Texas alimony law restrictive as compared to that of most other states
In Texas, the court is restricted in its power to grant spousal support by state statute.
Texas makes it relatively difficult to get an award of alimony ordering the payment of support from one ex-spouse to the other after divorce. Even if a spouse meets the narrow qualification standards, the amount and duration is likely to be stringent.
Another option for a Texas couple ending marriage is to negotiate a contract for alimony-like support payments. A private contract allows them to create their own arrangement that is not bound by the strict requirements of Texas law. If a private contract is not negotiated, the judge in the divorce will decide alimony issues.
Any Texan contemplating divorce should speak with an experienced family law attorney about alimony, whether likely to be the obligee (also called receiver, recipient or payee) or the obligor (payor), to understand the pros and cons of contractual alimony or whether court-ordered alimony is a possibility.
In San Antonio, the attorneys at Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P., represent divorce clients in many issues.
Spousal support in Texas is only narrowly available. First, the recipient’s property must be insufficient to meet his or her “minimum reasonable needs.” Practically, this means that if the obligee can provide him or herself with a basic lifestyle, he or she would not be eligible for alimony.
In addition to not being able to meet minimum reasonable needs, one of these four conditions must exist:
- The payor was convicted (or received deferred adjudication) of family violence against the recipient or the recipient’s child in the two years before the divorce filing or while the divorce is pending.
- The receiver cannot earn enough to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs because of “incapacitating physical or mental disability.”
- The marriage lasted at least 10 years and the recipient does not have the ability to earn enough income to meet minimum reasonable needs. The law presumes that alimony is not appropriate in this situation, unless the payee has diligently tried either to earn enough to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs or to develop skills to do so since separation and while the divorce has been pending.
- The payee cannot earn enough to meet minimum reasonable needs because he or she cares for the couple’s child who needs “substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability.”
If the recipient meets the eligibility requirements, the court must consider “all relevant factors” to craft the “nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments” of the award. While the court must consider everything relevant, the statute lists 11 specific factors that must be weighed, including:
- Marriage length
- Marital misconduct
- Family violence
- Homemaker contributions
- Property brought into marriage by either
- Contribution of one to “education, training, or increased earning power” of the other
- Wrongful dissipation of assets
- Each spouses’ age, job history, earning ability, and physical and emotional health
- And more
DURATION AND AMOUNT
Alimony may only last for the “shortest reasonable period” to allow the payee to earn enough to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs, unless the ability to work is substantially diminished by disability, care of the couple’s young child or “another compelling impediment.”
The law also sets outside limits:
- Ten years for marriage of at least 30 years
- Seven years for marriage of 20 to 30 years
- Five years for marriage of 10 to 20 years
- Five years for marriage under 10 years if eligibility is based on the family violence condition
Consult a Texas divorce lawyer for alimony questions in any divorce situation.