Getting a divorce can be extremely stressful and costly, but one thing divorcing Texans don't have to worry about is sizable alimony payments. In this state, financial support paid by the higher-earning spouse following divorce is called spousal maintenance or spousal support, and the eligibility requirements are very high. To get spousal maintenance in Texas, you must file certain forms with the court.
Texas has two types of spousal maintenance: court-ordered spousal maintenance and contractual alimony, a voluntary contractual agreement between the two parties. If you seek an order for spousal maintenance, you must include financial information on your Petition for Divorce. The court takes into account several factors, including the length of the marriage and the earning potential of the lower-earning spouse.
Court-Ordered Spousal Maintenance
A family judge in Texas can order a spouse to pay spousal maintenance, but the eligibility requirements are high, the amount and duration are restricted, and it can be changed or stopped at a later date.
Texas does not recognize "palimony," meaning a court cannot require someone to pay spousal support if there wasn't a ceremonial or common law marriage. The spouse seeking spousal support must first prove that, after all matrimonial assets and liabilities are split (as part of the divorce), there will not be enough property to meet his monthly expenses.
Next, the spouse must prove that the marriage lasted for 10 years or longer and that one of the following apply:
- He actively tried to either earn enough income or cultivate the skills needed to meet his minimum financial needs until the divorce is finalized; or
- The other spouse has inflicted violence upon him; or
- The requesting spouse has an incapacitating disability; or
- A child (of any age) of the marriage has a physical or mental disability that prevents the requesting spouse from earning enough money.
The amount of spousal maintenance ordered depends on the earnings and expenses of each spouse as well as the court that hears the case, but it will never exceed $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income (whichever is lower). Texas courts often make temporary spousal maintenance orders during the divorce process, typically lasting from the day the petition is filed until the day the divorce is granted.
Forms for Spousal Maintenance
To file for divorce in Texas, you must obtain an Original Petition for Divorce form from the county court clerk in the Texas county district court where you live. You can ask for temporary spousal support by filing a Motion for Temporary Orders. You can request ongoing spousal maintenance as part of your Petition for Divorce, including financial information such as the salary of both spouses, vehicles owned by either spouse and all financial assets acquired during the marriage.
If the financial needs of the lower-earning spouse increase or decrease at some point after spousal maintenance is granted, either party may file a modification motion with the Texas district court that granted the final decree of divorce.
You don't need to have a lawyer to file for divorce or apply for spousal maintenance in Texas, but divorce cases can be complicated and it may help to have professional advice on Texas spousal maintenance form requirements and other aspects of the court process.
There is no need to apply for spousal maintenance if parties can come to a voluntary agreement between themselves. In Texas, this is called contractual alimony and is paid according to an agreement between the spouses that includes how much it will be, how long it will last, and under what circumstances it will lower or stop. There are no legal eligibility requirements.
In most cases, contractual alimony is paid (in addition to child support) to a self-employed or unemployed spouse at the time of divorce to let her rent an apartment, borrow to buy a car, buy a house or refinance the marital home into her own name. The agreement to pay contractual alimony should be included in the Final Decree of Divorce.