Generally speaking, the court can order spousal support when there is a need for same based on the respective incomes and finances of each party. The court is also required to evaluate whether the higher earning spouse has the ability to pay support. If one person is a stay at home spouse and the other is the working spouse, this is a common instance where support is appropriate. Because the court evaluates need and ability to pay, a difference in income is not necessarily the only thing that matters. If the difference in monthly wages or income is not significantly disparate, the court may not order support even though the incomes are not precisely equal in each household.
The most common way to determine if there should be spousal support is typically done through a court approved calculator to determine a “guideline” amount during the divorce process. After divorce, the court sets support based on a number of factors about the marital standard of living in the Family Code. While the court generally utilizes the calculator to determine support, it does have the discretion to deviate based on the specific circumstances of a case (for example, if someone deliberately quits their job and then asks for support, or if there is not truly a need for support). In order to obtain spousal support, a party must file a request for order with the court, and explain why support is needed to meet his or her on-going expenses. The court will require Income and Expense Declarations, and paystubs, from each party to fully analyze the financial circumstances. Once reviewed, support is typically paid on a monthly or semi-monthly basis, and can be paid from the spouse directly, or, garnished from his or her wages.