When a divorce seems likely, we often are asked about whether one spouse might be required to make support payments for the other spouse. Although, some folks call such support payments “alimony,” Texas does not have an actual alimony system. Instead, Texas law provides for “Spousal Support.” While all of the differences between alimony and spousal support are beyond the scope of this piece, suffice it to say that spousal support is a considerably more limited support system than is traditional alimony. 

First, it is worth noting that sometimes parties will agree to so-called “Contractual Alimony,” perhaps for tax avoidance issues. That subject will be reserved for a later blog post. The same is true for the “Temporary Spousal Support” which a court might Order for just while the divorce case is pending.

A party seeking spousal support in Texas (after the divorce case is over) must first demonstrate that he or she “will lack sufficient property, including the spouse’s separate property, on dissolution of the marriage to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs and:

(1)  the spouse from whom maintenance is requested was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that also constitutes an act of family violence, as defined by Section 71.004, committed during the marriage against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child and the offense occurred:

(A)  within two years before the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage is filed; or

(B)  while the suit is pending; or

(2)  the spouse seeking maintenance:

(A)  is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability;

(B)  has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or longer and lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; or

(C)   is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.” Tex. Fam. Code, Sec. 8.051.

So, the first step is determining whether the person seeking the support has enough property to meet his or her “reasonable minimum needs.” If the answer to that question is “yes,” then the analysis can stop. Post-divorce Spousal Support cannot be awarded to that person.

If the answer to that first question is “no,” then the analysis will continue: can the person seeking spousal support show that the other party has been involved in ‘family violence” as described above? Is the person wanting support incapacitated by a disability? Can the party seeking spousal support show that this marriage has lasted for ten (10) tears or longer, and that he or she is unable to earn enough to meet that person’s minimum reasonable needs? Or, is that person the care-taker of a disabled child of the marriage, and so, is unable to work enough to provide sufficient support?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” then the Court may award Spousal Support. Otherwise, the court may not.

For the answers to more frequently asked questions about Texas Family Law, check-out our other blog posts on this sight and our FAQ page.

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