Texas Alimony is No Windfall

Blog, Family Law

For many years, Texas was the only state without post-divorce, court-ordered alimony. In 1995, a law, in part, was passed in an effort to prevent the economically displaced spouse from going on welfare. In 2011, the law was revised and expanded concerning the qualifications for eligibility as well as the maximum duration and amount. Still, this law is really more symbolic than practical; it’s rare for a Texas divorce settlement to include alimony.

Most other states have more generous alimony laws. For example, in Colorado, alimony/maintenance can be permanent or temporary. It depends on meeting several criteria, including ability to pay, reasonable need, and length of marriage.

Certain criteria must be met before the Texas court is authorized to award alimony. The threshold requirement is that the spouse seeking alimony must be unable to be self-supporting and lack assets sufficient to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs. Then, the parties must have been married for at least 10 years, the spouse must have an incapacitating disability that prevents him or her from being able to self-support, the spouse must be unable to work because he or she is the primary caretaker a child of the marriage who has a disability, or the other spouse must have been convicted of an act of family violence that occurred no more than 2 years before the divorce was filed.

The Texas court is also limited in the amount and duration it can require one spouse to pay alimony. The alimony can be no more than $5,000 or 20 percent of the payor’s income, whichever is less. It is generally limited to 5 years, although for longer marriages it can be extended up to 10 years or can be indefinite if the spouse is physically or mentally disabled. Of course, couples can negotiate alimony that is greater in amount and longer in duration, but the court-ordered alimony is limited.

Alimony in Texas is considered to be a temporary measure to allow the lesser-earning spouse to get training for a career that will support her. If she has substantial wealth upon divorce, she will not qualify for alimony. Even if she isn’t wealthy, her husband still might not have the income to pay alimony.

Temporary maintenance is more often ordered for the period during which the divorce is pending. The maintenance is paid to the spouse with limited resources in an effort to maintain the status quo during the suit.