In Texas law, alimony is referred to as “spousal maintenance.” Alimony is the exception and not the rule in Texas. In fact, no U.S. state may be more restrictive than Texas in awarding it. With that said, alimony is worth seeking for countless spouses, and you shouldn’t discount it simply based on what you’ve heard. Your case is unique to you.
This post is meant as a general summary of alimony in Texas. There is no substitute for speaking with a family law attorney in Smith County, Rusk County, Cherokee County, Gregg County or wherever your divorce may be filed or pending. I office in Tyler, a short walk from the courthouse, but I regularly practice in front of the judges in every surrounding county.
There are two main types of marriages where alimony is worth exploring and discussing with a local family law attorney: the over 10 year marriage with one primary working spouse, or the disabled spouse or spouse with a disabled child.
The Over 10 year Marriage with One Primary Working Spouse
All around Tyler, Longview and many East Texas locales, a married couple have just one spouse earning money. This can be for a variety of reasons: one spouse homeschools the children, one spouse makes enough money to support the household, one spouse prefers the other spouse simply not working, and so on.
Whatever the reason, in a one-income household, the non-working spouse can become so reliant on the other spouse financially that the non-working spouse lacks the marketable skills and job experience needed to get quickly back to work. This could create an argument for spousal maintenance. However, it only applies if the marriage is 10 years or longer as of the date of trial.
Further, this basis for alimony requires that you attempt to get work or acquire marketable skills; if you don’t make this showing, a judge could deny you alimony simply because you have not made a good faith effort to support yourself.
Finally, as with all seeking spousal maintenance, you can only get it in order to meet your minimum reasonable needs. Spousal maintenance in Texas is not meant to fund the quality of life you enjoyed during marriage. In fact, alimony in Texas based on a 10-year marriage is not permanent and is limited in amount and duration.
As a general rule, you can only get alimony to meet your minimum reasonable needs and this is capped at the lesser of $5,000.00 or 20 percent of your spouse’s average monthly gross income. Further, you can only get alimony for five years for a marriage lasting between 10 and 20 years, for seven years for a marriage between 20 and 30 years, and for 10 years for a marriage of thirty years or more.
The Disabled Spouse or Spouse with Disabled Child
Texas has the second highest number of individuals with disabilities of all the states! It is no surprise then that in most of my cases involving alimony, a disability was at play. It becomes much easier to get alimony when a spouse is disabled, or if the spouse’s child is disabled and one spouse is providing care for the child.
You don’t have to be married for 10 years. You also don’t have to make efforts to get work or acquire skills. But you have to show you are unable to work. This could be difficult, or relatively easy depending on the severity of your disability or the evidence available.
Disability based alimony can be permanent; that is, for the rest of your life. However, this is fairly rare. Still, the amount of alimony is capped at the lesser of $5,000 or 20 percent of your spouse’s average monthly gross income.
The Abused Spouse
If your spouse has abused you or your child in the prior two years and plead guilty to the offense, you could get alimony. This is a highly technical basis for alimony that must be filed within two years of the assault. So if you could qualify for alimony on this basis consult an attorney right away!
Think you have a great argument for or against alimony? One last thing to consider is the property division itself. The judge MUST consider the property division in determining if a spouse needs maintenance to meet minimum reasonable needs.
For example, if a spouse gets $150,000 in the sale of the house, the judge could decide this is enough for the spouse to meet minimum reasonable needs, even though he/she would otherwise need alimony to meet his/her needs.
Consult with a local family law attorney for their opinion. There are many other legal details to consider that are not set out in this blog post. Also, a family lawyer can look at the potential evidence, and may have a very different interpretation of your case.