Alimony is the term commonly used in reference to payments one ex-spouse is ordered to make to the other after a divorce. In Texas, there are two forms of post-divorce payments – alimony and spousal maintenance. There are distinct differences between those forms of payment and how they come into being.

Texas was the last state in the union to enact a post-divorce alimony statute. The Texas term for payments by one former spouse to another after divorce is “spousal maintenance”.

For a number of years, the Texas spousal maintenance statute was the most conservative in the country. In most cases to qualify for spousal maintenance the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years and a party needed to convince the judge that she/he would be unable to earn enough money after the divorce to support herself/himself. If a spouse met those requirements, the prior law set the outer limits on spousal maintenance payments at a term of three years and no more than 20% of the paying party’s monthly earnings up to $2,500 per month.

Under the new statute, the amount and duration of payments that the judge may order have been significantly changed. If the parties were married between ten and twenty years, the spousal maintenance payments could run for up to five years. If the marriage lasted between twenty and thirty years, the payments could be extended for up to seven years. If the divorce took place after more than thirty years, the payments could span up to ten years. Further, the potential amount of the payments was increased from $2,500 per month to $5,000 per month.

Although the Texas spousal maintenance law remains very conservative when compared to the laws of other states, the revised law gives the judge more latitude to assist a former spouse who would otherwise be in dire financial straits after the divorce.

Alimony, on the other hand, can be put into effect only by agreement of the parties. Unlike spousal maintenance, alimony can be set at any number the parties agree upon and can last for any term that fits the circumstances. The agreement can provide that the amount of alimony can be changed if circumstances change or terminated if a given event occurs. Alimony is a helpful tool in settling divorce cases in which one spouse earns a considerable amount more than the other spouse. Payments are tax deductible to the paying party and included as income by the receiving party, which makes the payments less expensive to the paying party and provides the receiving party with more spendable cash.

More information is available on our page “Alimony & Spousal Maintenance.”

Call our Frisco office at 972-387-9955, to arrange a consultation with an experienced Texas family law specialist.