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Texas Alimony: Am I Entitled to Spousal Support in Texas?

A Guide Through Peaceful Life After Divorce

Divorcing in Texas can be complex, with many financial considerations to address. One important question that may arise is whether you are entitled to spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance. Spousal support is a court-ordered payment from one spouse to the other intended to help the receiving spouse maintain a reasonable standard of living after the divorce.

Unlike many other states, Texas has a unique approach to spousal support. This article will explain the eligibility requirements, factors the court considers, and limitations on spousal support in Texas. By understanding these aspects, you can gain valuable insight into whether spousal support is an option for you and how much you might be entitled to receive.

Quick Summary:

  • Texas spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance, helps a divorced spouse maintain a decent lifestyle. Due to the state’s legal approach, spousal support eligibility and requirements differ from those of other states.
  • Texas allows judge-ordered spousal maintenance and contractual alimony.
  • Texas spousal assistance requires financial hardship and one of the qualifying conditions, such as a long-term marriage with reduced earning capability, a physical or mental handicap, or domestic violence.
  • Spouse support depends on marriage length and other factors. Support can last five years, between 10 and 20 years, and ten years for a marriage beyond 30.
  • Financial situations, distinct property, child support, age and health of each spouse, education, talents, and domestic violence history are considered by courts when assessing spousal support.

Alimony vs. Spousal Support in Texas: Understanding Financial Support After Divorce

Divorce can be challenging emotionally and financially. Dividing marital assets is just one piece of the puzzle. In Texas, spousal support, sometimes referred to as alimony, can play a crucial role in ensuring a fair outcome for divorcing couples. However, there’s a subtle difference between these terms.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is a more traditional term for financial support paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce. Historically, it was often associated with the husband supporting the wife. However, this term must reflect the realities of modern marriages, where spouses may contribute financially.

What is Spousal Support (Texas Term)?

Spousal maintenance, the legal term used in Texas, is a more neutral term that avoids gender bias.  It simply refers to court-ordered financial assistance paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce.  The purpose of spousal support is to help the receiving spouse maintain a reasonable standard of living, especially if their earning capacity is limited.

Here’s the Key Difference:

  • Alimony: A general term for financial support after divorce, often associated with the husband supporting the wife (outdated term).
  • Spousal Support (Texas): The legal term used in Texas for court-ordered financial assistance paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce, regardless of gender.

Types of Spousal Support

In Texas, there are two types of spousal support, also called alimony:

  • Court-ordered spousal maintenance: This is when a judge orders one spouse to pay the other. The judge decides if spousal support is needed, how much it should be paid, and for how long. Texas has strict rules for how much support can be given: it can’t be more than $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s income, whichever is smaller. Texas also wants people to work and support themselves, limiting long-term support.
  • Contractual alimony: This type of alimony is an agreement between the two spouses. They decide how much support one will pay to the other, and a judge will usually approve it if they both agree. This differs from court-ordered support because if the payer stops paying, the receiver has to sue them rather than face criminal charges like in the first type of support.

Overall, Texas wants to encourage people to work and support themselves, so it doesn’t provide as much long-term spousal support as other states.

Why Use Spousal Support (Texas)?

Texas law recognizes that one spouse may sacrifice career advancement or earning potential to support the family unit during a marriage.  This could involve staying home to raise children, managing the household, or supporting the other spouse’s education or career goals.  Spousal support helps to level the playing field financially after a divorce, allowing the spouse who made these sacrifices to achieve financial independence.

It’s important to note that while alimony and spousal support (Texas) are similar in concept, only the court can order spousal support. There is no legal concept of “alimony” in the state.

Importance of Understanding Spousal Support Eligibility in Texas

Complex divorce can make financial decisions difficult. Spousal support, or spousal maintenance in Texas, is vital to your post-divorce finances. However, many are unaware of eligibility and conditions, which can lead to disappointment. Why both parties in a divorce must understand Texas spousal support:

  • Securing Financial Security: Understanding eligibility helps spouses seeking support advocate for themselves. A “minimum reasonable standard of living” for the low-income spouse is a Texas priority. Knowing the eligibility requirements might strengthen your case and help you get financial support after divorce.
  • Avoiding Unrealistic Expectations: Texas restricts spousal maintenance amount and duration. Knowing these boundaries can help control expectations and guarantee a fair and reasonable conclusion for both parties.
  • Negotiating a Fair Settlement: You can negotiate settlements better if you know eligibility requirements. This allows you to advocate for your demands or negotiate a fair payment plan considering all variables.
  • Minimizing Conflict and Litigation: The divorce process is emotional. Distortions regarding spousal support can lead to conflict and costly litigation. Knowing what to expect helps you avoid arguments and focus on a win-win deal.
  • Making Informed Decisions: Long-term financial support for spouses. Knowing your rights and responsibilities helps you make future decisions and establish a long-term financial plan.
  • Seeking Legal Guidance: A skilled family law attorney is essential. They can evaluate your case, explain the law, and assist you in reaching a fair resolution.

