Overcoming the Presumption Against Alimony in a Galveston Divorce Case

By January 12, 2018Divorce

Spousal maintenance–aka alimony–is not as common as you might think in Galveston divorce cases. In fact, Texas law contains a presumption against the award of spousal maintenance by either side in a divorce. But this presumption can be overcome in a number of ways. For instance, if the couple has been married for at least 10 years, a spouse may receive alimony if he or she can prove they lack “the ability to earn sufficient income” for their “minimum reasonable needs.”

Wife Receives Spousal Maintenance Due to Limited Job Training

So how does a spouse go about proving they lack the “ability” to earn enough income? A recent divorce case from nearby Harris County offers a helpful illustration. In this case, a husband sued his wife for divorce. The couple had been legally married for about 10 years, and they had lived together as husband and wife for a longer period–in fact, the wife was just 16 when the relationship began.

According to the wife’s testimony at the couple’s divorce trial, her husband prohibited her from working outside the home during the marriage. After divorce proceedings began, the wife found work as a waitress, and later as a retail clerk. She testified her monthly income was insufficient to meet her “reasonable minimal needs.”

More to the point, the wife said her limited education–she only finished high school–prevented her from obtaining a higher paying job. While she was interested in acquiring additional training to work in the healthcare field, she said that would take at least five or six years, given she had to work full-time and support two young children. Indeed, Texas officials told her she had to maintain her current full-time job in order to retain custody of her children.

The husband testified he never prohibited his wife from working during the marriage, and that her failure to obtain additional education could be attributed to alcohol abuse. The trial judge ultimately credited the wife’s testimony and awarded her spousal support. The husband appealed.

But the Texas First District Court of Appeals affirmed the award. As the appeals court explained, the wife presented sufficient evidence to “overcome the statutory presumption against spousal maintenance.” Specifically, she “exercised diligence” in obtaining full-time work and “attempting to develop the necessary skills to provide for her minimum reasonable needs,” while acknowledging the limitations imposed by state officials.

The First District also upheld the length of the spousal maintenance award. Alimony in Texas is not for an indefinite period. By law when a couple is married between 10 and 20 years, the maximum duration of alimony that a court award is five years. That is precisely what the trial court ordered here. The husband argued that was too long. But the appeals court said five years was reasonable given it would take the wife that time to complete an educational program so she could find a better-paying job.

Do You Need Help From a Galveston Divorce Attorney?

Rebuilding your life following a divorce can be overwhelming, especially if you lack the financial means to fully support yourself and your family. An experienced Galveston divorce attorney can help you by working to make sure you obtain the most favorable financial terms in any final settlement or judgment. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston at (281) 843-9776 if you need to schedule a consultation with a lawyer today.