While the emotional toll a divorce takes on the parties is often significant, the financial toll can be even greater. The parties rarely end up on equal financial footing post-divorce, meaning there is usually a winner and a loser in terms of the financial status of the parties after the divorce. If you foresee ending up as the “losing” spouse in your divorce in terms of the financial inequity that may occur after the divorce, you could be entitled to alimony to help narrow that financial gap. Dallas family law lawyer Rita M. Boyd explains when alimony might be ordered in a Texas divorce.
What Is Alimony?
It is imperative to have a clear understanding of what alimony (referred to as “spousal maintenance” in Texas) is, and what it is not, in Texas. Texas Family Code Section 8.001 et seq. governs spousal maintenance, defined as “an award in a suit for dissolution of a marriage of periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse.” Temporary alimony can also be awarded while a divorce is pending. Spousal maintenance is not part of the division of assets and debts nor is it related to an order for child support.
What Type of Alimony Is Recognized in Texas?
Texas recognizes two types of spousal maintenance. The first is referred to as “contractual alimony” and is paid voluntarily pursuant to an agreement between the parties. The agreement may be a prenuptial agreement entered into prior to the marriage or an agreement reached after the marriage in contemplation of divorce. The second type of alimony is court-ordered spousal maintenance. Court ordered spousal maintenance is an involuntary order by a judge during a divorce requiring one spouse to pay the other spouse maintenance for a period after the divorce.
Who Is Eligible for Court Ordered Spousal Maintenance?
A decade ago (in 2011), the State of Texas revamped its eligibility rules for court ordered spousal maintenance. To qualify for court ordered spousal maintenance you must first prove that after divorce there will not be enough property to meet your minimum reasonable needs. In other words, after the division of assets you will not have the financial means to pay your reasonable monthly expenses. If you meet that burden, you then must prove at least one of the following:
- The marriage has been for ten years or longer and you made diligent efforts to either earn sufficient income or to develop necessary skills while the divorce is pending to meet your minimum reasonable needs; or
- The other spouse has committed family violence; or
- You have an incapacitating disability that arose during marriage; or
- You are caring for a child of the marriage (of any age) who has a physical or mental disability that prevents you from earning sufficient income.
How Much Alimony Will I Receive?
If you are entitled to contractual alimony, the amount you receive will be negotiated between you and your spouse in the agreement. If you are found to be eligible for court-ordered spousal maintenance, there is no “magic formula” the court is required to use to determine how much you receive. Usually, however, a court-ordered spousal maintenance award is not more than $5,000 a month or 20 percent of the payee’s gross monthly income.
How Long Will I Receive Alimony?
The duration of contractual alimony is determined by the agreement entered into by the parties. Court-ordered spousal maintenance, on the other hand, is limited in duration by law to five, seven, or 10 years as follows:
- If a spouse is awarded spousal maintenance because the other spouse has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense within two years of the filing of the divorce or while the divorce was pending, OR the marriage lasted for at least 10 years but less than 20 years, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than five years.
- If the marriage lasted for at least 20 years but less than 30 years, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than seven years.
- If the marriage has lasted for 30 years or more, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than 10 years.
Contact a Dallas Family Law Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about alimony in Texas, contact experienced Dallas family law lawyer Rita M. Boyd, P.C. to discuss your legal rights and options by calling 972-380-8000 to schedule your appointment today.