Alimony in Texas is divided into two distinct creatures:
- SPOUSAL SUPPORT (temporary alimony for the duration of the divorce), and
- SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE (alimony awarded once the divorce is concluded)
Spousal support is the temporary alimony during the duration of divorce. Either party can request it from the Court. Texas Family Code §6.502(a)(2). In order to get spousal support, you have to show that you are unable to pay the necessary expenses. In re Fuentes, S.W.3d 586, 539 (Tex.App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, orig. proceeding). The Court will normally require you to provide a Financial Information Statement, which is a type of standardized document which breaks down your income and expenses for the Court. It is also a good idea to show your accounts, bills, and invoices which back up the information in your Financial Information Statement.
In addition to not having an ability to your own necessary expenses, you’d have to show that your spouse whom you are divorcing has the ability to pay the amount sought by petitioner. Herschberg v. Herschberg, 994 S.W.2d 273, 278 (Tex.App. Corpus Christi 1999, pet. denied). This is often done by presenting shared accounts, documents received in discovery, or, subpoenaed documents which show the other party’s finances. The other party will normally have to file their own Financial Information Statement, but they may skew that statement in their favor, which is why it is good to use whatever accounts, documents received in discovery, or, subpoenaed documents you may have to controvert (i.e. challenge) the other party’s claims.
It is important to note that spousal support is not made to “equalize” the parties – if approved, it is only to the point of paying one’s necessary expenses. Herschberg v. Herschberg, 994 S.W.2d 273, 278 (Tex.App. Corpus Christi 1999, pet. denied). This means to help you make ends meet while the case is ongoing.
Because the requirements are so generalized, the Court has wide discretion in awarding spousal support. Cases where spousal support is most often awarded are when one party is a student and does not work, or where one party has had to leave the marital home due to no fault of their own. However, these are just two examples – every case is different.
Spousal maintenance is what we generally think of as “alimony” – permanent (so to speak) alimony after the divorce is finalized. In Texas, you’d have to show the following under Texas Family Code §8.051 to be awarded spousal maintenance:
- You are a spouse in this divorce;
- You lack property to meet minimum reasonable needs;
- You meet one of four statutory requirements for spousal maintenance (ten-year marriage, family violence, disability, or, disabled child)
The first element is self-explanatory – you can be a spouse in a formal marriage or a common-law (informal) marriage in Texas to request spousal maintenance.
The second element is less so – the Texas Family Code does not define “minimum reasonable needs.” As such, the Courts have ruled that this would be decided on a case-by-case basis. Howe v. Howe, 551 S.W.3d 236, 256 (Tex.App. – El Paso 2018, no pet.); Slicker v. Slicker, 464 S.W.3d 850, 860 (Tex.App. – Dallas 2015, no pet.). In the past, the Courts have looked at the following: ability to pay mortgage or rent, taxes, utilities, medical expenses, clothing, child care, transportation, and so on.
The third element is meeting one of four statutory requirements. This means that even if you satisfy the first two elements above, you must also show that the marriage has lasted ten years, or, that you have been a victim of family violence (against the spouse or child), or, you have a medical, physical, or mental disability making you unable to earn sufficient income, or, you will be custodian of a disabled child of the marriage once the divorce is over.
If the Court awards spousal maintenance, then the nature, amount, and duration are decided based on these factors under Texas Family Code §8.052:
(1) each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs independently, considering that spouse’s financial resources on dissolution of the marriage;
(2) the education and employment skills of the spouses, the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income, and the availability and feasibility of that education or training;
(3) the duration of the marriage;
(4) the age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
(5) the effect on each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs while providing periodic child support payments or maintenance, if applicable;
(6) acts by either spouse resulting in excessive or abnormal expenditures or destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community property, joint tenancy, or other property held in common;
(7) the contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
(8) the property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
(9) the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
(10) marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage; and
(11) any history or pattern of family violence…
The Court also cannot award more than $5,000 per month, or, 20% of the paying party’s average gross income. Texas Family Code §8.055(a).
The duration of the spousal maintenance is summed up in the chart below:
|Reason||Length of Marriage||Maximum Years of Alimony|
|Family violence||Less than 10 years||5 years or less|
|Married for 10+ years||Between 10 – 20 years||5 years or less|
|Married for 10+ years||Between 20 – 30 years||7 years or less|
|Married for 10+ years||30+ years||10 years or less|
|Spouse is disabled||[does not matter]||As long as spouse is disabled|
|Child is disabled||[does not matter]||As long as child is disabled|