Can I Get Alimony in Texas?
Perhaps you have given up a career path and been at home with children for many years, and you wonder how you will pay your bills after your divorce is final. This article will discuss questions about “alimony” and spousal maintenance in Texas.
Is There “Alimony” in Texas?
In a divorce, a Texas court can order one spouse to pay “maintenance” payments from future income to support the other spouse. In Texas, we don’t call court-ordered maintenance payments “alimony.” Instead, in Texas, court-ordered payments for support made by one spouse to the other spouse after a divorce are called “maintenance,” “post-divorce maintenance,” or “spousal maintenance.”
What is the General Purpose of Spousal Maintenance Payments?
The general purpose of spousal maintenance is:
To provide temporary and rehabilitative support.
When the requesting spouse’s ability to be self-supporting has diminished over time.
Assets belonging to the requesting spouse are insufficient to provide support.
There are some specific other situations where the goal or purpose of spousal maintenance varies, such as when the requesting spouse or child has disabilities.
Am I Eligible For Post-Divorce Maintenance?
You may be entitled to post-divorce maintenance if, at the time of divorce, you lack sufficient assets to provide for your own minimum reasonable needs and if other conditions are met.
Part 1 of the Test
The first step is determining whether you, upon divorce, will lack sufficient assets to provide for your minimum reasonable expenses and needs.
Part 2 of the Test
In addition to showing that after the divorce, you will lack sufficient assets to provide for your minimum reasonable expenses and needs, next you will need to prove that one of the following situations is valid:
You have been married to your spouse for at least ten years and cannot earn sufficient income to meet your minimum reasonable needs.
You have an incapacitating physical or mental disability that prevents you from being capable of earning sufficient income to provide for your minimum reasonable needs.
Your child from your current marriage requires substantial personal care and supervision because of a physical or mental disability. This prevents you from earning sufficient income to meet your minimum reasonable needs.
Specific criminal “family violence” situations exist (these details won’t be discussed in this article).
What Qualifies as Lacking Sufficient Assets for My Minimum Reasonable Needs?
Note that part one of the test requires a showing that you lack sufficient assets to provide for your own minimum reasonable needs. In making this determination, the Court will consider all of your property and assets, including community property that you received in the divorce and that you owned before marriage or that you received through inheritance or gift.
How Do I Prove I Lack Sufficient Income for My Minimum Reasonable Needs?
You’ll need to make solid and consistent attempts at finding a job that pays enough to satisfy your minimum reasonable needs. If you cannot find a job with sufficient income, you’ll need to begin obtaining an education or job training.
How Much Money Am I Entitled To?
Court-ordered maintenance payments may not exceed 20 percent of gross monthly income or $5,000 per month, whichever is less.
For How Long Can I Receive Court-Ordered Maintenance?
Except when certain circumstances exist, the Texas Family Code states that maintenance payments must be limited to the shortest period that allows the opportunity to obtain employment.
More extended periods may be warranted if certain circumstances exist, such as if your ability to earn a sufficient income is substantially or diminished due to your:
Physical or mental disability.
Duties in caring for an infant or young child of the marriage.
Another compelling impediment to earning sufficient income.
What Facts Can the Judge Consider in Determining the Amount and Duration of Maintenance?
If you prove you are entitled to spousal maintenance, the court can consider various factors in deciding the payment amount and how long you will receive them. For example, the court can consider the following:
The length of the marriage.
Your education & your spouse’s education.
Your employment history and your earning ability.
Your physical and emotional condition.
Your contribution to the household.
Your spouse’s ability to make maintenance payments.
Each spouse’s ability to provide for their minimum reasonable needs.
Any history or pattern of family violence.
Can My Spouse and I Agree That I Will Receive Post-Divorce Maintenance?
Yes! You and your spouse can agree that you will receive maintenance payments. This article discusses situations when you and your spouse cannot agree regarding post-divorce maintenance.
What Happens If My Ex-Spouse Fails to Pay Ordered Maintenance?
If your ex-spouse fails to pay the ordered maintenance, a lawsuit may be filed seeking enforcement, where the court can grant you a judgment for the amount of unpaid support that may allow you to collect money or other assets from your ex-spouse.
A judge may also hold your ex-spouse in contempt of court for failing to follow the court’s order. As a result, your ex-spouse can be sent to jail or fined.
IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER
It is important to remember that court-ordered post-divorce maintenance payments are not standard. A spouse requesting maintenance must prove legally that they have met the requirements in Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code.
There are other factors in the Texas Family Code relating to eligibility for post-divorce maintenance that are not addressed in this brief article. This article is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice.
If you have questions about spousal maintenance in Texas, our Southlake divorce attorney is available at (817) 809-8199 for consultations to answer your questions in detail.