After a divorce in Texas, you may think that alimony and child support are automatically payable. But the reality is often very different. One may be payable while another is not, amounts may be limited in terms of size and duration, and neither may apply in certain cases.
There are several important differences between alimony and child support, and Texas state law lays down several strict conditions around both. Those conditions further complicate an already complex legal area. For a clear explanation of alimony and child support in Texas, how much you can expect to pay and for how long, how decisions are reached, plus advice on smoothing out the process, read on.
Alimony - also known as spousal support - is concerned with maintaining the recipient’s standard of living. There are no conditions on how it’s spent. Child support aims to meet the child’s needs in terms of food, accommodation, healthcare, education, and so on. This support payment must be spent exclusively on the child’s welfare and upbringing.
There’s nothing to stop you and your partner from coming to a mutual agreement on alimony and child support outside of the courts. Indeed there are many advantages of doing so: it tends to be quicker, cheaper, and less confrontational, plus you and your partner maintain control over the final decision. If you choose to go down this route, you should get any settlement checked out by a lawyer. This way, you can rest assured that the agreement is legal and you’re getting a fair deal.
When a couple cannot reach an agreement on the terms of a divorce, the case proceeds to court. The judge will adequately consider all the evidence in front of them and listen to both sides before deciding. While the courts do have some leeway, they must also follow Texas state law. Legally, there are significant constraints and limits on both forms of payment, especially with alimony.
Spouses are only eligible for maintenance in Texas if they meet one of four conditions:
Even if you meet one of those four conditions, there’s still no guarantee that you qualify. When deciding on amounts and the length of alimony, the judge must also consider a wide range of other factors.
Naturally, both parties’ relative incomes, property, and wealth after the divorce will influence the judge’s final decision. Other important considerations include the health, age, and well-being of both spouses, employment status, role, support, mutual treatment, and contributions during the marriage.
In Texas, there’s a specific statute that caps the amount of spousal support payable. The maximum amount is $5000 monthly or 20% of the paying partner’s gross income: the lower figure applies.
No two cases are the same, and there’s legislation outlining how long alimony will last. As a rough guide, you can expect payments to last for a maximum of five years for marriages between ten and twenty years. The same duration applies to cases involving family violence. In marriages of over twenty years, the courts typically provide for seven years of alimony.
In exceptional circumstances, the judge might recommend an indefinite payment - for example, for a special needs child who requires lifelong care.
In cases where child support is payable, Texas has a sliding scale to calculate payments. That equates to 20% of net monthly income for one child, 25% for two, 30% for three, 35% for four, and so on. But no two cases are the same, and the courts will consider many other factors before reaching their final decision.
As ever, there are also exceptions, for example, if your net income is above $7500 per month, if your child has additional requirements, or if you have children from different marriages.
For most families, child support usually ceases when children turn 18 or graduate from high school. However, as with alimony, there may be certain circumstances where the duration is shorter or longer.
The court’s decisions on alimony and child support are legally binding, and if you break any of the conditions, you could find yourself in big trouble. However, there are some circumstances where the payments can be adjusted or even ended.
The most obvious example is alimony, which ends if the recipient remarries or begins living with a new partner. With child support, the spouse paying can ask for an adjustment if they lose their job or if they’ve successfully challenged the court’s original decision on child custody.
On the other side, the recipient spouse can request an adjustment after three years if the amount payable differs by 20% or $100 from the latest Texas state guidelines.
Navigating your way through divorce law can be every bit as demanding as the divorce itself. Given the high stakes and high emotions, it can also be challenging to think straight at times. That’s why most couples going through a divorce opt to hire experienced family attorneys. That way, they can protect their interests, avoid making any expensive mistakes, and secure the best possible settlement.
Nearly every divorce is a tough, challenging, and life-changing event, especially when there are children or a court case involved. With an experienced lawyer on your case, you can at least ensure you negotiate a fair and reasonable agreement that enables you to get on with your life. To speak to an attorney about your options, schedule a free Case Assessment through Marble today.