Some states require one spouse to pay alimony, or financial support, to the other spouse after a divorce. But in Texas, our alimony statute is very limited and rarely ever granted. In the Texas Family Code, court-ordered alimony is actually referred to as "spousal maintenance." Alimony or maintenance is sometimes awarded in cases where:
- A man and woman were married for more than 10 years, and one spouse has some kind of financial limitation - disability, unable to work because caring for children, or lacks earning ability to meet minimum reasonable needs.
- A spouse has been convicted of family violence - received deferred adjudication or convicted of a crime constituting family violence within two years of filing for divorce.
In Texas, the monthly amount of court ordered spousal maintenance is determined based upon a percentage of the paying spouse's monthly income. The maximum duration of court ordered maintenance is determined by the length of the parties’ marriage. (The length of time an alimony award can be ordered will differ based on # of years married - over 10, 10 to 20, and over 30 all offer different lengths of time for payment.) The only exception is when one spouse has a disability, in which case the duration can extend indefinitely.
In some cases, the two parties will agree to alimony as part of the estate division. These agreed-to payments are called "contractual alimony". Contractual alimony can be defined in almost any way as long as the spouses both agree. Sometimes support agreements are used as bargaining chips during settlement negotiations in exchange for a more favorable property division or other desired terms.