Alimony is statutory or contractual financial support paid from one spouse to the other after the divorce is granted. These spousal support payments (also known as “maintenance”) are mandated only under certain conditions, and in Texas – which was one of the last states to get an alimony statute – it is often difficult to obtain.
In order to obtain this post-divorce support, the receiving spouse must either meet the eligibility requirements under Texas law or enter into an agreement with the other spouse.
A court may order one spouse to pay maintenance to the other if they lack sufficient property to meet minimum reasonable needs. This often refers to food, mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, medical expenses, gas, utilities, etc. The receiving spouse must also prove that they fall into one of the four statutory bases for spousal maintenance:
- They have custody of a child of the marriage who requires substantial care and parental supervision because of a physical or mental disability, and caring for that child prevents them from earning enough to provide for their minimum reasonable needs.
- The marriage lasted a minimum of ten years, and the spouse can’t make enough money to provide for their minimum reasonable needs, despite making an effort to earn or get trained to earn enough money.
- Within two years before the date the divorce suit was filed or while the divorce suit is pending, a spouse was convicted of, or received deferred adjudication for, a criminal offense that amounts to family violence against their spouse or child.
- The receiving spouse isn’t able to earn enough money to provide for their minimum reasonable needs because of a physical or mental disability.
The court will determine eligibility and take into account any relevant factors in order to mandate how long and the manner in which the spouse will receive payments. Texas law sets a cap of $5,000.00 per month or 20% of the supporting spouse’s average monthly gross income. The time period is required to be the shortest amount of time possible that permits the receiving spouse to change their circumstances so they can support their own minimum reasonable needs.
Statutory alimony payments cannot be increased, but may be decreased if the paying spouse’s circumstances change. Failure to meet the payment obligations can result in contempt.
Alternately, if the two parties to the divorce agree to a spousal maintenance arrangement together without a mandate from the court, they can enter into what is known as “contractual maintenance.” Enforcement remedies are not as strong for contractual maintenance arrangements, but the amount cannot be decreased if the paying party’s circumstances change.
Spouses seeking alimony should also be aware of the tax implications for both parties. The paying party may often be able to deduct the alimony payments from his or her taxes, while the receiving party must include those payments as income.
Whether you are seeking alimony or other financial support from your spouse or think your spouse might ask for alimony in a divorce proceeding, the experienced attorneys at Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson can help you navigate the process and understand the implications for your future. Give us a call today.