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Texas courts grant alimony, also known as maintenance, during divorce proceedings when it is necessary to make a divorce equitable. The court determines what is equitable on a case-by-case basis.
In Texas, either party is eligible for alimony. Generally, the financial situation and duration of marriage are significant factors in deciding alimony.
Death of either party or remarriage by the recipient is grounds for termination of alimony. Other changes in circumstances a decrease in the income of the payor or the reduction of need by the recipient -- may warrant modification of support.
A Texas court may look at the conduct of the parties during marriage. The court considers marital misconduct of the spouse seeking alimony in determining alimony.
Each support agreement is based on the needs and situation of the parties. The Texas court defines the length of any support payments in the support agreement. This term can be modified by court order based on change of circumstances.
The payor may deduct support payments from federal taxes. The recipient must claim such payments as income.
Texas courts are limited in when they are allowed to award alimony. As of December 2010, Texas Family Code section 8.051 allows a court to grant alimony if the paying spouse was convicted of an act of family violence within the two years preceding filing or while the divorce was pending, or, if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years, and the recipient spouse lacks sufficient property to care for his needs.
Upon a determination that a spouse is eligible for maintenance, the court weighs different factors to determine the amount of the award, according to Texas Family Code section 8.052. These include, but are not limited to, each spouse's income and financial resources, education levels, the length of the marriage, the age of each spouse, emotional and physical health, the contribution each spouse made to the marriage, and any marital misconduct of the spouse seeking maintenance.
Texas Family Code 8.054 limits how long maintenance lasts. The court cannot order maintenance for more than three years unless specific conditions are present. A recipient with a mental or physical disability that prevents him or her from earning an income, or who has custody of a child of the marriage with a disability can receive support for as long as the disability persists. The court must limit the maintenance to the shortest reasonable time period that allows the recipient to earn an income and care for his or her minimal requirements.
Texas Family Code 8.055 limits the dollar amount a court can order for alimony. The court may not order maintenance that requires an obligor to pay monthly more than the lesser of $2,500 or 20 percent of the spouses average monthly gross income.
In Texas alimony influences the distribution of property, and it can become intricately involved in a divorce settlement. When spouses are unable to reach an agreement on this issue, the District Court can order support on a case-by-case basis.
Support payments may be deducted from federal taxes, and the recipient must pay income tax on the payments.
Types of Alimony
Texas courts may order temporary, short- and long-term alimony. Temporary alimony is granted at the discretion of the court during the divorce proceedings and before the final decree. Short-term alimony may be granted to allow the receiving party time to gain necessary skills. Long-term, or permanent, maintenance may be granted to a spouse who has significant needs, and is usually reserved for lengthy marriages.
Factors Considered by the Court
In Texas alimony is discretionary. A court will determine the nature, amount, duration, and manner of alimony. According to the Texas Code - Family Code - Chapters: 8.001-8.055, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:
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