Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is the payment of money from a higher-earning spouse to a lower-earning spouse in order to provide for a subsistence level of support. In Texas, it is much more difficult for a spouse to receive an order for alimony.
For more information about alimony from an experienced spousal support lawyer, contact me at the Law Office of Douglas C. Smith.
While a Texas Family Court judge has considerable discretion about temporary alimony awards in the months immediately following the divorce petition, the court’s ability to make a long-term alimony award is sharply limited under the Texas Family Code. In order even to qualify for spousal maintenance, the marriage must have lasted for at least ten years, unless the paying spouse was given deferred adjudication for or convicted of domestic abuse in the two years immediately prior to the divorce petition.
Unlike other states, where alimony is intended to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, Texas bases spousal support on need, and only for a limited period of time. If the receiving spouse needs to reestablish a career or obtain further education or job training, the period of alimony payments will normally last three years. While the parties can agree to relatively generous alimony terms as an element of a broader community property division agreement, the party holding out for more alimony has little legal leverage to compel a higher payment or longer payment period.
The contempt power of the Family Court, however, remains an effective tool for enforcing the terms of any alimony decree when the alimony is awarded in accordance with the Texas Family Code (as opposed to “contractual alimony”). Failure to make payments in the correct amount at the correct times can expose the party in default to the risk of jail time on a showing of contempt of court for violating the alimony order.
For specific information about spousal maintenance issues from a knowledgeable West Texas alimony attorney, contact my office in El Paso.