Alimony for Spouse Qualifications in Texas

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If you are going through a divorce in Texas, what qualifies a spouse for alimony? Texas law refers to alimony as “spousal maintenance.” In certain circumstances, courts order spousal maintenance payments from one spouse to the other after a divorce.

Several factors determine eligibility for spousal maintenance in Texas. The court will evaluate things like:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s ability to provide for their own minimum reasonable needs
  • The age, employment history, earning ability, and health of the spouse seeking maintenance
  • The impact of child custody on the seeking spouse’s earning capacity
  • Any history of family violence
  • Marital misconduct (adultery, cruel treatment, etc.)

In Texas, the spouse requesting spousal maintenance must show they lack sufficient property and income to meet their minimum reasonable needs. In most cases, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years for spousal maintenance to be granted. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however.

Eligibility Exceptions

Even if a marriage lasted less than 10 years, a spouse may still qualify for spousal maintenance if any of the following are true:

  • The paying spouse committed an act of family violence against the seeking spouse or their child within two years before the divorce filing or during the divorce case
  • The seeking spouse has an incapacitating disability that prevents them from earning enough income to meet their minimum reasonable needs
  • The couple has a child with a physical or mental disability who requires substantial care, impacting the seeking spouse’s earning ability

In these situations, a court may award spousal maintenance even for marriages under 10 years. The seeking spouse must still demonstrate a clear need for financial support, however.

How is Alimony Calculated in Texas?

If the court determines a spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance, the next question is how much the payments will be. Texas law sets guidelines for spousal maintenance amounts.

The court will look at several factors when determining a fair amount, including:

  • Each spouse’s financial resources and ability to meet their needs independently
  • The education and employment skills of both spouses
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health condition of the seeking spouse
  • Whether the seeking spouse contributed to the other’s education or career
  • Whether either spouse wasted or concealed marital assets

Using these and other relevant factors, the court will determine an amount that does not exceed the lesser of $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income.

By law, spousal maintenance payments cannot continue for more than:

  • five years for marriages lasting less than 10 years where maintenance is ordered due to family violence
  • five years for marriages between 10 to 20 years
  • seven years for marriages between 20 to 30 years
  • 10 years for marriages over 30 years

Suppose the seeking spouse has a permanent physical or mental disability or cares for a child with a permanent disability. In that case, the court may order maintenance for as long as those conditions exist.

Can I Get Alimony after Two Years of Marriage?

In most cases, you cannot get court-ordered spousal maintenance in Texas for a marriage that lasted less than 10 years. Only in cases involving documented family violence within the two years before divorce can a court award any spousal maintenance for a marriage of under 10 years.

This 10-year marriage rule aims to reserve spousal maintenance for cases where a lower-earning spouse made substantial nonmonetary contributions over many years, impacting their current earning potential. A marriage must typically be considered “lengthy” for a Texas court to award alimony.

Both spouses usually retain their pre-marital earning capacity in shorter marriages under 10 years. The court expects both parties to provide for their reasonable minimum needs through employment or their assets after divorce.

Contractual Alimony

Spouses can still agree to a contractual alimony arrangement, even for marriages under 10 years or where the court’s eligibility criteria are unmet. This voluntary agreement between the divorcing parties does not involve a court order.

With contractual alimony, the spouses agree to terms like the payment amount, frequency, and duration. This allows for more flexibility compared to court-ordered maintenance. The agreement becomes part of the final divorce decree and is enforceable by contract law.

Spousal Maintenance Enforcement and Modifications

If a court has ordered spousal maintenance payments, the order is legally binding and enforceable. If the paying spouse fails to make timely payments, the receiving spouse can seek enforcement through the court.

The court can garnish the paying spouse’s wages, place liens on their property, or find them in contempt of court to enforce a spousal maintenance order.

If either spouse experiences a material and substantial change in circumstances, they can also request the court to modify the spousal maintenance order. This may be necessary if the paying spouse loses their job or becomes disabled. Either party must show the change in circumstances warrants a modification to the payment amount or duration.

Get Legal Advice about Alimony

A skilled divorce lawyer will evaluate your circumstances and advise you on the most favorable approach for spousal maintenance in your case. Your attorney will work diligently to achieve an agreement or court order that protects your financial interests.

If you have questions about qualifying for alimony in your Texas divorce, contact BB Law Group PLLC today at (832) 534-2589 to discuss your case with a knowledgeable spousal maintenance attorney. We are here to guide you through this challenging time and ensure you receive the financial support you need to move forward after divorce.