Understanding Spousal Maintenance Vs Alimony In Texas
Before we learn about how to avoid or reduce alimony in Texas, its important to understand the different types of spousal support in Texas. The Lone Star State is considered one of the most difficult places to get court-ordered spousal maintenance in a divorce, and there are strict qualifications that the supported spouse has to meet for a judge to order the other spouse to make payments to them.
Spousal Maintenance Vs Contractual Alimony In Texas
Another important note about alimony in Texas is that there is a difference between court-ordered spousal maintenance and contractual alimony .
Contractual alimony, which is discussed in greater detail below, is when both spouses agree to an alimony arrangement voluntarily and outside of the court process. Thus, Texas spousal maintenance guidelines may be instructive when negotiating contractual alimony, but they are not binding. Spousal maintenance, meanwhile, is decided by the courts according to Texas law.
How Long Do You Have To Be Married To Get Alimony In Texas
In most cases, you have to have been married for ten years to receive court-ordered spousal support in Texas. The only exception for this is if the supporting spouse was convicted of family violence.
There are no restrictions on how long youve been married for contractual alimony. This is because this type of arrangement results from a voluntary agreement between the divorcing parties.
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How Is Alimony Calculated In Texas
The court divides the spouses monthly gross income by five to determine the spousal maintenance amount. The result is compared with $5,000, and the lesser of both is fixed as the maintenance amount to be paid. The monthly gross income is calculated by adding all wages and compensation of personal services such as tips, overtime pay, commissions, and bonuses received in a year. The following are then added to the sum:
The final figure is divided by 12 to get the monthly gross income. The following are not included in the calculation of the gross monthly income for spousal maintenance:
- Accounts receivable
- Federal public assistance programs payments
- Workers compensation benefits
- Disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs
How Long Do You Have To Be Married To Receive Alimony In Texas
The Lone Star State has one of the narrowest spousal support laws in the country. Typically, to qualify for alimony in Texas, the marriage must have lasted at least ten years and the obligee must be unable to earn enough to meet basic needs. Other qualifications, which do not come up very frequently, include the obligees incapacitating disability, a family violence conviction within the last two years, and custody of a minor disabled child who requires constant care.
Additionally, in all these cases, there is a presumption that the judge must award the absolute minimum amount of alimony needed to meet basic needs. Usually, this phrase means living above the poverty line, although the standard of living during the marriage could have an effect.
Because Texas alimony laws are so subjective, both obligees and obligors need assertive legal representation. Unless you have an experienced Dallas spousal support attorney in your corner, there is a good chance the alimony award will not accurately reflect the obligees needs or the obligors ability to pay.
Setting Alimony in Texas
In addition to the aforementioned minimum necessary presumption, Dallas County judges set the amount and duration of payments according to several factors, including:
Some caps apply to the duration of payments. Usually, payments may last a maximum of five , seven , or ten years.
Modifying Spousal Support in Texas
Contact a Dedicated Dallas Spousal Support Attorney
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Eligibility For Spousal Maintenance In Texas
A divorce can seriously damage the financial situation of one or both persons involved. Consider a spouse who has left the workforce, and dedicated his or her life to being a stay-at-home parent or a caretaker of the home.
Following a divorce, this spouse will be forced to find employment but will have a lot of trouble receiving the same level of salary as was provided to them in their previous lifestyle.
This situation only gets more complicated when children are involved.
Those concerned about being able to financially support themselves following a divorce should seek the advice of a divorce attorney to determine what legal options are available, especially pertaining to Texas alimony.
TX ALIMONY FAQ
How Does Spousal Maintenance Work In Texas
Wondering how alimony works in Texas? Learn everything you need to know about how spousal maintenance works in Texas.
If youâre going through a divorce in Texas, you may have questions about how alimony works.
The first thing to know about alimony in Texas is that it’s called âspousal maintenance.â Many states have replaced the term alimony in their laws, so what is commonly referred to as alimony is technically called spousal maintenance in Texas.
This article provides an overview of spousal maintenance in Texas, including how itâs calculated, how long it lasts, and other key details you should know.
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Spousal Maintenance And Taxes
Beginning January 1, 2019, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, spousal support or separate maintenance payments are not deductible from the income of the payer spouse or includable in the income of the receiving spouse if made under a divorce or separation agreement executed after December 31, 2018.
You cant deduct alimony or separate maintenance payments made under a divorce or separation agreement executed before 2019 but later modified if the modification expressly states the repeal of the deduction for alimony payments applies to the modification. Alimony and separate maintenance payments under such an agreement are not included in your gross income.
