New Texas Alimony Rules

During the last meeting of the Texas Legislature, new rules were adopted to define alimony benefits for spouses.  In Texas, alimony is referred to as spousal maintenance.

Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code provides for spousal maintenance under limited circumstances.

Who is eligible for spousal maintenance in Texas?

Texas law allows a spouse in a divorce proceeding to seek spousal maintenance “only if the spouse seeking maintenance will lack sufficient property, including the spouse’s separate property, on dissolution of the marriage to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.”  The spouse also has to demonstrate to the court one of the following:

    • The parties have been married for at least 10 years and the spouse applying for maintenance lacks the ability to earn income sufficient for his or her minimum reasonable needs.
    • The spouse seeking maintenance cannot earn enough income to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs due to “an incapacitating physical or mental disability.”
    • The spouse applying for maintenance is the custodian of a child (either a minor or an adult who is legally considered a child due to their condition) 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.”
    • The spouse asking for maintenance was the victim of domestic violence (or a child of the marriage was such a victim) which resulted in the other spouse either being convicted of domestic violence or receiving deferred adjudication for domestic violence within two years of the filing of the divorce or during the pendency of the divorce.

It is important to note that this is an exhaustive list.  Courts do not have the ability to award spousal maintenance for any other reason.

How much alimony can a spouse receive in Texas and for how long can they receive it?

Once a court determines that a spouse is eligible to receive maintenance, the court will use the following factors to determine the amount and duration of those payments:

each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs independently, considering that spouse’s financial resources on dissolution of the marriage;

    • the education and employment skills of the spouses, the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income, and the availability and feasibility of that education or training;
    • the duration of the marriage;
    • the age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
    • the effect on each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs while providing periodic child support payments or maintenance, if applicable;
    • acts by either spouse resulting in excessive or abnormal expenditures or destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community property, joint tenancy, or other property held in common;
    • the contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
    • the property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
    • the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
    • marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage; and,
    • any history or pattern of family violence.

This list, however, is not exhaustive.  The court is allowed to consider all relevant factors, including those outlined above.

Are there any limits imposed by Texas law on the duration of spousal maintenance payments?

Yes, Texas courts are limited in how large of a payment they may award and the duration of those payments.

If the spouse seeking maintenance qualifies due to domestic violence, and the spouses were married less than 10 years, the payments may last for no longer than 5 years.  Also, if the spouses were married between 10 and 20 years, the duration is also limited to 5 years.

If the spouses were married between 20 and 30 years, payments may be ordered for up to 7 years.

If the spouses were married for 30 years or longer, payments may be ordered for up to 10 years.

The court, however, must limit the payments to the shortest possible duration in which it is determined that the spouse will be capable of earning sufficient income to cover their reasonable minimum needs.  The one exception is that no limit is placed upon payments to a spouse who has a permanent condition or situation which prevents them from earning sufficient income to meet their reasonable minimum needs, such as a disability, the responsibility of caring for a special needs child, or some other circumstance which prevents from from taking care of themselves.

May Texas courts award any amount of money for spousal maintenance payments they wish?

No.  Texas courts are limited to awarding the lesser of $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the other spouse’s gross monthly income.

If my spouse begins to live with their boyfriend or girlfriend, or if they remarry, do the spousal maintenance payments end?

Generally, yes.  The court will have to have a hearing to determine whether such an event has occurred.  If the court determines that the person receiving payments “cohabits with another person with whom the [recipient of payments] has a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis.”

I have more questions.  Who can I turn to?

Feel free to call Bobby Warren at 713-579-9702 and find out how he can become your Houston family lawyer.

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