What Should You Know about Alimony in Texas?

texas-alimony

Alimony laws are a complicated series of rules, which can drastically vary from state to state. In particular, Texas has very clear guidelines about the circumstances surrounding any potential alimony payments that you could receive in light of your impending split.

For spouses who are considering petitioning the courts or working through the negotiation process for alimony, you will want to clearly understand the qualifications, amounts, and duration of payments that you could expect to reasonably receive.

What are the basics that you need to consider when requesting alimony payments in Texas? Below, find out what the state laws allow.

What are the qualifications for alimony in Texas?

State laws regarding the qualifications for alimony are different everywhere, but Texas allows for spousal support or alimony payments under two primary scenarios: negotiated payments or court-ordered alimony. A negotiated payment is when both spouses agree to a set amount of money in alimony during the mediation or negotiation process.

These payments are usually given in exchange for a more valuable item that the other spouse needs or has a great desire for, which outweighs the other spouse’s interest. Negotiated alimony payments can financially offset the value of that item.

Court-ordered alimony payments are achieved through the court system by a judge, but they will only be granted under certain circumstances. For example, a couple must be married for at least ten years, and the situation must be considered reasonable by the court.

Alimony could be ordered due to having difficulty finding gainful employment because of being in school or having a disability. Most situations require the marriage to last a minimum of ten years, but timeframes could be shorter in cases involving domestic violence or abuse.

In any case, payments will only be ordered on a temporary basis. The amount of alimony issued to a spouse cannot exceed 20% of the other spouse’s gross monthly income (or $2,500 per month).

What does the court consider when ordering alimony payments?

In order to make a decision to order alimony payments, each judge will have the right to weigh all of the factors regarding the marriage and the circumstances surrounding the divorce. Most judges will enter the courtroom with the assumption that alimony payments are not necessary or warranted until proven otherwise, based on a number of factors. Considerations for alimony payments can include:

  • Individual financial status of each spouse, and their income level compared to the cost of living expenses.
  • The ease with which each spouse could find gainful employment to cover those expenses (based on education level, work history, and acquired skills).
  • Disabilities of a spouse or a child, which require full-time caregiving that severely limits or prohibits that spouse from working.
  • Being a homemaker, which enables one spouse to become a significantly higher earner throughout the course of the relationship.
  • Relationship history, including potential domestic violence or abuse
  • Property awarded or brought to the marriage by one spouse in particular
  • Child-support payments

How long does alimony last in Texas?

While some states may allow for indefinite alimony payments, Texas places strict limits upon the length of time and situations during which payments will still be required from one spouse to the other. The length of time allotted for alimony payments is based upon the length of the marriage itself, with ten years typically being the minimum of time that judges will consider for ordering payments.

If the marriage lasted between ten and twenty years (or less than ten years in the case of domestic violence), alimony payments can extend for up to five years. Marriages lasting between twenty and thirty years could require alimony for seven years. Last but not least, marriages lasting thirty years or more could require alimony payments of up to ten years.

In relationships that involve an emotional or physical disability of a spouse or the disability of a child that requires constant care from one parent, alimony may last longer than the prescribed timeframes listed above, which will usually remain until there is a status change in the disability itself.

Not only are payments scheduled to end within a specific timeframe within the state of Texas, there are also external circumstances that can influence the duration of alimony payments. The alimony payments will automatically stop when the spouse receiving said payments remarries or begins to cohabitate with a new significant other in a romantic relationship. They will also cease upon the death of a spouse.

Understanding the Issues

In order to successfully petition a judge for alimony payments, each spouse should be well-versed in the knowledge surrounding the state requirements and limitations. Some couples and spouses will qualify to receive this type of financial support, but even then, it will only be on a temporary basis. Without adding a disability into the equation for calculating alimony, alimony only gives a short window of breathing room for you to foster your own sense of financial independence.

Consider your own unique situations and relationship status. Then you can figure out if you would have a reasonable chance to qualify for alimony payments in Texas. The decision will ultimately be left to you and your spouse during mediation, or a judge will decide. It is helpful to enter the case prepared and knowledgeable about your rights.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Podcast” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.