According to the IRS, a payment is alimony or separate maintenance if all the following requirements are met:
- The spouses dont file a joint return with each other
- The payment is in cash
- The payment is to or for a spouse or a former spouse made under a divorce or separation instrument
- The spouses arent members of the same household when the payment is made
- Theres no liability to make the payment after the death of the recipient spouse
- The payment isnt treated as child support or a property settlement.
If you paid amounts that are considered taxable alimony or separate maintenance, you may deduct from income the amount of alimony or separate maintenance you paid whether or not you itemize your deductions.
Have Questions About Alimony In Texas 11 Things You Need To Know
How alimony is determined varies from state to state. If you and your spouse are calling it quits in Texas, alimony isnt a given. You also shouldnt expect a windfall, even if your spouse is a professional athlete, real estate mogul or oil baron. Dallas Divorce Attorney Abby Gregory answers 11 common questions about spousal support in Texas below.
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How Do You Qualify For Spousal Maintenance In Texas
As a part of the Texas divorce process, either spouse can request spousal maintenance. The court is only able to award spousal maintenance, however, if the spouse that is requesting maintenance cant provide for their basic needs and at least one of the following is true:
- The spouses have been married for at least ten years and the dependent spouse isnt able to earn enough income to meet their basic needs
- The spouse that is asking for maintenance has an incapacitating physical or mental disability that leaves them unable to earn enough income to meet their basic needs
- The spouse that is asking for maintenance is the custodial parent of a child with physical or mental disabilities that requires substantial supervision or care to the extent that the parent cannot work and earn money to meet their basic needs
- The spouse being asked to pay maintenance was convicted of an act of family violence either against their children or the spouse while the divorce is pending or within two years of the divorce being filed
Courts decide whether to award spousal maintenance on a case-by-case basis.
Does Asset Division Affect Spousal Maintenance
In some cases, spouses may negotiate to keep certain assets acquired in the marriage for either less or more spousal maintenance.
Texas is a community property state, so all property acquired during a marriage is equally owned by each partner. The exceptions to this are if the property is acquired as an inheritance, a gift to only one of the spouses, or as a personal injury settlement sustained by only one spouse.
Property acquired either before or after the marriages separation date is considered the sole property of the person who acquired it. This includes all types of pensions, but only amounts accrued during the marriage.
Texas law requires that community property be divided in a manner considered just and right. This means the property must be divided equitably based on circumstances that a court may consider, including each spouses earning power, who has custody of any children, each spouses health, education, and other related issues.
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Spousal Support In Texas: What You Should Know
Spousal support, more commonly known as alimony, is paid by one former spouse to the other to help support their ex-partner financially. Spousal support is completely separate from child support and can be paid whether or not there are children involved in the divorce. While some people may think alimony is a relic from another time, it may still be paid depending on the circumstances of a divorce. There are many things couples should be aware of regarding spousal support in Texas, including the following:
1. There Is a Presumption Against Spousal Support.
In Texas, family courts presume spousal support will not be provided unless one of the parties involved in a divorce seeks financial support and can demonstrate that it is necessary. This means the courts will not award spousal support without it being requested and proved up. A party seeking spousal support must make their case to the court to show they require this type of financial assistance. That party, unless disabled or unless family violence is involved, will also have to show the court that they are trying to obtain consistent employment and that the spousal support will be temporary.
2. What Qualifies a Former Spouse for Spousal Support?
3. What Types of Spousal Support Exist?
4. What Is the Maximum Amount of Spousal Support?
5. How Long Does an Ex-Spouse Have to Pay Spousal Support?
Pros And Cons Of Contractual Alimony
There are two primary benefits of contractual alimony compared to court-ordered spousal maintenance.
First, contractual alimony gives the parties greater flexibility to shape the arrangement to meet their needs and preferences. Perhaps you and your spouse would like to agree to larger payments than would be allowed under Texas alimony laws or to have payments that would last longer. The strict limitations of spousal maintenance do not apply to contractual alimony arrangements.
Second, it can save you time, money, and headache to reach your own agreement instead of fighting things out in court. Many divorces are contentious, and reaching an agreement with your spouse is not always possible. But when it is, it is often preferable to the alternative.
Meanwhile, the main potential downside to contractual alimony is the difference in enforcement noted above. If a spouse stops making payments under a court-ordered spousal maintenance arrangement, they are violating a court order which opens up various options for recourse. Enforcement for contractual alimony, on the other hand, is a matter of contract law.
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How Is Spousal Maintenance Taxed
Divorce tends to precipitate change in many different aspects of life, including how you pay taxes.
The impact of divorce on how one pays federal taxes used to be larger than they currently are, however. Due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 , alimony or maintenance payments that relate to divorce agreements that are dated January 1, 2019, or later are no longer tax-deductible for the individual that is making the payments. Additionally, the spouse that has been receiving maintenance or alimony payments isnt required to report these payments as a source of income.
