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Alimony and Spousal Maintenance Attorneys

A common concern of our clients is the payment of support, whether they can expect to receive it or will be made to pay it. Often called alimony, court-ordered spousal support is legally known as spousal maintenance in Texas.

What Is The Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Maintenance?

Texas law prohibits court-ordered alimony payments to a former spouse. However, the parties to a divorce can agree to “contractual alimony” in which one spouse will make payments to the other spouse post-divorce as part of a contract. Texas law does permit the court to order the payment of spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is a limited form of spousal support post-divorce, but not everyone is eligible to receive it. If spousal maintenance is ordered, it likely will be limited in amount and duration.

When Is Spousal Maintenance Ordered?

Texas law provides for limited circumstances in which the court may order spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance may be available under the following circumstances:

  • A spouse has an incapacitating physical or mental disability;
  • A spouse cares for the couple's child who has a physical or mental disability and the child requires substantial care and personal supervision;
  • The couple has been married for 10 years or longer, and a spouse is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs; or
  • A spouse from whom maintenance is requested was convicted of an act of family violence, and the offense occurred within two years prior to the divorce proceeding or while the suit is pending;

If spousal maintenance is requested based on the inability to provide for minimum reasonable needs, then courts may presume that spousal maintenance is not warranted unless the spouse seeking it has made diligent efforts to earn enough income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs or to develop the necessary skills to do so.

How Much and For How Long?

The monthly amount of spousal maintenance cannot exceed the lesser of $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the average monthly gross income of the spouse being ordered to pay.

The duration of spousal maintenance payments may depend on how long the couple was married. Spousal maintenance can be paid for up to five years if the couple was married for 10 to 20 years (or if the couple was married less than 10 years and there was a criminal offense involving family violence). Spousal maintenance can be paid for up to seven years if the couple was married for 20 to 30 years, and for up to 10 years if the marriage lasted 30 years or more. These time frames can be modified in cases involving a spouse's physical or mental disability or in cases where a spouse is the custodian of a child with physical or mental disability. Texas courts are required to limit the duration of spousal maintenance to the shortest possible time period.

Susannah A. Stinson and Rachel Moyle are Texas board-certified family law attorneys with the knowledge and experience necessary to advise you about alimony and spousal maintenance. Contact us today to discuss your case.

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