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Understanding Alimony During a Texas Divorce

Feb 13, 2022 | Child and Spousal Support, Spousal Maintenance

It is very rare that both spouses earn exactly the same amount of money for the duration of a marriage in Houston, TX. For this reason, the person who was the lower earner may be able to claim alimony in Texas during a divorce. Several factors determine whether you are eligible, how much you receive, and for how long after your Texas divorce you will benefit from the arrangement, including your earning potential and the length of the marriage.

The best way to find out more about maintenance payments and the types of support you can claim is to get in touch with an experienced family law attorney. They can let you know whether you’re likely to receive any money from your former spouse or whether you might have to pay them. If your situation changes over time, they can help you adjust the alimony payment, so it remains fair for everyone.

How Does Alimony Work in a Texas Divorce?

Alimony is the payment one spouse has to make to the other one during and after the divorce process. In Texas, it is often called “maintenance” or “spousal maintenance”, and it is a central part of many divorce agreements. But not every lower-earning spouse is entitled to these payments, and you will need to double-check with your lawyer to see what applies to your situation. Let’s have a closer look at how alimony works and what factors affect it.

Who Can Claim Alimony in Texas?

Alimony is not limited by gender, so either of the spouses could make a claim. But you have to meet certain requirements to qualify. The first thing the court will look at is whether you have enough property or income to provide for your basic needs. If not, you will have a good chance of receiving payments if you also meet one of the other requirements.

For instance, you could be eligible if your former partner has been convicted of a crime such as violence against you or your children or if you have a disability or mental health condition that prevents you from earning an income. You will also receive alimony if you can’t go to work because you’re looking after a child with a disability. Spouses who have been married for 10 or more years often have an easier time receiving alimony.

What Factors Determine the Amount of Maintenance You Receive in Houston, TX?

When you attend your initial consultation with your divorce attorney, they will determine whether you are eligible for spousal maintenance or not. Each case will start out with the presumption that no alimony will be given, but this can be changed if there is a genuine need for one spouse to be supported. In such a case, your lawyer will analyze your finances and give you a better idea of how much you can claim or how much you’ll have to pay.

In most cases, the judge will aim to minimize the amount and duration of alimony, so everyone can move on and restart their own lives as soon as possible. They will take many factors into consideration, including each partner’s ability to earn an income based on their skills and education, the duration of the marriage, and what property each partner already had going into the marriage.

How Much Can I Claim?

How much spousal maintenance you can claim during your Texas divorce is very individual, and there is no single correct answer. In addition to the aforementioned factors, the judge will also look at how ethically you and your spouse behaved during the divorce process. For instance, if one party destroyed or concealed community property, this will be held against them, and they might have to pay more, or they lose their claim to alimony in Texas.

Similarly, the property and assets brought into the marriage will be considered. If you contributed financially to your spouse’s education, they will be deemed more qualified as a result of their degree, and they might have to pay you alimony. The upper limit of the payment is $5,000 per month or 20% of the higher-earning spouse’s income, whichever is smaller.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Whether you have to pay alimony or you’re expecting to receive it, you’ll want to know how long this agreement will last. In Houston, TX, there are strict rules about the amount of time one spouse has to support the other. After a marriage that lasted less than ten years, maintenance is likely to end after five years, but after a marriage of 30 or more years, the court could order payments to last 10 years.

The agreement ends immediately if one of the spouses dies, the supported spouse remarries, or they cohabitate with someone they are romantically involved with. It’s important to note that many of the laws do not apply to alimony paid out due to a compelling circumstance such as a mental or physical disability. In such a case, payments could last for as long as the challenging situation persists.

Can the Amount Change over Time?

In most situations, the amount of alimony remains constant over time, but if the circumstances of either spouse change dramatically, they can ask the court to review and amend the agreement. As discussed, getting married or cohabitating is a reason for the payments to stop. But the supported spouse can also have them adjusted if their earning power suddenly decreases or increases significantly.

Similarly, the supporting spouse can request a change in the payment, for instance, if they lose their job and are no longer able to keep up with the maintenance. However, you should be aware that it is illegal to stop paying or reduce the amount until the court has heard the case and made a decision. A failure to comply could result in serious consequences like a lien being placed on the supporting spouse’s property or time in jail.

How Is Maintenance Taxed?

You might have heard that the paying partner can deduct their alimony payments from their taxes and that the supported person will have to pay tax on them. But this is no longer the case. Since 2019, spousal maintenance is no longer considered taxable income, and it isn’t tax-deductible anymore. You can speak to your lawyer about how to fill out your tax return after your divorce, and they can recommend some competent tax professionals to help.

If you were married for a long time and didn’t work much outside the home, you might be eligible for alimony after your Texas divorce. This is also the case if you have a disability or are the custodial parent of children with a disability. But the exact amount you receive depends on many factors, so it’s best to work with a highly qualified divorce attorney. They can let you know how much you can claim or have to pay out and how long the agreement will last.

What’s more, they can help you if you’d like to alter the maintenance payments because of a change in circumstances, and they will let you know how to deal with the tax implications of maintenance. Get in touch with us now at Skillern Law in Houston, TX to speak to one of our experienced attorneys about your case. We will evaluate your situation and let you know if you can expect to receive alimony in Texas.