Types of Houston Alimony and Houston Spousal Support Options

Photo of Alimony DisputeIf you are getting a divorce and are seeking spousal support, it is important to keep in mind that there is not just one type of “universal alimony.” Just as each person’s situation is different, different types of alimony have been created. When you speak with a Houston alimony attorney, it is best for you to know what types of alimony are available to you. A Houston spousal support attorney can better explain which type of support is best for your situation. Texas law greatly favors the receipt of rehabilitative spousal support, which is subject to statutory limitations as to amount and duration. Courts may order temporary alimony while the divorce is pending. In very limited circumstances, a court may award a spouse permanent or other types of maintenance at the conclusion of the divorce.

Rehabilitative Spousal Support

In 2011, Texas rewrote its alimony statutes for divorce, which favor awards of rehabilitative spousal support almost exclusively.

Rehabilitative alimony is payments made by one spouse to the other for a set limited duration. Courts will order this type of support so that the receiving spouse has time and money to pursue education or job training to become self-sufficient and financially independent.

To be eligible for rehabilitative maintenance under Texas law, the spouse seeking support must demonstrate he or she lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her “minimum reasonable needs,” and can additionally demonstrate one of the following:

  1. The recipient spouse is unable to earn sufficient income due to mental or physical disability;
  2. The marriage was over 10 years and the recipient lacks sufficient income;
  3. The recipient spouse is the primary custodian of a child of the marriage with physical or mental disabilities; or
  4. The payor spouse was convicted or received deferred jurisdiction for family violence within two years of the divorce being filed.

Rehabilitative maintenance is further subject to statutory limits of duration. Texas law allows rehabilitative maintenance to only last a maximum of 5 years if the marriage was under 10 years and the maintenance was awarded due to family violence, or if the marriage lasted under 20 years. For marriages lasting 20 to 30 years, the maximum time for rehabilitative maintenance is 7 years and for marriages lasting over 30 years, the maximum amount of time is 10 years.

In all cases, no maintenance award will be more than $5,000 per month or 20% of the payor spouse’s gross income, whichever is less.

Finally, in all cases the court is required to award only the minimum amount and duration of maintenance necessary for spouses to earn sufficient income to meet their reasonable needs.

Permanent Spousal Support

Texas only awards permanent maintenance in extremely limited circumstances, as the law favors rehabilitative maintenance as discussed above. The statutory limitations of amount and duration apply to all situations, although permanent maintenance may still be awarded in the following narrow cases:

  • Where the recipient spouse is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her reasonable needs because of an incapacitating mental or physical disability, or
  • If the recipient spouse is the custodian of a child of the marriage who required substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from providing for his or her minimum needs.

In these limited situations, a court is free to award maintenance for as long as the disability continues, which may be permanent. The court may reduce or terminate maintenance in such a situation upon a showing of a significant change in circumstances.

Reimbursement Spousal Support

When a spouse requests reimbursement alimony, he or she is seeking to be paid back for the support of the other spouse through his or her higher education. It is important to consider how much money the receiving spouse spent towards the other’s education. This type of alimony is rare and may be awarded as part of a property settlement rather than monthly payments.

Lump Sum Spousal Support

Lump sum spousal support is part of a property settlement, whereby one spouse agrees to take maintenance in one lump sum at the conclusion of divorce in lieu of monthly payments. Lump sum spousal support may have tax benefits for spouses, but is only available when the payor spouse is financially able and has liquidity to make a cash payment.