Before this act went into effect, people receiving alimony had to claim it as income, and people paying alimony could claim it as a deduction.
To understand how spousal maintenance or alimony impacts your taxes at the state level, youll want to consult with a tax professional.
Enforcement Of Spousal Maintenance
Courts have the ability to enforce spousal maintenance orders using their contempt powers, according to Section 8.059 of the Texas Family Code. Under Texas Government Code Sec. 21.002, when a party is held in contempt, it means that fines or jail time can be ordered by the court for a failure to comply.
Defenses for the spouse that is being held in contempt include:
- Being unable to borrow the necessary funds successfully
- Not being able to afford the amount due
- Having no source to obtain the money legally
- Lacking property that could be sold in order to cover the amount due
Paying for court-ordered spousal maintenance is only one of the financial considerations individuals have to think about when getting divorced. The entire process can be quite expensive, and it might be prudent to consider some of the cheap divorce options in Texas if you are concerned about how divorce will impact your financial situation.
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Can You Be Ordered To Pay Spousal Maintenance To Two Ex
If you are getting divorced for the second time, you might be wondering if its legal for an individual to pay alimony or spousal maintenance to more than one ex-spouse.
In short, the answer is yes.
If you sign a contract with more than one spouse agreeing to pay alimony, you will be responsible for upholding your end of the contract in both cases.
If you are ordered to pay spousal maintenance to one ex, and you are getting divorced again, you can still be ordered to make support payments to another spouse. If you are in this situation, its a good idea to talk to an attorney to help estimate what your spousal maintenance payments will be and for how long you will be expected to pay them.
Can I Get Alimony If We Are Common Law Married
The state of Texas recognizes common law marriage as being equally valid as a traditional marriage. This means that the divorce process is exactly the same whether you have a formal marriage or a common-law marriage. However, it is required that you can prove that the marriage actually existed.
Check out this recent post to learn more about common law marriage in Texas.
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How Does The Court Decide If A Spouse Lacks Earning Ability To Provide For His Or Her Minimum Reasonable Needs
The Court will consider all the relevant factors, such as:
- Financial resources available to each party once their property is divided by the court,
- The education and employment skills of the spouses,
- The time necessary to obtain sufficient education or training to enable the spouse to earn sufficient income, and
- The availability and feasibility of such training.
The Court will also look at factors such as the duration of the marriage, the spouses health and age, and how the spouses treated each other. The Court will make a decision on spousal maintenance based on the above factors and anything else that might be important.
The spouse seeking spousal maintenance will also have to demonstrate that he or she has diligently searched for employment, training, and educational opportunities. The due diligence requirement does not apply in cases where the Affidavit of Support is being enforced.
Qualifying For Spousal Maintenance In Texas
Either spouse can request maintenance during the divorce process in Texas. However, the court can only award support if the requesting spouse doesn’t have enough property at the time of the divorce to provide for basic needs, and at least one of the following circumstances exist:
- the supporting spouse was convicted of an act of family violence against the other spouse or the couple’s children within two years of the divorce filing, or while the divorce is pending
- the spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn enough income to be self-supporting due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability
- the couple has been married for at least ten years, and the dependent spouse lacks the ability to earn income to meet basic needs, or
- the supported spouse is a custodial parent of a child who requires substantial care or personal supervision due to a mental or physical disability which prevents the parent from working and earning an income.
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What Is The Duration Of Spousal Maintenance
In addition to mandating the amount of maintenance, Texas law also determines how long maintenance can be awarded and paid from one spouse to another. In most cases, this rate falls between 5 and 10 years, depending on how long the couple was married and whether or not there is a history of violence.
The primary exception to this cap is if the spouse or a child of the spouse suffers from a disability. In this case, the maintenance payments can go on for as long as the recipient spouse is eligible and in financial need.
Limits On Spousal Maintenance
When maintenance is based on disability, the payments may continue so long as the person or child of the marriage is disabled. Maintenance based on family violence may last no more than five years. Otherwise, the duration of maintenance payments depends on the length of marriage. If the marriage lasted between ten and twenty years, payments can be for up to five years. If the marriage lasted for twenty to thirty years, payments can be for up to seven years. And for marriages over thirty years, spousal maintenance can be ordered for up to ten years. The maximum amount of spousal maintenance that may be ordered by a court is $5,000 or 20% of the paying spouses gross monthly income, whichever is less. In setting the amount of maintenance, a court looks at the spouses minimum reasonable needs, each spouses ability to provide for their minimum needs, what assets each spouse received in the divorce, and the paying spouses ability to afford maintenance. Maintenance terminates if either party dies or the receiving party cohabits or remarries.
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