Alimony & Spousal Maintenance in Texas
Support After Divorce
Under Texas law, there are certain circumstances where you or your spouse would qualify for spousal maintenance. Further, parties in a divorce may agree to the payment of contractual alimony. We can give you clear guidance on how the law applies to your case and the difference between court ordered spousal maintenance and contractual alimony.
When a marriage breaks down, one spouse may be financially less able than the other to move on with life independently, and in certain cases, a court may award maintenance to that spouse. To be eligible for court ordered spousal support, a court must determine that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her minimum reasonable needs and:
- Is unable to work because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability; or
- Has custody of a child who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability; or
- Has been married for at least 10 years and lacks the ability to earn enough income to meet his/her minimum reasonable needs; or
- Family violence has occurred within 2 years before the suit for divorce was filed or while the suit is pending.
Alimony and Spousal Maintenance
Alimony refers to a contractual agreement parties can make for one spouse to pay the other spouse support for a specified period of time. When parties agree to the payment of contractual alimony, it is important that the terms of the agreement are specific and defined. The payment of alimony may be a good tool for settling a case when one spouse will need financial assistance and time to get back on his or her feet following a divorce.
Spousal maintenance ordered by the court is a temporary rehabilitative measure for a divorced spouse whose ability to self-support is lacking or has deteriorated over time and whose assets are insufficient to support their reasonable minimum needs.
Temporary Spousal Support
A temporary support order is a means of protecting the welfare of a financially dependent spouse between the time the petition is filed and the divorce is granted. While a divorce action is pending, the court may issue an order directed to one or both of the parties requiring payments to be made for the support of either spouse.
How is Maintenance Determined?
The duration of spousal maintenance depends on how long the parties were married and/or the reason why it is being awarded.
Typically, the parties must be married for at least 10 years for a spouse to be eligible for spousal maintenance. However, if family violence has occurred, the court could award spousal maintenance for up to 5 years even if the parties have been married for less than 10 years.
Except in situations where a spouse or child of the marriage is disabled, the length of time the court may order maintenance is determined as follows:
- 5 years if the parties were married for 10-20 years
- 7 years if the parties were married for 20-30 years
- 10 years if the parties were married for 30 years or more
The duration of a maintenance order is limited to the shortest reasonable period that allows the spouse seeking maintenance to meet his/her minimum reasonable needs by obtaining appropriate employment or developing an appropriate skill. The exception is if the spouses’ employment is substantially or totally diminished because of:
- physical or mental disability of the spouse or a child of the marriage;
- duties as the custodian of an infant or young child; or
- another compelling impediment to gainful employment.
The court may not order maintenance that requires a spouse to pay more than $5,000/month or 20% of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever is less.
Once a court determines that a spouse is eligible to receive maintenance, there are numerous factors it must then consider in determining the nature, amount, duration and manner of payments to the receiving spouse.
When Does Alimony End?
In most divorce decisions, receiving alimony is conditional. If a certain condition occurs, the alimony payments will end, even if a spouse is supposed to receive it for a longer period of time. While a divorcing couple can agree to any terminating condition that seems just and fair in their divorce, Texas statute controls alimony when it is awarded by the Court after trial.
Under Texas law, alimony ends when the person receiving alimony gets remarried.
Under Texas law, alimony also ends if the court determines that the person receiving alimony is cohabitating (living with) their boyfriend or girlfriend. This makes sense if you think about it – the person receiving financial support from an ex-spouse shouldn’t get a free pass around the terminating event by choosing to live with their next partner instead of getting formally married to him or her.
What Constitutes as Cohabitation
Terminating alimony because of cohabitation requires the court to find that the receiving party “cohabits with another person with whom he or she has a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis.” Going on a short vacation together, or sharing a hotel room for a few nights, or having someone occasionally spend the night when that person has his or her own residence is not “cohabitation.”
Our Experienced Attorneys
If you feel any of these situations apply to you, or if you have further questions about spousal maintenance or alimony, the experienced and skilled family law attorneys at Goranson Bain Ausley are here to guide you through the legal process. Our qualified divorce lawyers will advise you how likely it is that you or your spouse will qualify for spousal maintenance. We will also help you understand how courts decide the amount and duration of spousal maintenance payments. Contact us at our offices in Dallas, Austin or Plano for more information on legal support with spousal maintenance in Texas