Am I entitled to alimony payments from my spouse?
Alimony, referred to in the state of Texas as Spousal Maintenance, is remarkably difficult to attain and requires a high burden of evidence. Due to Texas courts’ presumption against spousal maintenance, the courts will default against a judgment for alimony unless your case meets all the following criteria:
- You were married to your spouse for a minimum of ten years
- You have insufficient property at your disposal at the end of the divorce proceedings to provide minimal reasonable needs for your lifestyle
- You are unable to provide sufficient income for those same minimum reasonable needs
The only exception to this rule is if you have an incapacitating physical or mental disability OR you are the custodian for a child with an incapacitating disability.
Am I required to pay alimony to my spouse?
The same hypotheticals apply to paying alimony as they do receiving alimony:
- You and your spouse were married a minimum of ten years
- Your spouse is left after the divorce with insufficient property to provide for their minimum reasonable needs
- Your spouse cannot provide sufficient income to provide for those same reasonable needs
Unless your ex-spouse suffers from a debilitating physical or mental disability (or they are the custodian for a disabled child), the court will only award spousal maintenance if all three of those qualifications are met.
If you’re facing the possibility of paying for spousal maintenance, the better question to ask is, “How much alimony will I have to pay?”
If you and your spouse negotiate alimony payments outside of the courtroom and come to an agreement (contractual alimony) then there’s no maximum duration or amount: whatever schedule you agree on will be enforced after the divorce.
If the spousal maintenance is awarded by a judge (court-ordered spousal maintenance), the amount you pay will depend on your income and your spouse’s income when the divorce is finalized, but it will never exceed:
- A maximum of $5,000 a month, OR
- 20% of your gross income, whichever is less
The law states that the accepted duration for spousal support is determined by the length of your marriage. The court sets the terms of the spousal maintenance, but the duration in which you’ll be ordered to make payments will never exceed:
- Five years if you were married for ten years or more
- Seven years if you were married for twenty years or more
- Ten years if you were married for thirty years or more
The only exception to these limits is if your spouse qualifies under the disability provision, in which case the courts can extend the duration of spousal maintenance indefinitely.
However, the law states that if the spouse requesting maintenance hasn’t made appropriate efforts to improve their material lot, the court defaults to their presumption against awarding spousal maintenance: if you can demonstrate that your spouse hasn’t made a good-faith effort to improve their standing in life then the courts will hesitate to award them any maintenance benefits.