How do Texas courts treat alimony?
As you may have heard, Texas courts treat alimony or spousal maintenance somewhat differently from the courts of other states. Texas is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to spousal maintenance awards. In fact, under Texas law there is a rebuttable presumption that spousal maintenance should not be ordered.
In order for a judge to grant post-divorce maintenance to one of the spouses, one of the following two scenarios must be met:
- The paying spouse committed an act of family violence as defined by Texas law within two years of the divorce; or
- The marriage was at least 10 years and the receiving spouse is unable to provide for his or her own needs due to his or her own disability, taking care of a disabled child, or due to clearly lacking the ability to provide for him or herself.
If one of these scenarios is met, the court determines the length and the amount of the spousal maintenance based on the length of the marriage, the income of the paying spouse and many other factors found in the Texas Family Code.
What this means is that spousal maintenance isn’t ordered very frequently by the court. However, many divorcing parties still agree to alimony on their own terms with the help of their attorneys. Contractual alimony is really a way of dividing marital property in an effective manner for both parties.
For example, if one party owns a business that is determined to be marital property, he or she likely will not want to sell the business in order to provide the spouse with his or her marital share. Instead, alimony can be used to pay the spouse his or her interest in the business over time.
To learn more about court-ordered and contractual alimony in Texas, please see our Alimony & Spousal Maintenance page.