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Top 10 Things to Know About Texas Alimony Payments

Spousal Maintenance is a court-ordered payment to your former spouse following a divorce. Factors such as the length of your marriage and the difference in earnings between former spouses all contribute to the amount of spousal maintenance a Judge may award. Texas, unlike other states, is distinctive as the law limits the amount of spousal maintenance that can be awarded to a spouse. This article outlines 10 things you should know about Spousal Maintenance and Spousal Support (often referred to as alimony) in Texas.

1. What is “Alimony?”

In Texas, there is a difference between Spousal Maintenance and Spousal Support, sometimes referred to as Contractual Alimony.  Spousal Maintenance is authorized by the Texas Family Code and may be ordered by the Court. Spousal Support, or “Contractual Alimony,” is a contractual obligation that would not be ordered by the Court.

2. How Do I Get Spousal Maintenance?

A court may order maintenance for either spouse only if the spouse seeking maintenance will lack sufficient property, including the spouse’s separate property, on divorce to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs and:

(1)  the spouse from whom maintenance is requested was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that also constitutes an act of family violence, as defined by Section 71.004, committed during the marriage against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child and the offense occurred:

(A)  within two years before the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage is filed; or

(B)  while the suit is pending; or

(2)  the spouse seeking maintenance:

(A)  is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability;

(B)  has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or longer and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; or

(C)   is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.

TFC 8.051

3. How Do I Get Spousal Support?

To get Spousal Support, you and your spouse must agree to such provisions in your final divorce documents and from there, it becomes a contractual obligation. Provisions of Spousal Support may vary from provisions of Spousal Maintenance. If you are unclear about whether you have Spousal Maintenance or Spousal Support, reach out to a Modern Family Law attorney to discuss.

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4. If The Court Orders Spousal Maintenance, How Much Can I Get?

The amount of spousal maintenance awarded is very case-specific. Generally, a court may not order maintenance that requires an obligor spouse to pay more than the lesser of $5,000.00 or 20% of the obligor spouse’s monthly gross income.

TFC 8.055

5. How Long Does Spousal Maintenance Last?

The length of time Spousal Maintenance may last varies on the number of years married or other circumstances.

  • For a marriage that lasts at least 10 years but less than 20 years, the maximum length of the award may be five years.
  • For a marriage that lasts at least 20 years but less than 30 years, the maximum length of the award may be seven years.
  • For a marriage that lasts 30 years or more, the maximum length of the award may be ten years.

If a spouse is awarded spousal maintenance due to family violence within two years of filing the divorce or while the divorce was pending, the maximum length of the award may be five years.

If the spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for their reasonable minimum needs is diminished due to a physical or mental disability of the spouse seeking maintenance, duties of the custodian of an infant or young child of the marriage, or another compelling impediment to earning sufficient income, the court may consider a longer period of time for the maintenance to continue.

TFC 8.054

6. Are There Other Reasons My Spousal Maintenace May End?

Spousal Maintenance may terminate due to the following reasons:

1. Death of either party;

2. Remarriage of the spouse receiving Spousal Maintenance; or

3. Court found that the receiving spouse is cohabitating with another person whom the receiving spouse has a dating or romantic relationship with.

TFC 8.056.

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7. What Happens If My Former Spouse Doesn’t Pay My Spousal Maintenance?

If your former spouse does not pay the court-ordered Spousal Maintenance, it is enforceable as a court order. Therefore, to enforce Spousal Maintenance, you may file a Motion to Enforce, ask for a money judgment, ask for an order or writ of withholding, or get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. In some cases, the Court may also enforce the order for Spousal Maintenance by contempt.

TFC 8.059

8. What Happens If My Spouse Doesn’t Pay My Spousal Support?

If your former spouse does not pay your Spousal Support per the terms of your divorce documents, you could file a Motion for Enforcement.  However, a Motion for Enforcement in a Spousal Support case that is by agreement of the parties (contractual) as compared to ordered by the court, is not subject to contempt.

9. Can Spousal Maintenance Be Modified By The Courts?

Yes, Spousal Maintenance can be modified by the Court. To modify Spousal Maintenance, the party filing the modification must show a material and substantial change in circumstance that occurred after the date of the order or decree, relating to either party or to the child of the marriage.

TFC 8.057

10. Can Spousal Support Be Modified By The Court?

No. Since Spousal Support is a contract between the spouses, the Court does not have the authority to modify Spousal Support.

 

If you are unsure whether you qualify for spousal maintenance, have a question about a current obligation, or need help enforcing a maintenance order, reach out to a knowledgeable Modern Family Law attorney who can guide you through the process.

Modern Family Law

Modern Family Law’s team of experienced family law attorneys takes a compassionate approach to the practice of family law. Using innovative technology to create an effective and efficient process for our clientele, our attorneys approach each case as a collective effort to find the best long-term solutions for each family. Our attorneys currently practice in Colorado, California, and Texas. Click the following link to view all of our family law locations. For more information please give us a call or fill out a short form online to sign up for a free consultation today! Let us make a positive difference in your life.

By MFL Team

Posted January 24, 2022


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