Spousal Maintenance, which is also known as “alimony” or “spousal support,” is a payment ordered to be made from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse. Although the parties in a divorce matter can agree to any type of support, known as “contractual maintenance,” the court is very limited in its ability to order spousal support if the parties cannot reach an agreement.
A Judge can order spousal maintenance if the paying party has been convicted of, or received deferred adjudication, for an act constituting family violence within the two years prior to filing, or during, the divorce. A Judge can also order spousal maintenance if the parties have been married for at least 10 years, the receiving spouse does not have sufficient property to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs and is either disabled, is caring for a child that is disabled or lacks the earning ability to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs.
The Court is limited on the amount of support it can order and the duration of the support. A Judge must only order what is necessary to meet the minimum reasonable needs of the receiving spouse, but, in no case, can the Judge order more than $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s gross monthly income, whichever is less. Spousal Maintenance awards are also limited to a period of time based upon the length of the marriage, unless the receiving spouse cannot provide for his or her own support due to an incapacitating mental or physical disability or because that spouse is providing care for a child with mental or physical disabilities.
Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code specifically delineates the parameters for the Court to order spousal maintenance as a result of a divorce. If spousal maintenance is court ordered, it is often as enforceable as child support and failure to pay it may result in fines or even jail time.
Spousal maintenance can also have income tax implications and it is important to consult a CPA to determine if the payments are deductible or should be declared as income.