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Diligence and Spousal Maintenance in Texas Divorces

In a Texas divorce, the court may award spousal maintenance if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs and has insufficient earning capability to support herself or himself.  A Texas court recently considered whether spousal maintenance was appropriate when the spouse receiving maintenance had maintained employment with the same organization for over 30 years.

The couple had been married for nearly 40 years when they divorced.  The court ordered the husband to pay $650 per month for five years or until certain specified events occurred.  She was also awarded a 100% interest in the joint and survivor’s annuity of his retirement pension.

The husband appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the spousal maintenance award.  He argued the wife’s annual salary was more than sufficient to meet her minimum reasonable needs.  He also argued she had requested the marital home and that put her in a worse financial situation.

The wife had worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety for 31 years.  She was eligible to retire but did not know when she would do so.  She testified as to her monthly pay and her expenses if the court awarded her the marital home.  She would have a monthly shortfall of more than $600.  She also testified that the marital home was cheaper than some other housing she had looked at.  The husband did not challenge the award of the home to the wife or present evidence that there was cheaper housing available to her.  The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s consideration of the marital home costs in determining the wife’s minimum reasonable needs and finding she did not have sufficient earning capacity to provide for them.

The husband also argued the wife did not show she had exercised diligence in developing necessary skills or earning sufficient income.  He argued she had not presented evidence she tried to obtain a higher income or more hours.

The appeals court noted there is a rebuttable presumption maintenance is not appropriate unless the spouse has exercised diligence to earn sufficient income or develop necessary skills to provide for their minimum reasonable needs during separation and the pending divorce proceedings.    The court noted the wife worked full time for the same agency for 31 years.  She had no plans to retire, even though she was eligible.  The husband did not provide any legal authority supporting his position that evidence of steady full-time employment for ove 30 years was insufficient to show the exercise of diligence in earning sufficient income to overcome the presumption.  The appeals court found the court was within its discretion to find the wife did not have the present capacity to earn sufficient income to provide for her minimum reasonable needs.  The appeals court affirmed the spousal maintenance award.

The appeals court reversed the award of 100% of the husband’s joint and survivor’s annuity to the wife, finding any increase in benefits accruing after the divorce were the husband’s separate property and not subject to division.

Spousal maintenance is not always appropriate, but in some cases it can be necessary.  If you are facing divorce, the experienced Texas divorce attorneys  at McClure Law Group can help you.  Call us at 214.692.8200 to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Proving Disability for Texas Spousal Maintenance

Factors for Spousal Maintenance Award in Texas