Strategic Help with Alimony from Experienced Austin Divorce Attorney Lawyers
You won’t find the word Alimony in the Texas statutes that govern divorce, and you may hear people say that Texas is a No-Alimony state, which means you may think that Alimony won’t play a role in your divorce. More often than not, Alimony needs to be considered as part of the strategy for your divorce. See below for more information about how Alimony works in Texas family law, and contact the Austin alimony attorneys at Lazar Law with other questions or for advice and representation in a divorce in Travis County and surrounding areas.
How Does Alimony Work in Texas?
Alimony is a monthly payment post-divorce from one spouse to the other. In Texas, it is called spousal maintenance, but even though the name is different, it works exactly like Alimony. The idea is that a higher wage-earning spouse will pay a non or lesser wage-earning spouse a monthly amount from his or her future income for a period of time. When you are facing divorce, the idea of Alimony comes with lots of emotion. One side doesn’t want to pay it, and the other side thinks they have earned it. It’s difficult to face paying your ex-spouse a monthly payment from your income post-divorce. And it is equally difficult to face never receiving the benefit of your soon-to-be ex’s future income.
Under Texas law, spousal maintenance is intended to provide the non or lesser wage-earning spouse (usually in a long-term marriage) enough income to meet their reasonable and necessary living expenses until they can get on their own two feet financially.
If your case goes to trial, a court is limited in what it can award for spousal maintenance. When we look at court-ordered spousal maintenance, we are considering the amount of time and the amount of money that may be ordered to be paid. With respect to time, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, courts cannot award spousal maintenance for more than:
- Five years of spousal maintenance for a 10 to 20-year marriage
- Seven years of spousal maintenance for a 20 to 30-year marriage
- Ten years of spousal maintenance for a 30 year+ marriage
With respect to the money, Texas courts cannot award an amount in excess of 20% of the paying spouse’s average gross monthly income, up to $5,000 a month. That means if the paying spouse earns $200,000 a year, then gross monthly income is $16,666 per month, and the maximum amount of spousal maintenance a court can award is $3,333 per month.
These are the statutory maximums, and the maximums are not guaranteed. Courts will only award spousal maintenance in an amount and for a period of time that the court believes is necessary to meet the receiving spouse’s reasonable and necessary living expenses and only for that period of time the court believes it will take for the receiving spouse to earn that amount of money on their own.
How is Eligibility for Alimony Determined?
Before a judge will award spousal maintenance, it has to be proven in court that the requesting spouse doesn’t have enough property (including the spouse’s separate property plus their share of the divided marital property) to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs. Additionally, one of the following must generally be proven as well:
- The party being asked to pay spousal maintenance has been convicted of an act of family violence since the divorce was filed or within two years prior to the filing
- The spousal maintenance recipient has an incapacitating physical or mental disability that prevents the person’s ability to earn sufficient income for minimum reasonable needs
- The recipient lacks the ability to earn a sufficient income after a marriage that lasted ten years or more
- The recipient is caring for a child who requires substantial care and personal supervision due to a physical or mental disability that keeps the spouse from earning a sufficient income
How Does the Court Decide How Long a Maintenance Award Should Last and How Much Should be Paid?
Once a court has determined that a spouse is eligible for maintenance, the judge considers a number of factors to decide the nature, amount, duration, and manner of monthly payments to be made. All of the following, along with any other relevant factors, are considered:
- Each spouse’s ability to provide for their own needs
- Each spouse’s education and employment skills, including the ability and time needed to acquire sufficient education or training to become self-supporting
- The duration of the marriage
- The requesting spouse’s age, employment history, earning capacity, and health
- The effect of making child support or maintenance payments on a spouse’s ability to meet their own needs
- Whether either spouse acted to waste, destroy, conceal or fraudulently transfer any community property
- How much one spouse contributed to the education, training, or earning power of the other
- Property brought into the marriage by either spouse
- Contributions made by a spouse as a homemaker
- Any marital misconduct by either spouse during the marriage, including adultery and cruel treatment
- Any history or pattern of family violence
How is Alimony Handled Out of Court?
Most divorces settle out of court. In settlement negotiations, there are more options for alimony beyond the limits of the Texas Family Code. Many couples agree to the payment of alimony as a way to achieve the marital property division they want. When we add alimony into the mix in a negotiated settlement, we can get creative to meet both parties’ needs. For example, a couple may own a closely-held business run by the husband who intends to keep the business post-divorce. But that business will be valued in the divorce, and the marriage may not have enough other assets to compensate the wife for her portion of the business value. We can have the husband pay the wife alimony in a negotiated amount for a number of years without having to give her every other asset in the marriage.
When we do that, we call the alimony award Contractual Alimony. Contractual Alimony is a contract between the parties written into their divorce decree. It cannot be modified post-divorce by a judge. It is enforced as a contract, which means that certain enforcement options (like contempt of court) are not available because the award is not court-ordered spousal maintenance.
Get Help with Alimony and Maintenance Issues in Your Austin Divorce
For help regarding alimony and spousal maintenance in your Austin divorce, contact Lazar Law at 512-477-1600 to discuss your concerns with experienced and dedicated Austin divorce attorneys.