Whether you call it “spousal support” or “alimony,” spousal maintenance payments from one ex-spouse to the other after a divorce can be a hot-button issue for both parties. One usually feels that they’re being asked to give too much, while the other may feel that they’re being asked to take too little.
In Texas, there are two types of spousal support possible: spousal maintenance and contractual alimony. Here’s what you need to know about each:
This is a court-ordered type of support. Spousal maintenance can be ordered whenever the spouse asking for the support will (once the divorce is final) lack sufficient resources to provide for their own “minimum reasonable needs,” – but there are a lot of caveats.
For the court to order spousal maintenance, at least one of the following must be true:
- The spouse asked to pay was convicted of domestic violence or received deferred judgment over a domestic violence offense within the previous two years before the divorce was filed (or during the divorce process).
- The spouse asking for support has a mental or physical disability that prevents them from being self-supporting
- The spouse seeking support has been married to the paying spouse for at least 10 years and is unable to earn enough money, despite reasonable efforts, to meet their minimum needs.
- The spouse needing support is the custodian of the couple’s child, regardless of age, and the child has a physical or medical condition that requires substantial caretaking to the point that it affects their parent’s ability to be self-supporting.
It should be noted that court-ordered spousal maintenance is limited in duration and amount. The duration of the support is affected by the length of the marriage and a few other factors, but the amount of court-ordered maintenance is not supposed to exceed the lesser of 20% of the payor’s average gross income per month or $5,000.
This refers to any spousal maintenance to which the parties privately agree. For example, this could be negotiated in a prenuptial agreement, in a postnup or during the divorce itself. Because contractual alimony is a private contract, it can exceed the time limits and dollar limits that court-ordered maintenance imposes.
Regardless of which side of the equation you’re on, knowing more about how spousal maintenance works in Texas can make it easier to plan for the future or negotiate a fair agreement.