Alimony and Spousal Support in Texas — Everything You Need to Know
When two people decide to call it quits on their marriage, financial support is often a common and instant concern. The very thought of having to pay spousal support to the other party for a significant stretch of time can be nerve-wracking and unsettling. That’s compounded by the fact that Texas alimony laws often feel like an unsolvable puzzle. We’re here to help you stitch the pieces together.
Is There a Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support in TX?
No, these two terms mean one and the same thing. It’s only that “alimony” may be the better-known term because it’s been around longer.
In general, alimony refers to the money that one partner (often the higher-earning, well-established spouse) pays to the other from their future income to support the ex-partner post-divorce. This payment is essentially “additional,” meaning that it’s not part of a child support award or asset division award. If the money is paid before the conclusion of divorce proceedings, it’s then referred to as “temporary spousal support.”
In Texas, only a judge can order alimony. In other words, soon-to-be exes in Texas cannot demand spousal support from each other without the court’s intervention. If they want to do it all on their own, then that won’t be alimony or spousal support anymore but rather “contractual alimony.”
While it’s true that the terms alimony and spousal support can be used interchangeably, most people use them even in instances where contractual alimony would be more appropriate.
Contractual alimony is when your spouse willingly offers to pay you a certain sum of money as support after divorce. Theoretically, you and your ex come to an agreement via mediation and decide on the amount, duration, and structure of those payments.
Unfortunately, contractual alimony is far less binding than a court-enforced support order. If the partner who agreed to pay alimony pulls out halfway, then the whole contract instantly crumbles, and irrevocably so. The court cannot in any way enforce it or prompt the payor to fulfill the initial contract.
Eligibility for Spousal Support in Texas
Earning alimony in Texas is an uphill battle.
If a court is to consider your alimony petition, you must first prove that you lack sufficient property to adequately cater for your basic needs or anyone else’s under your care. The other requirement is for at least one of these circumstances to exist (See Texas Family Code Chapter 8):
- The two of you must have been married for a minimum of ten years, and as the dependent partner, you lack the ability to adequately support yourself
- You are incapacitated either mentally or physically and hence unable to earn sufficient income to fully support yourself
- You are the primary custodian of a child who requires special attention and care due to some form of incapacitation, a situation that makes it nearly impossible for you to work and earn income sustainably.
- Your ex-spouse was convicted for an act of domestic violence or child abuse within two years of filing the divorce petition or while the divorce is in progress.
Factors Dictating Alimony Award in Texas
Judges in Texas start every spousal support case with the presumption that alimony is not viable or necessary. However, if the requesting party can prove that they’ve made a genuine effort to acquire employable skills or look for a job during the dissolution process (and still need financial aid), the court will likely allow the case to go forward.
A judge will evaluate a string of factors when determining the duration, nature, amount, and payment method of alimony in Texas. These factors include (but are not limited to):
- Whether a partner might need additional skills, training, or education to be ripe for employment
- If one spouse sacrificed a good chunk of their money or time to help further the other spouse’s career or education
- The health, age, and earning capacity of each spouse
- Separate and joint property and debts
- Whether getting a job for the unemployed partner would be detrimental to the children
- How much each spouse earns at their jobs if they have one
FAQs about Alimony and Spousal Support in TX
1. How Long Will I Pay Alimony in Texas?
The duration of your spousal support commitment ultimately boils down to how long the two of you were married. The longer the marriage, the longer the duration of the support payments. Another factor that might potentially come into play is if one partner has been convicted for abuse or domestic violence.
2. How Do Courts Calculate Alimony Payments?
Unlike many states, Texas has a benchmark for monthly alimony payments. Most courts will require that the sum be no more than 20% of the paying spouse’s gross salary or $5000, whichever is smaller.
3. How is Spousal Support Taxed in Texas?
Under a new tax code of 2017, spousal support is no longer considered a tax deduction for the paying partner or income for the receiving spouse.
4. Does Texas Allow Lump Sum Alimony?
No. There’s no such thing as lump sum spousal support in Texas. The law does not support or allow it. If you partake in a lump sum spousal agreement, you stand to face tax and legal repercussions.
Have More Questions About Alimony In Texas? We Have the Answers You’re Looking For.
A spousal support attorney from Petrelli Previtera can help answer any and all questions you might have about spousal support and your divorce case. Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable complexities, our mantra holds true—to continually educate our clients and ensure they have the best possible legal experience. Contact our firm today to schedule your first comprehensive consultation.