Am I Entitled to Spousal Support in Texas? 

Divorce can leave both parties financially vulnerable.  Spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance in Texas, can offer a lifeline to the spouse with limited earning capacity.  However, securing spousal support in Texas isn’t automatic.  Here’s a breakdown of the two-part test you must meet to be eligible:

Inability to Meet Minimum Reasonable Needs

The first hurdle for obtaining spousal support is demonstrating financial hardship. You must show that, even after the division of marital property is finalized, you cannot meet your “minimum reasonable needs.” These needs are considered essential for basic living and include:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Utilities
  • Transportation

The court will consider the value of any separate property you own and the marital assets awarded to you during the divorce settlement. If these assets and your potential income are insufficient to cover your necessities, you’ve cleared the first hurdle.

Meeting One of the Qualifying Conditions

Even if you demonstrate financial hardship, eligibility isn’t guaranteed.  You must also meet at least one of the following qualifying conditions:

  • Long-Term Marriage with Limited Earning Capacity:  This applies if the marriage lasted for ten years or more, and you, the spouse seeking support, lack sufficient earning capacity due to:
      1. A physical or mental disability.
      2. Being out of the workforce for a significant period raising children.
  • Disability:  If you have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from earning enough income to meet your minimum needs, you may be eligible for spousal support regardless of the duration of the marriage.
  • Domestic Violence:  If you experienced domestic violence during the marriage, the court may award spousal support, even if the marriage lasted less than ten years.

What Are the Factors Considered by the Texas Court in Spousal Support? 

When a court decides to give spousal support, they think about a lot of different things:

  • Financial situation: What will each spouse’s finances be like after the divorce?
  • Separate property: The property each spouse owns on their own.
  • Child support or spousal maintenance: How paying these affects other financial obligations.
  • Contributions to each other: How one spouse may have helped the other get an education, training, or a better job.
  • Age and health: The age of each spouse, their health, and how easy it is for the requesting spouse to get a job.
  • Education and skills: How skilled is each spouse, and how long might it take for the requesting spouse to find a job?
  • Spending or selling: If either spouse spent joint money or sold property without permission.
  • Role in the marriage: If one spouse was a homemaker.
  • Bad behavior: If either spouse was unfaithful or mean during the marriage.
  • Domestic violence: If there was abuse in the marriage.

The most a spouse can get for spousal support is 20% of the supporting spouse’s monthly income, up to $5,000 a month.

Texas Spousal Support: FAQs

Below are the most frequently asked questions regarding Texas spousal support.

How Long Can I Receive Spousal Support in Texas?

The court also limits how long spousal support can last:

  • Less than ten years married: Support only if there were other reasons.
  • 10-20 years married: Support for up to 5 years.
  • 20-30 years married: Support for up to 7 years.
  • More than 30 years married: Support for up to 10 years.

Support can last longer if there is a disabled spouse or child. Otherwise, spousal support can’t go beyond 10 years.

What is the maximum amount of time I have to pay Texas alimony?

In Texas, the most a court can order someone to pay for spousal support (also called alimony) is either 20% of their income or $5,000 a month, whichever is less. However, if the couple had an agreement like a prenuptial or postnuptial contract that set a different amount, the court would probably agree.

It’s important to know that the decision on how spousal support is decided can change depending on the specific case. If you have questions about your situation and what options you have for receiving or paying spousal support, it’s a good idea to get advice from a lawyer. A lawyer can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you can reach a fair deal on spousal support.

What Can I Do If I’m Denied Spousal Support or Think the Amount Is Too Low? 

If you don’t get the spousal support you think you should have or feel the amount is too low, you should talk to a lawyer. They can examine your case and see if you deserve more support. You can also ask for a change to an existing agreement if your situation has changed since the order was first made.

If you have been ordered to pay support but think the payments should end, a lawyer can help you try to stop them based on your situation.

What If I Don’t Want to Pay Spousal Support? 

If you don’t want to pay spousal support, you must follow any agreements or court orders to pay your ex-spouse. Ignoring the order can lead to serious legal consequences, so getting advice from a lawyer who knows family law is essential.

Unsure About Spousal Support in Your Texas Divorce? Don’t Navigate This Alone.

Divorce is emotionally and financially draining, and the uncertainty surrounding spousal support can add even more stress. Do you qualify for spousal support after your Texas divorce? You’re not alone. Many spouses struggle to understand the eligibility requirements and navigate the complex factors a court considers when awarding spousal support.

At Scott M. Brown & Associates in Pearland, Texas, we have a proven track record of helping clients secure a fair outcome regarding alimony and every family law case. Contact Scott M. Brown & Associates today for a consultation. We’ll guide you through the process, fight for your rights, and help you achieve a brighter financial future.

Aside from family law legal guidance, Scott M. Brown & Associates also provide legal support and services in criminal defense and personal injury cases in Pearland, League City, Angleton, Texas. 

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