Alimony in Texas – first, there is no hard and fast 10 year rule, and, secondly, in Texas it is called “Maintenance.”

A little background: for decades Texas had no provision for post divorce alimony.  One of the few states that did not.  This was highly criticized because, primarily women, people were getting divorced where one spouse had foregone her career, was a stay at home mom and then stay at home housewife who, after the divorce, was left penniless/destitute with no prospects.    In 1997, the Texas Legislature passed the Alimony statute.  It is found in Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code.

Texas does not award permanent alimony. The Courts cannot award post divorce permanent alimony unless there is a permanent disability subject to review by the court periodically.

Statutory Alimony. The Court can order support payments for one spouse after the divorce is final only if that spouse shows entitlement to “spousal maintenance.” Note the burden of proof is on the spouse seeking the alimony. To qualify for alimony/maintenance, the spouse will have to show (1) marriage of 10 years or more, (2) the spouse lacks the skills and experience for gainful employment, (3) lacks the means for self support. Maintenance payments must cease no later than three years after the divorce. The typical fact scenario for spousal maintenance involves an elderly housewife who has spent most of her married life in the home. She is without the requisite job skills to support herself.

You have to be married to be entitled to alimony.

Temporary support during the case is about supporting your spouse financially while the case is pending. The Court can order one spouse to pay the other “temporary alimony” for support during the pendency of the litigation. This is commonly referred to as “spousal support.” Spousal Support is usually awarded to one party due to some extraordinary financial need. For example, a recent case involved a wife who was working as a receptionist in order to fill her time and for spending money (she was approaching her senior years, the kids were grown and gone). Husband had a very good income (over six figures). They lived in a $300,000 home. Spousal support was awarded during the pendency of the case in order to allow her to continue to make the utilities and mortgage payments.

Contractual Alimony. The parties can agree for, as part of the division of the marital estate, post divorce contractual alimony. Contractual alimony can be structured so that payments are deductible in calculating the obligor’s taxable income. See 26 United States Code §71. This is commonly done as a methodology for balancing out the property division where there are assets not readily divisible by the court such as the family business. Also, this is just a fact, oftentimes a spouse will pay contractual support to the other spouse as a effort to making things right. An example, Husband has a long time affair with secretary. He may pay contractual alimony to his spouse in a significant amount for a long period of time in order to assuage his guilt – done all the time. Note, the failure to pay contractual alimony is not subject to contempt as statutory alimony is. The failure to pay contractual alimony is simply a breach of contract subjecting the nonpaying spouse to all the remedies for a contractual breach – debt collection.