In this article I will explain the key points in Texas posts-divorce alimony. Please note that alimony is a particularly complicated area and you should consult with a qualified family law attorney about the specifics of your case if you believe you may be entitled to receive or possibly obligated to pay alimony. Also, this post addresses only post-divorce alimony, not temporary alimony.
Contractual Alimony or Spousal Maintenance under Texas Family Code Chapter 8
Texas divorce decrees frequently include provisions for periodic post-divorce payments from one spouse to the other, aside from the more common child-support payments. In general, these payments are based upon the needs of one spouse and the ability to pay of the other. Alimony agreements or orders generally come in one of two forms, either agreed contractual alimony or court ordered spousal maintenance under Texas Family Code Chapter 8.
When the parties reach an agreement for post-divorce alimony payments it is typically structured as contractual alimony. Since this form of alimony is based on an agreement and not a statute there are no restrictions on the amount of the support or the duration, other than those agreed to by the parties. However, the statutory maximums on amount and duration are normally factors considered in the negotiations.
Court Ordered Spousal Maintenance
Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code provides the court with the authority to order post-divorce spousal maintenance when the marriage has lasted at least 10 years and other requirements are met. Additionally, there is the possibility of spousal maintenance in a marriage shorter than 10 years in certain cases involving family violence. Unless there is a disability of either the party or a child of the parties, the spouse seeking maintenance must prove that he/she is unable to “provide for the spouses minimum reasonable needs.”
Maximum Amount of Maintenance under Statute
Section 8.055 provides that the amount of maintenance the court may order is the lesser of a) $5000/month or b) 20% of the monthly payor’ gross monthly income. Again, it is possible for the parties to agree to an amount higher than the statutory cap but this rarely happens because the caps are factored into the negotiations. In other words, parties rarely agree to what would be worse than there worst-case scenario. It should be noted that the current maximum amount since the 2011 statutory amendment is double the previous maximum of $2500 per month under the old statute.
Duration of Spousal Maintenance under Statute
Section 8.054 provides details on the duration of the spousal maintenance order. For marriages that lasted more than 10 years but less than 20 the maximum duration is five years. If the marriage lasted more than 20 years but less than 30, the maximum is seven years. For marriages lasting more than 30 years, the maximum is 10 years. For cases involving a disability, there is no maximum duration under the statute.
In high net worth or high income divorce cases, alimony is a potential consideration. If this may be an issue in your case, you should definitely consult with a qualified family law attorney about the issue. If you have questions or comments about contractual alimony or post-divorce alimony in Texas please leave your comments below.