Alimony, or spousal maintenance as it is called in the Texas Family Code, is a hotly-contested component of most divorce cases in Texas. For many entering this confusing and troubling time, how spousal maintenance is determined can weigh heavily on the mind. The financial burden or benefit can factor greatly into your quality of life after the marriage is dissolved.
To help understand the basics of this critical point of contention, I will elaborate on how alimony is calculated in Texas and what to prepare for as you proceed through a divorce.
It is important to remember that divorce is a complex process made harder by the mental and emotional toll it takes on those involved. It is critical to reach out to a family law expert to help navigate the unique legalities of your situation so that your rights are fully protected, whether you will be receiving alimony or paying it.
As a family law professional, I will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the alimony settlement you deserve.
How is Alimony Calculated in Texas?
In Texas, spousal maintenance falls into one of two categories: contractual alimony or court-ordered spousal maintenance.
Understanding the law surrounding court-ordered spousal maintenance is a key factor to consider, even in contractual alimony negotiations.
Court-Ordered Spousal Maintenance
Texas law tries to balance the rehabilitative necessity of alimony for low-income earners or disabled spouses against retaining the incentive to join the workforce as a productive member of the community.
Many see alimony as enabling unemployment, and statutes exist to mitigate those situations. As such, the spouses must have been formally married before either can receive alimony. The circumstances must also meet one or more of the following criteria:
– The marriage lasted for ten or more years and (a) the spouse cannot meet basic needs yet is making a reasonable effort to earn sufficient income or develop skills in the midst of a pending divorce OR (b) the spouse is the custodial parent of a disabled child who needs significant care, preventing the parent from maintaining a sustainable income.
– The other spouse was convicted of family violence against the spouse or a child within two years prior to or during a divorce.
– The spouse suffers from a mental or physical disability that arose during the marriage, preventing them from earning a sufficient income.
Determining the Calculation
If the above requirements have been met, the judge will decide on the alimony amount and the length of time that it will be paid. Several factors are considered in determining how much you receive or pay for alimony in Texas, including:
- Each spouses’ financial situation after the divorce
- How child support affects bill payments for both parties
- Education level and employment skills as well as the amount of time necessary to gain adequate education and training
- How much spouses contribute to the other’s education and skills training
- Property brought to the marriage by the spouses
- Personal factors of the requesting spouse such as age, job history, and physical, mental, and emotional state
- Homemaker responsibilities
- Marital misconduct
- Whether a spouse engaged in the inappropriate spending or disposal of community funds or property
Is There A Cap on Alimony Payments?
In Texas, alimony payments are bound within financial caps and variable time frames. The court may impose involuntary alimony payments of no more than $5,000 monthly or 20% of the payer’s monthly income by law. The order will follow whichever is less.
Additionally, the length of the marriage is a major determinant of the alimony term:
- Marriage shorter than 10 years: up to 5 years of alimony, contingent on the paying spouse being convicted of an act of family violence
- 10 – 20 years of marriage: up to 5 years of alimony
- 20 – 30 years of marriage: up to 7 years of alimony
- 30 or more years of marriage: up to 10 years of alimony
Judges are guided by Texas law to order the shortest term necessary for the spouse to gain financial independence. Texas Courts are generally remiss to order spousal maintenance, which is why the burden to obtain it is so high. However, special rulings can be made to account for custodial parenting, mental or physical disability, and other unique situations.
Change in Circumstances
Over the course of life post-divorce, circumstances may change. The paying spouse can return to court periodically in order to review whether their ex-spouse is still qualified to receive payments.
If circumstances have changed significantly — e.g., the paying spouse is reasonably unable to continue paying, or the receiving spouse has become capable of self-support — the court can remove or amend the order.
Work With Blair Parker to Protect Your Rights
The question of finances is a major source of potential bitterness and resentment, both within an existing marriage and especially during a divorce. Both parties’ burden to ensure their own sustainability only adds to the mental and emotional weight of divorce. It is important to approach the law and your spouse with objectivity, honesty, patience, and respect throughout the divorce process.
As a Texas family law expert, I am dedicated to helping you understand the complexities of the divorce process and knowledgeably managing the nuances of your situation to put you in the best possible situation.
I work to ensure that you get every penny you deserve as an alimony recipient or that you pay the absolute fairest amount as the alimony payer. Contact me today to discuss your unique situation and learn how I will protect your rights.
Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your alimony situation. I help clients just like you in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County arrive at the best possible outcome.