If you are planning to file for divorce, or if you are in the early stages of a divorce case, you likely have questions about alimony in Texas.
Here are some of the common questions that people ask:
When is Texas alimony awarded, and how long does it last?
How much should a spouse expect to pay in alimony or maintenance, and how much should a spouse expect to receive?
How do TX alimony laws affect paying spouses differently than receiving spouses?
All of these inquiries are common in Texas divorce cases, and we want to provide you with more information about alimony in Texas.
How is Alimony Awarded in Texas?
Under the Texas Family Code, alimony—also known as maintenance—is only awarded in certain situations.
Whether you are intending to seek alimony or are wondering if you will be ordered to pay alimony, it is important to know that there are only a handful of ways in which a spouse can be eligible for maintenance in Texas.
Here are the eligibility requirements for alimony:
- Family violence: Spouse who would be required to pay alimony was convicted of or received a deferred adjudication for a family violence crime, and that crime was committed during the marriage either against the spouse or the spouse’s child, and it occurred within the two years prior to the divorce filing; or
- Long-term marriage and financial hardship: Spouse seeking alimony has been married to the spouse who would be required to pay alimony for at least 10 years and lacks the ability to earn enough income to cover minimum reasonable needs;
- Disability: Spouse seeking alimony cannot earn a sufficient income to provide for his or her reasonable needs due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability; or
- Custodian of child with disability: Spouse seeking alimony is the custodian of a child from the marriage (whether the child is a minor or an adult) who needs substantial care and personal supervision due to a physical or mental disability, and caring for that child prevents the spouse from earning a sufficient income to cover his or her minimum reasonable needs.
Even when the second condition exists to make a spouse eligible for alimony, that spouse must prove to the court that she or he has made a reasonable attempt to find work or to earn a minimum income.
To be clear, in a Texas divorce, a spouse will not simply be awarded alimony because that spouse had been a stay-at-home parent, or because the spouse has been out of the workforce for an extended time due to other marital duties.
Texas is different from other states that award alimony or maintenance in many cases.
Factors for Determining the Amount and Duration of Alimony in Texas
Once a Texas court determines that a spouse is eligible to receive alimony, the court will examine many factors to determine the appropriate nature, amount and duration of alimony.
Those statutory factors include the following:
- Spouse’s ability to provide for minimum reasonable needs independently, considering the spouse’s financial resources at the time of divorce;
- Employment and education skills of the spouses;
- Time necessary for the spouse seeking compensation to acquire sufficient education or training to be able to meet his or her own minimum reasonable needs;
- Length of the marriage;
- Age of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- Employment history and earning ability of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- Emotional and physical condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- Impact of child support on a spouse’s ability to pay maintenance;
- Either spouse’s excessive or abnormal spending, or hiding of marital property in the divorce;
- Contributions spouse seeking alimony has made to the other spouse’s education, training, or increased earning power;
- Property that either spouse brought to the marriage;
- Contribution of a spouse as a homemaker;
- Marital misconduct (which may include adultery or cruel treatment); and
- Any past family violence.
Limited Duration of TX Alimony
The Texas Family Code requires courts to limit an alimony award to the shortest reasonable duration of alimony that will allow the spouse seeking maintenance to be able to provide for their own minimum sufficient income.
Depending upon the specific facts of the case, alimony awards typically last for:
- No more than 5 years if the spouses were married for fewer than 10 years, and in some cases if the spouses were married for a period lasting between 10 and 20 years;
- No more than 7 years if the spouses were married for a period lasting between 20 and 30 years; and
- No more than 10 years if the spouses were married for a period that lasted more than 30 years.
Amount of a Texas Alimony Award
How much can a spouse expect to pay or receive when appropriate alimony is determined?
In general, the Texas Family Code states that courts cannot order more alimony than the following each month:
- $5,000; or
- 20 percent of the spouse’s average monthly gross income.
The court will award the lesser of the two above amounts.
For example, if a payor spouse earns $5,000 gross each month, that spouse would pay 20 percent of that gross income, or $1,000 per month, to the receiving spouse.
Changes to federal tax law also shift the way in which spouses in Texas will pay taxes on alimony awards. For any divorce finalized on or after January 1, 2019, the spouse who pays alimony will also have to pay taxes on it. In the example cited above, the payor spouse would pay income taxes on the $1,000 per month paid to the receiving spouse, while the receiving spouse would not pay any income taxes on the money received.
Contact a Waco, Texas Divorce Attorney Today
If you have questions about seeking alimony or paying alimony in a Texas divorce, one of our experienced divorce attorneys can assist you Contact the Law Office of Simer & Tetens to get started or for more information about the services we provide to clients in Waco and throughout Texas on family law matters.