Spousal maintenance, or alimony, is similar to other divorce-related processes like property division or child support in that the outcome of your alimony case could significantly impact your financial stability.
The economic impact of alimony cases and stigma surrounding the alimony process often make it one of the most contentious parts of a divorce. Whether you're the payor or recipient in your case, understanding how Texas deals with spousal maintenance can help you develop an equitable alimony arrangement with your soon-to-be-ex.
The Austin spousal maintenance attorneys at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC are ready to help you navigate the alimony laws in Texas with confidence. To schedule a consultation, contact us online or call our firm at (512) 991-0576.
Is Spousal Support Mandatory in Texas?
When it comes to spousal support in Texas, the laws and regulations can get a bit complicated. While spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, can be awarded by a Texas court, it is not a mandatory requirement.
Instead, it is only awarded in certain situations and at the discretion of the judge.
Factors that are taken into consideration include the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and any relevant health or age concerns. Therefore, it is important to approach spousal support in Texas with a clear understanding of the laws and a trusted legal professional to guide you through the process.
Who Qualifies for Alimony in Texas?
Texas has harsher restrictions on spousal maintenance than many states, making it more difficult for individuals to seek alimony from their soon-to-be-ex. Courts provide spousal support when the judge determines an individual is unable to provide for their basic needs without financial assistance from their spouse.
Spouses seeking support must typically meet one of four requirements to obtain alimony. They must prove that:
- Their spouse was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense, like child neglect or domestic abuse, within two years of filing for divorce.
- The marriage was at least ten years long, they cannot provide for their basic needs, and they are either disabled, the primary caretaker of a disabled child, or lack the earning potential to acquire economic stability.
- Both spouses agree that alimony is fair given the circumstances of the divorce or marriage.
- One of the spouses is an immigrant, and the court awards them an Affidavit of Support (which requires the other spouse to support them until they obtain 40 credits of work history or become a US citizen, if the other spouse is the immigrant's sponsor).
When a court presides over a divorce-related process like child custody, spousal and child support, etc., the judge tries to ensure that all parties maintain a good quality of life after the divorce. To than end, spousal maintenance may help a party remain financially stable post-divorce.
Factors the Judge May Consider When Determining Alimony
People commonly request spousal support by claiming their marriage was at least ten years long and, at the time of the divorce, they lack the earning potential to support themselves financially.
To that end, courts consider a variety of factors, like:
- How each spouse behaved during the marriage (engaging in acts of cruelty or poor behavior could result in penalties from the court);
- Each spouse's earning potential, accounting for their present education and how much they could earn with advanced education;
- How long it would take the spouse in need to achieve self-sufficiency (how long it should reasonably take them to find training and/or a better-paying job).
To that end, while most family courts in Texas are strict about administering spousal maintenance, judges do have a fair amount of leeway in alimony cases.
How Is Spousal Maintenance Calculated in Texas?
Courts set a baseline for alimony payors at $5,000 or 20% of their gross monthly income (before subtracting taxes or other deductions), whichever is less.
How Long Does Alimony Last in Texas?
The length of spousal maintenance in Texas depends on the circumstances of the divorce.
- If the payor is convicted of a family violence offense within two years of filing for divorce, or the divorce lasted at least ten years but less than 20, alimony may last for up to five years.
- If the marriage lasted 20-30 years, the alimony arrangement might last for up to seven years.
- If the marriage lasted 30+ years, the alimony arrangement might last more than ten years (depending on the court's judgment).
The majority of spousal support arrangements exist to help an individual remain financially stable while they receive training or find a better job. Under these circumstances, courts may put a deadline on the spousal maintenance agreement and request the alimony recipient to provide consistently updated proof that they are receiving training and searching for a job.
Can I Modify My Spousal Support Order in TX?
Yes, as long as there has been a substantial or material change in circumstances, Texas courts will allow you to request a modification of your alimony order.
If the alimony recipient achieves financial stability sooner than expected or the payor falls on hard times, the payor may be able to file a modification case to reduce their alimony burden. To learn more about how you can change an outdated spousal support order, visit our modifications page.
However, until the new order is awarded, the payor must continue to follow the conditions of the current order. Failure to follow these conditions may result in penalties such as jail time, attorney’s fees, and even bank liens.
Alimony & Common-Law Marriage
In Texas, common-law marriages are treated equally to traditional marriages under the law. This means that if a couple has established a valid common-law marriage, they may be eligible for spousal support or alimony in the event of divorce.
However, it is important to note that common-law marriages are not officially recognized in all states, and there are specific requirements that must be met in order for a common-law marriage to be valid in Texas.
If you are seeking alimony in a common-law marriage, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable alimony attorney in Austin who can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and protect your rights.
Discuss Your Options with Cofer & Connelly
Every spousal support case is different, and no two judges handle alimony cases in exactly the same way. For that reason, it's essential to seek out an experienced alimony lawyer who can help you build a strong case and fight for an equitable spousal maintenance arrangement. At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, we can help you do just that.
To schedule a consultation with our Austin spousal maintenance attorneys, contact us online or give us a call at (512) 991-0576.
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