In Texas, spousal support, spousal maintenance, or contractual alimony is additional money that one spouse pays to the other temporarily from future income to support the ex-spouse after the divorce. If this money is also paid before the divorce is finalized, it is called “temporary spousal support”. Spousal support or alimony can be an important source of funds for a parent to pay a mortgage to keep children in the marital home after divorce and to create a qualified stream of income to qualify for a car or home loan.  Alimony can enable a former spouse to pay for education or training to return to the workplace or to advance his/her skills to become financially self-sufficient and to contribute to children’s needs.

Requesting spousal support can be difficult. A spouse often requests spousal support when he or she does not make as much money as the other, or has been out of the workforce raising the children or is facing a challenging job market. For the spouse contemplating paying spousal maintenance or alimony, it can be equally challenging to think about supporting the ex-spouse over and above child support and the divorce settlement if the soon to be former spouse contributed substantially fewer or no earnings during the marriage.

In September 2011 Texas substantially changed the eligibility rules for court ordered spousal maintenance. Under the 2011 law the spouse must first prove that after divorce there will not be enough property to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs.

After proving that, the spouse must also prove at least one of the following:

  1. the marriage has been for ten years or longer and the spouse made diligent efforts to either earn sufficient income or to develop necessary skills while the divorce is pending to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs; or
  2. the other spouse has committed family violence; or
  3. the requesting spouse has an incapacitating disability that arose during marriage; or
  4. a child of the marriage has a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse who cares for and supervises the child from earning sufficient income.

A former spouse cannot request court ordered maintenance if that former spouse cannot meet his or her minimum reasonable needs because he or she lost a job or became incapacitated with a physical or mental disability after the divorce.

It is important to remember the actions they took in the past were decisions they made together in a family’s best interests based on the information each of them had at the time.  There was no one that could have foretold divorce or the circumstances.  Move forward to understanding what options and benefits there are under Federal tax laws and Texas law for spousal support and what might be right for you.