Spousal support, more commonly known as alimony, is paid by one former spouse to the other to help support their ex-partner financially. Spousal support is completely separate from child support and can be paid whether or not there are children involved in the divorce. While some people may think alimony is a relic from another time, it may still be paid depending on the circumstances of a divorce. There are many things couples should be aware of regarding spousal support in Texas, including the following:
1. There Is a Presumption Against Spousal Support.
In Texas, family courts presume spousal support will not be provided unless one of the parties involved in a divorce seeks financial support and can demonstrate that it is necessary. This means the courts will not award spousal support without it being requested and proved up. A party seeking spousal support must make their case to the court to show they require this type of financial assistance. That party, unless disabled or unless family violence is involved, will also have to show the court that they are trying to obtain consistent employment and that the spousal support will be temporary.
2. What Qualifies a Former Spouse for Spousal Support?
For a court to even consider awarding spousal support, the spouse seeking that financial assistance must show they are unable to support their own basic living needs, even after the financial division of marital property. They must also show one of the following conditions exists:
- The other spouse has been convicted of family violence in the previous two years
- The spouse seeking support has a mental or physical disability that prevents gainful employment
- The physical or mental disability of a child the spouse seeking financial support has custody of prevents the spouse from gaining meaningful employment
- The couple was previously married for ten years or more and the spouse seeking financial support has continuously sought gainful employment or job training throughout the divorce process
3. What Types of Spousal Support Exist?
Spousal support falls into two categories in Texas – court-ordered spousal support and contractual alimony. Court-ordered spousal support is just what it sounds like – the judge will make a determination as to whether or not the spouse seeking support qualifies and the court will order how much is to be awarded for a given amount of time. Contractual alimony is negotiated out of court between the divorcing couple. It may help that spouse qualify for housing or give them the opportunity to take over a mortgage payment. That support may also be designated for educational purposes or job skill training. Contractual alimony can end after a specific time period designated in the contract or after a certain milestone, such as getting a job, remarriage, or reaching a certain level of consistent income, is reached.
4. What Is the Maximum Amount of Spousal Support?
If spousal support is granted, the amount of financial assistance will be calculated based on what each partner puts into the marriage. This will include contributing to maintaining the home, contributing to educational efforts, other intangibles, and the division of marital property through the divorce process. The judge will also consider each party’s current financial situation, their ability to financially provide for their basic living needs, and the capability of the spouse seeking support to find gainful employment.
Another consideration in determining the amount of spousal support is the criminal record of the financially dominant spouse. If there is a pattern of family violence or cruelty by that spouse, a judge may use spousal support as an opportunity to punish that individual and compensate the victim for their suffering.
The judge in a couple’s divorce will determine the amount of spousal support to award to the spouse seeking assistance, however, they must stay within the limits imposed by Texas state law. Spousal support must not exceed 20 percent of the supporting spouse’s income or $5,000. Spousal support is not intended to put one spouse into financial disarray in order to reward the other.
5. How Long Does an Ex-Spouse Have to Pay Spousal Support?
Spousal support is not intended to be an indefinite source of financial support for the ex-spouse. There is a time limit for spousal support written into Texas family law, except when the supported spouse has a mental or physical disability or has custody of a child with a mental or physical disability preventing the spouse from finding gainful employment. Generally, if spousal support is awarded based on a history of family violence, or if the marriage lasted less than 20 years, support will only be required for five years. If the marriage lasted between 20 to 30 years, spousal support will end after seven years. If the marriage lasted for over 30 years, spousal support can be awarded for up to 10 years.
Spousal support orders can change over time depending on what happens to either spouse involved. If the supporting spouse loses their job or financial stability, they may not be able to support their ex-spouse. If the spouse receiving alimony remarries or enters a long-term relationship with another party and moves in with that individual, the spousal support will automatically end.
Texas Spousal Support Lawyers
Spousal support is not very common in Texas but is not out of the question. It does remain an available option for those in need. It is essential to receive experienced counsel from a Texas family lawyer who is familiar with spousal support to ensure you are either receive a fair amount of support or are not taken advantage of by an ex-spouse.