In this article, learn about how spousal maintenance is ordered, the requirements to be eligible for spousal maintenance, and other important information.
Will the court order spousal support in my case?
Spousal maintenance is decided on a case-by-case basis. There are basically four ways in which a spouse can get an award for spousal maintenance:
- The spouse (who would be paying, also known as the obligor) has been convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child within two years before filing the divorce or while the divorce is pending. The length of the marriage is irrelevant.
- The marriage has lasted for at least 10 years and
- the spouse seeking spousal maintenance (the obligee) lacks sufficient property or income to provide for their reasonable needs and
- is either a) disabled, or b) primary caretaker of a disabled child, or c) lacks earning ability to provide for their minimum reasonable needs.
- The parties can agree that spousal maintenance is paid for a certain time period.
- If a spouse is a sponsored immigrant, they could enforce the Affidavit of Support executed by the other party and request that the court order the sponsor to provide the immigrant spouse 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines until the immigrant spouse becomes a U.S. citizen or until they have earned 40 credits of work history.
How does the court decide if a spouse lacks earning ability to provide for their "minimum reasonable needs"?
The court will consider all relevant factors, including:
- Financial resources available to each party once their property is divided by the court,
- The education and employment skills of the spouses,
- The time necessary to obtain sufficient education or training to enable the spouse to earn sufficient income, and
- The availability and feasibility of such training.
The court also looks at factors like the duration of the marriage, the spouse’s health and age, and how the spouses treated each other. The court will decide spousal maintenance based on the above factors and anything else that might be important.
The spouse seeking spousal maintenance will also have to show that they have diligently searched for employment, training, and educational opportunities. The due diligence requirement does not apply in cases where the Affidavit of Support is being enforced.
How long will spousal maintenance be paid?
Under the law, there are three different standards for awarding spousal maintenance:
- The award may not remain in effect for more than five years if:
- A spouse is awarded spousal maintenance because the other spouse has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense within two years before the filing of the divorce or while the divorce was pending, or
- If the marriage lasted for at least 10 years but less than 20 years.
- If the marriage lasted for at least 20 years but less than 30 years, the award may not remain in effect for more than seven years.
- If the marriage has lasted for 30 years or more, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than 10 years.
Note: The court may order that spousal maintenance remains in effect for the time the spouse is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs because of a disability or because they are a caretaker of a disabled child.
How does the court determine how much maintenance is paid?
There is no formula to decide how much spousal maintenance you will be awarded.
Under the law, the court cannot require the obligor to pay more than the lesser of:
- $5,000 or
- 20% of their gross monthly income.
Read Texas Family Code 8.055 for what gross income does and does not include.
Is spousal maintenance taxed?
Spousal maintenance payments ordered after 2018 are not deductible on taxes by the obligor and are not taxable income for the obligee. Speak with a lawyer or a tax professional if you have more questions.
More information can be found in Publication 504 from the IRS.
How will I receive my payments after they are ordered by the court?
If spousal maintenance is awarded, the court will usually enter an order directing the obligor’s employer to withhold a certain amount and send it to the spouse awarded maintenance.
You can enforce a spousal maintenance order in several ways:
- By filing a motion to enforce (which may also include a motion for contempt);
- Asking the court to reduce the amount owed to a money judgment; or
- Getting a qualified domestic relations order, commonly known as a QDRO (starting September 1, 2021).
There are no QDRO forms or forms for enforcing spousal maintenance available on our website.
When does the spousal maintenance end?
Payment of spousal maintenance terminates (ends) once:
- the award time period end;
- On the death of either spouse or remarriage of the obligee;
- If the obligee permanently lives with another person with whom they have a romantic relationship.
Are spousal support and spousal maintenance different?
Spousal support and spousal maintenance are different under Texas law. "Spousal support" is voluntary, and generally something the divorcing parties agree to in their divorce settlement. Spousal support can be enforced like a contract. Spousal maintenance, on the other hand, is enforceable as a court order.
Texas law does not include the term "alimony."
This article tells you about dividing your property and debt in a divorce.
This article explains retirement benefits and how they can be divided in a divorce.
This article explains the basics of child support.