Getting alimony after a divorce isn’t always an easy thing to be granted. In fact, Texas is among one of the most difficult states to get alimony, as we’ll discuss more in a moment. But just because it is difficult, that does not mean it is impossible.
In order to see who is eligible to get alimony after a divorce in Hill Country Village and the San Antonio, Texas area, we’ll be looking at why alimony is so difficult to get in Texas. While this is true, there is one way in which it can be easy to get alimony but even this route will take some effort. Afterward, we’ll look at what it takes to qualify for alimony here in Bexar County, or anywhere in Texas, and then close out by looking at how the amount of alimony to be paid is calculated and the length of time in which it may be payable.
How Hard Is It to Get Alimony in Texas?
As mentioned above, Texas is one of the most difficult states to win alimony in during a divorce. The reason for this is that Texas law makes the circumstances in which alimony is granted very limited. In fact, Texas law doesn’t even call it “alimony” but allows, in limited circumstances for “spousal support.” I will refer to it as alimony here, because that is a term that more people recognize. As an aside, you may sometimes see the term “spousal maintenance” which is entirely different. Spousal maintenance can be ordered during the pendency of a divorce proceeding to make sure that the spouses are able to meet their needs until a final order is reached. Spousal support, like alimony, is for living expenses after the divorce is final and, if it is to be ordered at all, it must be ordered as part of the divorce decree.
However, although difficult, that is not to say that it is impossible to win alimony as part of a divorce here in Texas. The courts can and will grant alimony, should your circumstances fall into the small window of those accepted and if you have documentation and a persuasive attorney.
But while the Texas courts do make it difficult to win alimony in a divorce, this does not mean that there isn’t an easier way to get alimony. The way the law is set up, it favors those alimony payments which are decided through private contracts as a part of the divorce settlement. There is a technical difference in the way that contractual alimony is enforced, versus a judicial order for alimony, but the end result is that one party is to receive payments from the other after the divorce.
Of course, many divorces can be quite ugly and this can make coming to a private contract a difficult thing to achieve. But because of how difficult it is to get the courts to assign alimony, it is always in your best interest to work with an attorney and with your spouse to try to come to an arrangement that doesn’t require getting the court involved. As part of your agreement, you may agree to an arrangement of years more than what the judge could award under the Texas law, so contractual alimony can be more custom-made for your particular needs. If you and your spouse cannot agree, then it is a good idea to try to reach such an agreement in mediation and only leave the decision up to a judge as a last resort.
Who Qualifies for Alimony in Hill Country Village?
If alimony can be decided in a private contract, then anybody could receive alimony payments in this manner. But if it is left for the courts to decide, then there are only two circumstances in which somebody is eligible to receive alimony. These are covered in Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code.
Before you can seek alimony, you must first be eligible for it. This part is pretty much the same in many states. Essentially, you must lack sufficient property (following the divorce) to be available to provide for your minimum reasonable needs. This requires more than just your testimony. You must have an itemized budget with documents to back it up.
In Texas, you must show that your property won’t be enough to meet your minimum reasonable needs, but you must also show either:
1. That the spouse who will be making the alimony payments has been convicted of or received a deferred adjudication for an act of family violence. This must have been committed either during the marriage or while the divorce suit was pending. However, if it occurred more than two years before the date that the divorce suit was filed, then it doesn’t count. It also doesn’t count if the domestic violence did not result in criminal charges. Photos and testimony are not enough if the police were never called or the charges were dropped.
2. That the spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn a sufficient income, and thus cover their minimum reasonable needs. The reason they are unable must be either that they have an incapacitating physical or mental disability; or their responsibilities as the custodian of a child of the marriage with physical or mental disabilities keeps them too busy; or they are unable to earn sufficient income AND they have been married to the other spouse for ten years or more.
You might notice there at the end that a long marriage will make it easier to get alimony compared to a shorter one. However, there still must be an inability to cover your minimum reasonable needs and there must be an acceptable reason for this inability.
How Much Alimony Will Have to be Paid?
Just because somebody is eligible for alimony, that in no way should be taken to mean that they will be granted it. After you show a court that you are eligible for alimony, they will then be in charge of looking into a number of factors and using these to consider how much, if any, alimony should be paid and how long it should be paid for.
Factors such as:
- The educational background of the recipient
- How long was the marriage?
- How old is the requesting spouse?
- What type of employment history do they have?
- Was there infidelity involved in the divorce?
- What contributions did they make as a homemaker?
- What efforts have they taken to find employment?
- What type of training would it take for them to find employment?
These are just a few of the questions that the courts will be considering to determine whether alimony payments should be made. The judge will take some time to carefully consider all of the relevant factors to determine how much alimony is appropriate.
Ultimately, the judge does not have to award any alimony or may award less than the amount permitted by law, and even if the person qualifies, the judge may decide not to award it. The judge may decide that no alimony should be paid because, in the judge’s opinion, the person asking for alimony shouldn’t have any problems finding employment and covering their minimum reasonable needs. Or, the court may decide that the minimum reasonable needs can be met by the division of the marital property, such as savings and investment accounts.
If they decide that alimony should be paid then there is a limit on how much money can be awarded on a monthly basis. The payments can only be up to the lesser of 20% of the paying spouse’s average gross monthly income or $5,000, whichever is less. Notice that this is different from child support which is often granted on a strictly mathematical basis based on the paying person’s income. The 20% is not a guideline but a limitation, and it is not the only limitation. Regardless of the paying spouse’s income, the party asking for alimony must prove how much they actually need, as a minimum, and if they can’t prove a need, then the income of the other spouse doesn’t matter. Yet, no matter how great the proven need, the award cannot exceed $5,000 or 20% of the paying spouse’s average gross income, whichever is less.
How long alimony has to be paid is limited both by the court’s decision and it will depend on the length of the marriage. Less than ten years of marriage is about five years of alimony. A marriage that lasted twenty or so years will get seven years of alimony, a marriage of thirty years or more receives ten years of alimony. These are the maximums, so often the reality is lower. The only way to get alimony for life, or any length of time longer than the maximum number of years listed here, is if there is a disability that is expected to prevent the asking party from earning income for the rest of their life, and, even then, the paying party can bring a suit later to ask the court to re-evaluate and lower the payments, but the amount awarded can never be increased.
Can an Attorney Help Me with Alimony?
Yes. A lawyer can help you to gather evidence that shows the court why you are eligible for alimony and they can help you argue your reasoning in the language of the law. Alternatively, that same law will prevent you from paying undeserved alimony. If you are the person who is being asked to pay alimony, you want to be prepared to show that there is some deficiency in the reasoning of the asking party or that they are not being truthful. You may be able to avoid paying altogether, or at least reduce the amount or the length of time that it is payable. As you can see, the law is complicated and much depends upon the proof and the persuasiveness of the parties.
Reach out to Laura D. Heard Law Firm Inc. to speak to an attorney with the specifics of your case so they can give you advice tailored to your unique situation today.