Spousal maintenance and alimony are often used interchangeably, and in essence, are the same thing. However, under Texas law, there are actually two separate types of alimony: spousal maintenance and contractual alimony.
Two Types of Spousal Maintenance
Spousal maintenance is court-mandated support from one spouse to the other after a divorce, and it is intended to provide for the receiving spouse’s financial needs until she (or he) can obtain the education or work necessary to provide for his/her own needs.
On the other hand, contractual alimony is a mutual agreement between two divorced spouses that sets the terms for how much is paid by one to support the other. This cannot be mandated by the court, but it can be approved as part of a divorce agreement.
Court-Mandated Spousal Maintenance
Of the two, only spousal maintenance can be mandated by the court under Texas law. It also has several very specific requirements and limitations that the divorcing parties will need to keep in mind. To qualify to receive spousal maintenance, the receiving spouse must:
- Have been a victim of family violence committed during the marriage or divorce by the other spouse, or;
- Be unable to provide for his or her own needs due to disability, custody of a child from the marriage, or inability to earn enough for his/her own support.
In marriages lasting 10 or more years or that involved family violence, the receiving spouse can receive up to 5 years of spousal maintenance—longer if the marriage lasted over 20 or 30 years. In the case of disability or the need to support a child, spousal maintenance can last indefinitely.
The amounts paid are limited to $5,000 per month or 20% of the payor’s monthly income, whichever is smaller.
Unlike spousal maintenance, contractual alimony can only go into effect or be enforced if both parties agree to it. As such, both the paying and the receiving spouse should have some incentive to sign. For instance, the amounts paid by the payor are tax deductible, thus passing on tax liability to the receiver. Adjustments could be made based on changing circumstances on the part of either party.
When alimony or spousal maintenance is part of a divorce, you need an experienced divorce attorney on your side to represent your interests and make sure that everything is handled properly. Bennet, Weston, LaJone & Turner P.C. represent clients on either end of a divorce.