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How Is Statutory Spousal Maintenance Awarded In Texas?

If statutory spousal maintenance is being requested based upon the other spouse’s conviction of or receiving deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that also constitutes family violence, there is no statutory requirement for the length of the marriage before maintenance may be awarded.

If the spousal maintenance is being requested on the basis that the spouse requesting maintenance has an incapacitating physical or mental disability or the spouse requesting maintenance has a child who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of physical or mental disability, then again, there is no minimum number of years the marital relationship must have existed before it may be ordered.

If the reason a spouse is requesting maintenance is because of his/her inability to meet his/her minimum reasonable needs than the marriage must have lasted a minimum of 10 years.

How Does The Court Determine Who Pays Spousal Support In A Divorce?

Spousal support is determined based upon many factors. First the party seeking maintenance must meet the statutory requirements to be awarded spousal maintenance. Additionally, the court has the authority to grant a spouse temporary maintenance during the pendency of a divorce. This occurs especially in the case that the spouse receives primary custody of children and that spouse cannot pay for the expenses related to the household. Courts have broad discretion in ordering spousal support on a temporary basis. If no children are involved and a spouse is not employed, that spouse may also receive temporary spousal support during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. If permanent spousal maintenance is awarded or agreed to, it usually begins the month after the entry of the decree of divorce.

How Long Can Contractual Alimony Last?

The length of time that parties can agree to contractual alimony is unlimited. However, statutory spousal maintenance is limited as follows:

  1. A maximum amount of 5 years of support after the date of the order if the spouses were married each other for less than 10 years.
  2. A maximum of 7 years after the date of the order if the spouses were married to each other for at least 20 years but no more than 30 years.
  3. A maximum of 10 years after the date of the order if the spouses were married each other for 30 years or more.
  4. An unlimited number of years if the other spouse has a physical or mental disability or there is some other compelling impediment to the other spouse earnings division income to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.

How Is The Amount Of Alimony Determined In Texas?

Since alimony is contractual, the amount and duration of alimony paid by one spouse to the other, is limited only by what the parties agree. Spousal maintenance is statutorily limited in a dollar amount to the lesser of $5000.00 or 20% of the spouse’s average monthly gross income.

Can Contractual Alimony Awards Be Modified?

No. Contractual alimony is contractual and cannot be changed or altered/amended by order of the court unless the parties agree to the change. However, statutory spousal maintenance especially that to a spouse based upon that spouse’s physical or mental disability or based upon that spouse being the custodian of a child of the marriage with physical or mental disabilities may be revisited on a regular basis.

What Factors Does The Court Consider In Determining The Duration Of Spousal Support Payments?

There are many factors that a court may take into consideration in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments of spousal maintenance. One of those factors is marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage.

When Does Statutory Spousal Maintenance Terminate?

Statutory spousal maintenance terminates on the death of either party or the remarriage of the spouse receiving spousal maintenance. Further, if the spouse receiving maintenance cohabitates with another person with whom that person has a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis, the court will terminate maintenance. Further, for payments to be deductible by the payor spouse and includable within the recipient spouse’s gross income, post decree support must be 1. Paid in cash; 2. Be received by or on behalf of a spouse; 3. Be made while the payor and payee spouses, if legally separated, are not members of the same household; 4. Terminate on the death of the payee spouse; and, 5. Be made under a divorce or separation instrument that does not designate the payments as something other than an alimony or separate maintenance.

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