Texas has a reputation for being one of the most challenging places to get spousal support, or alimony, as it’s also known. Texas state laws begin with the premise that no alimony is payable after a divorce. To qualify, a spouse must meet several specific conditions before the judge even considers awarding alimony - and even then, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be granted.
Spouses who go into a divorce court in Texas expecting substantial, life-long alimony payments are in for a big shock. You may be due a certain amount, but it’ll be capped in most cases and limited by time. Alimony is a complicated area, and as with so many aspects of divorce law, it can often be difficult to make sense of it all.
For that reason, this helpful guide explains both sides of the alimony equation. Explore Texas state laws on alimony, who qualifies, who has to pay, how the courts uphold the laws, and the best way to work your way through the process.
Texas takes a tough but fair approach when it comes to alimony. Once a marriage is over, the idea is that each spouse should independently stand on their own two feet. That’s true even when one spouse has sacrificed a career to focus on childcare. The courts do recognize that it can take time for a spouse to become financially secure and self-sufficient, and in such cases, they’ll consider awarding alimony.
Note that there’s a big difference between alimony and child support. Child support must be used exclusively for the child’s welfare in terms of food, clothing, healthcare, and more. Child support is more likely to be applicable in a divorce case, but courts only award alimony in a minimal set of circumstances.
Under Texas state law, there are four conditions where alimony may be payable:
Unless you meet one of those four conditions, you can generally conclude that alimony won’t be payable in your divorce case. Each case will be analyzed individually to determine what’s reasonable.
Finally, the spouse paying the alimony should be aware that filing for bankruptcy is unlikely to change how much they have to pay to their ex.
In some cases, infidelity can impact the judge’s decision on spousal support in Texas, but in others, it won’t. Remember that first, you have to prove the infidelity, which isn’t always easy to do.
When the courts rule on spousal maintenance, there’s a whole range of factors they need to consider - not just infidelity. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because your spouse committed adultery, it’ll have a significant impact on whether you receive spousal support or indeed how much you receive. The infidelity may not affect the final settlement whatsoever.
The courts use many factors to decide on both the amount and length of spousal maintenance, including:
For the last point, the intended recipient is generally expected to show that they’ve proactively sought out training, as well as vocational and educational opportunities.
One final word of advice here. Don’t ever be tempted to try and play the system. Family court judges have a lot of experience in ruling on divorces and are wise to any tricks that spouses might play, like hiding financial resources or resigning from a job in the hope of showing lower income.
In theory, spousal awards can be permanent, but that won’t be so in most cases. Under Texas law, the maximum length of most spousal maintenance agreements is fixed between five and ten years, largely dependent on the marriage’s length. The monthly amount of alimony is limited to 20% of the spouse’s average income, up to a maximum of $5,000. But in many cases, the judge may decide on a shorter duration and a smaller amount.
Don’t forget that any awards end in the event of either party’s death. Moreover, support also concludes if the recipient remarries or starts cohabiting. It may also be terminated if the case is brought back to courts for a good reason; for example, the paying spouse has had an accident which means they can no longer work.
With a divorce in Texas, the default starting position is that spousal support isn’t payable. First, you have to prove that you meet the relevant conditions for alimony, and then you have to show why you need the payments. For anyone unfamiliar with divorce law, that’s a daunting task.
That’s why many spouses decide to seek professional help - either to show why they should be receiving alimony or, on the other hand, to explain why it shouldn’t be payable.
Regardless of which side of the divide you’re on, an experienced divorce attorney can guide you through the maze that is alimony in Texas. They can tell you if you’re eligible to receive a payment and how to present your best case in the courts. Alternatively, a lawyer can tell you how much you can expect to pay and advise you on all the different factors that influence the final decision. With their legal expertise and practical know-how from previous cases, you can be sure of receiving the best advice, either way!
A lawyer can also help you work out the amount of tax you’re likely to pay based on your settlement’s total amount.
Texas is famous - some would say infamous - for its hardline approach to alimony. However, that shouldn’t discourage you if you’re genuinely eligible. In such cases, an experienced lawyer can generally help you reach the best settlement.