Alimony in Texas: 7 Things You Need To Know
When a couple is getting divorced, there may be questions surrounding the issue of alimony. Alimony, often referred to as “spousal maintenance” in Texas, is the process of the higher-earning spouse paying a monthly sum to their former partner.
There is often confusion about how alimony works. The Southlake alimony lawyers at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth⏐Family Law would like to share seven things that you need to know regarding alimony or spousal maintenance.
1. What is the Standard Alimony Amount in Texas?
In Texas, alimony is determined based on the higher-earning spouse’s average monthly gross income.
According to Texas Family Code § 8.055, maximum alimony payments will be the lesser of:
- $5,000; or
- 20% of the spouse’s average monthly gross income.
It does not matter if your spouse is a CEO or another high-paying position. The most alimony you can receive per month is $5,000.
2. How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Payments Last?
Although it is up to the court to decide how long you will receive spousal maintenance payments, Texas law does specify the following:
- For couples married at least 10 years: no more than five years;
- For couples married at least 20 years, but no more than 30 years: no more than seven years; and
- For couples married for at least 30 years or more: no more than 10 years.
Spousal maintenance is rarely granted permanently since the court would like to see the former spouse demonstrate financial self-sufficiency.
3. Does the Court Grant Alimony in All Divorces?
In Texas, it is difficult for spouses to obtain court-ordered alimony. The court reserves alimony orders for those spouses who they feel cannot meet their minimum reasonable needs following a divorce. Customarily, you would need to be married for at least 10 years to qualify.
Additionally, if you choose not to work, known as voluntary impoverishment, then the court may be less inclined to grant you alimony. The court will want to see that you are making a considered effort to return to the workforce.
4. Can Alimony or Spousal Maintenance Only Be Awarded by the Court?
While a spouse can seek a court order for alimony, some spouses sign a settlement agreement for contractual alimony upon finalizing their divorce.
Unlike court-ordered alimony, contractual alimony will not necessarily have a maximum monthly amount. Unfortunately, once the contract is signed, contractual alimony cannot be modified.
5. Can Contractual Alimony Payments Be Enforced?
In the event that your former spouse fails to pay you, the court can more easily enforce a spousal maintenance order over contractual alimony.
According to Texas Family Code § 8.059, the court may find the party that has defaulted in contempt. This could result in jail time or fines. However, the court cannot hold a party in contempt for any periodic payments that exceed the statutory limits.
Solely regarding contractual alimony, the recipient spouse can file a civil suit in family court. The court can enforce a contract through specific performance, requiring a party to fulfill their end of the signed contract. However, courts will only enforce specific performance if the original contract is deemed “fair and equitable” to both parties.
Additionally, in contractual alimony cases, the court can award damages for the breach of contract. Keep in mind that Texas courts do not allow wage garnishment to collect overdue alimony, so you may not get back all the alimony due to you.
6. In What Circumstances is Spousal Maintenance Terminated?
Besides the statutory law dictating how long alimony is paid based on the length of the marriage, spousal maintenance can be stopped in other situations.
For instance, if a spouse remarries or cohabitates with another person, spousal maintenance will terminate.
If the spousal maintenance recipient dies, then payments will cease. Nonetheless, if the payor dies, their life insurance policy or estate may be responsible for funding future payments.
7. Will Alimony or Spousal Maintenance Affect My Taxes?
Each state varies on how they treat alimony regarding taxes. If you pay or receive alimony and your divorce was finalized before December 31, 2018, you will need to claim it on your taxes. If you pay alimony, it is tax-deductible, and if you receive alimony, it is considered taxable income.
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress, neither court-ordered spousal maintenance nor contractual alimony is deductible or taxable income for couples divorced after December 31, 2018.
Be sure to discuss your situation with a certified public accountant (CPA) or enrolled agent (EA) before filing your taxes.
A Southlake Alimony Lawyer Persevering for You
After a marriage ends, the financial ties between a former couple may linger if alimony is being paid. The alimony lawyers at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth⏐Family Law know the stress which comes with alimony. We are here to help give you insight into your situation and find a solution that meets your needs. Contact us today. We proudly serve the Fort Worth and Denton areas.