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Is Alimony Automatically Awarded in Texas?

A gavel and money on a table between two people symbolizing alimony

In the State of Texas, alimony is referred to as "spousal support" or "spousal maintenance." Spousal support aims to help the supported spouse meet their basic needs, and it is generally awarded in situations where the supported spouse will have trouble doing so post-divorce. Alimony is not automatic in Texas and instead is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Texas Alimony Laws

There are four conditions under which spousal support may be awarded.

  1. When the supporting spouse has been convicted of domestic violence or abuse against the requesting spouse or their children within the two years before the divorce filing or during the divorce.
  2. When the couple has been married for ten years, and when the requesting spouse is disabled, cares for a disabled child, or lacks sufficient property or income to meet their basic, reasonable needs.
  3. When both parties agree to a spousal support plan.
  4. When the requesting spouse is a sponsored immigrant and chooses to enforce the Affidavit of Support executed by their spouse.

How Is "Earning Capacity" Determined in Texas?

When determining earning capacity and how it affects alimony, the courts will consider many factors, including:

  • The property awarded to each party after their divorce
  • The education level of each party
  • The employment skills of each party
  • Whether the requesting spouse requires additional training or education and how long that will take
  • Whether additional training or education is available or feasible for the requesting spouse

The specific conditions of the case will also determine for how long alimony is awarded, and there are limitations placed on how long someone will receive spousal support. For example, if the marriage lasted for more than 20 years but less than 30 years, alimony may only be awarded for up to seven years. However, if the requesting spouse is receiving maintenance due to a disability or because they care for a disabled child, support can be awarded for as long as is necessary.

When spousal support is awarded, the courts usually enter an order that requires the paying spouse's employer to withhold the amount from their paycheck and then remit the payment to the receiving spouse.

How Does Texas Calculate Spousal Support Amounts?

Unlike some states, there is no set formula for determining how much maintenance the supporting spouse pays the requesting spouse each month. However, according to Texas Family Code Section 8.055, amounts may not exceed $5,000/month or 20% of the paying spouse's monthly gross income, whichever is lesser.

How to Request Spousal Support in TX

When going through a divorce, either party may request spousal support.

  • If you think you require maintenance post-divorce, speak with an experienced Texas lawyer right away so the request can be handled as part of your divorce process.
  • Generally speaking, you should work with an attorney throughout your divorce case, but it is especially vital when dealing with important matters like requesting spousal maintenance.
  • Your lawyer can help you prepare for the process of requesting spousal support and can answer any questions you may have.

Does Texas Award Palimony?

Palimony refers to a form of spousal maintenance for couples that were never legally married. It is not an official legal term, but some states do award a form of alimony for partners that were not married. Texas, however, does not generally award palimony. According to Texas Family Code § 8.061, “unmarried cohabitants” are not authorized to receive spousal support under any circumstances. The only exception to this rule is the case of annulment. The party of an annulled marriage or “putative spouse” in Texas is eligible for spousal support. This technically qualifies as palimony, since there is no legitimate marriage.

Modifying & Enforcing Alimony Orders

If you were granted alimony during your divorce, and your former spouse is having trouble making spousal support payments or is refusing to pay, you do have options for either modifying the original order or enforcing it through the courts. When dealing with these situations, it's important to consult with a lawyer regarding which option is best for your situation.

How Do I Know If I Should Pursue Modification or Enforcement?

You will want to find out why your ex-spouse isn't making the payments. For example, have they lost their job or are they struggling financially? In cases like these, it may make sense to seek a modification to the original order. Modifications are used when one party has experienced a significant and lasting change in circumstances, rendering the original order inadequate or inappropriate.

However, if your former partner simply refuses to pay court-ordered alimony because they feel they shouldn't have to, enforcement through the courts may be your best option.

If you need help with spousal support matters, including enforcement, reach out to our law firm for guidance. Our attorneys are prepared to help you today.