What is Alimony?

In Texas, Alimony is referred to as spousal maintenance. Courts have very limited jurisdiction to award this and usually only if you have been married 10 years or more. The maximum it will be awarded is usually less than 3 years

There is a presumption under the Texas Family Code that alimony should not be awarded in a divorce case. However, this is a rebutbable presumption. This means that while the courts tend to presume that alimony is not necessary, a person can overcome that presumption. Only a qualified Austin divorce lawyer can tell you for sure if you qualify for alimony.

There are two “threshold factors” that need to be met for the court to order alimony.

The first I will call the “inclusive factor”. The second is the “determination factor.”

The “inclusive factor” determines whether you should be awarded alimony in the first place. If you meet the “inclusive factor”, then you move on to the “determination factor.” The “determination factor” is in what amount and for how long alimony should be awarded.

Generally in order to meet the “inclusive factor”a person has to satisfy the following two requirements:

  1. The marriage has to be for a length of 10 years or more; and
  2. The spouse requesting alimony cannot meet their minimum reasonable needs. (essentially that spouse is not currently earning at least $18,000.00 a year.)

If those requirements are met, the court moves on to the “determination factor”which are as follows:

  1. The amount of alimony-The amount of monthly alimony the court can order is the lesser of: 20% of the payor’s gross income or $2500.00 per month
  2. The duration can be from 0 to 36 months.

We will talk more about Alimony in an Austin divorce case soon.

Let’s take the first factor that needs to be met. The “determination factor.”

If a couple hasn’t been married for 10 years, alimony is out. Period. End of discussion.

If they have been married for 10 years and the other spouse is working and earning about $18,000.00 a year, again, alimony is out.

So in order to meet the “determination factor”‘ a couple has to be married 10 years and the spouse who is requesting alimony is earning less than $18,000.00 a year.

Both of these have to be met before moving on to step two, the “determination factor.”

Amount and frequency are addressed in the determination factor.

Frequency covers how long a person paying alimony has to pay. A court can only order alimony for a period between 0 and 36 months. It doesn’t matter if you were married 10 years or 100 years. A court can’t order a person to pay for more than 36 months.

As far as amount goes, a court can only order one spouse to pay the other the lesser of $2,500.00 or 20% of the payor’s spouse’s gross income per month. In order to figure out how much you will have to pay in alimony or how much you will receive, take the payor’s spouse’s annual gross income and divide by 12. Then multiply it by .20. If that amount is less than $2,500.00, then that will be the monthly amount. If the amount is more than $2,500.00, the the amount of $2,500.00 will be the amount.

For example, if a spouse earns $96,000.00 a year, the calculation would be $96,000.00 divided by 12=$8,000.00. This multiplied by .20=$1,600.00. because this amount is less than $2,500.00, the alimony obligation would be $1,600.00 per month.

Now using the same formula but a spouse earning $240,000.00 would yield a monthly alimony obligation of $4,000.00. Because a court can’t order that much, they have to max out on an order of $2,500.00.