If you are considering getting a divorce or are already in the process of divorcing your spouse, you may be feeling uncertain about your financial future. Especially if there is a significant disparity between you and your spouse’s income, you may worry about what will happen to you if you get divorced.
Divorce will inevitably cause significant changes in your life, and both you and your spouse will likely see differences in your post-divorce financial situation. Splitting a single household into two usually results in both individuals having to change their lifestyles to some extent.
Texas courts recognize, however, that divorce may result in significantly more economic hardship for one spouse than the other and that, in some cases, one spouse will require temporary financial support from the other. This is called spousal maintenance in Texas, but the terms “alimony” and “spousal support” are often used interchangeably with “spousal maintenance.”
When Is Alimony Granted in Texas?
Texas Family Code Chapter 8, which governs spousal maintenance in Texas, places relatively strict regulations as compared to other states on what circumstances warrant compelling one spouse to provide financial support to a former spouse.
However, Texas also allows for couples to negotiate a divorce settlement that provides for alimony payments that deviate from the strict requirements of involuntary, court-ordered spousal maintenance. In this blog, we will discuss these two available options.
Court-Ordered Maintenance in Texas
Texas courts are not obligated to grant alimony; the decision to do so largely rests on the court’s discretion. A Texas court may award spousal maintenance if it finds that some combination of the following is true:
- The spouse seeking alimony does not have sufficient property, including both separate and community property, to provide for the spouse’s minimal reasonable needs.
- The couple has been married for at least 10 years and the spouse seeking alimony cannot earn adequate income to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs.
- The requesting spouse is either physically or mentally incapacitated.
- The spouse seeking alimony is the primary caregiver of a disabled child.
- There has been a history of family violence as defined by Texas law.
If the court awards involuntary spousal support to the requesting spouse, that award will be restricted both in amount and duration. All involuntary maintenance awards are restricted to:
- 5 years – if the marriage lasted less than 10 years and the supporting spouse was convicted of domestic violence
- 5 years – if the marriage lasted more than 10 but less than 20 years
- 7 years – if the marriage lasted for more than 20 but less than 30 years
- 10 years – if the marriage lasted for at least 30 years
Furthermore, maintenance will be terminated if either spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries or cohabitates with a romantic partner.
Unlike most other states, Texas also restricts the amount of maintenance that the court can award, granting no more than the lesser of either no more than $5000 per month or no more than 20% of the paying spouse’s monthly gross income.
As we wrote about in a previous blog, it is also possible to request a modification of the alimony awarded if there has been “a material and substantial change in circumstances” since the court’s initial order.
Voluntary Spousal Support in Texas
Although Texas law makes it relatively difficult for requesting spouses to receive involuntary spousal maintenance, couples can voluntarily agree to ongoing spousal maintenance payments that are then approved by the court and enforceable like any other contract between two parties.
The couple will need to agree to all of the terms of these payments, including:
- How much support will be paid
- How frequently the payments will be made
- How long the support will last
- What circumstances will result in a cessation of payments
Whether you plan to ask the court to order spousal maintenance payments or you would like to negotiate with your spouse to pay spousal support voluntarily, it is important that you consult an experienced divorce attorney to help you understand your legal options and ultimately reach a fair agreement.
At Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., our team is committed to crafting a persuasive case that will help to represent and protect your interests whether during informal negotiations, mediation, or in court.
If you are considering requesting alimony during your divorce, contact us online or call us at (281) 612-5443 to schedule a consultation.