For many years, Texas was the only state without post-divorce court-ordered alimony. In 1995, a law was passed partly in an effort to prevent the economically displaced spouse from going on welfare. This law is really more symbolic than practical; it’s rare for a Texas divorce settlement to include alimony.
Most other states have more generous alimony laws. For example, in Colorado, alimony/maintenance can be permanent or temporary. It depends on the satisfaction of several criteria, such as ability to pay, reasonable need, length of marriage, etc.
The Texas court is limited to the amount and duration it can require one spouse to pay the other in alimony. Basically, the couple must have been married for 10 years, and the spouse asking to receive alimony must be unable to be self-supporting. The alimony can be no more than $2,500 or 20% of the payor’s income, whichever is less. It is generally limited to three years. Of course, couples can negotiate alimony that is greater in amount and longer in duration, but the court-ordered alimony is limited to this. (If the former spouse is physically or mentally disabled, the court can order payments to be indefinite.)
Alimony in Texas is considered to be a temporary measure to allow the lesser-earning spouse to get training for a career that will support her. If she has substantial wealth upon divorce, she might not qualify for the alimony. Even if she isn’t wealthy, her husband still might not have the income to give her alimony.
Temporary maintenance is more often ordered for the period during which the divorce is pending. The maintenance is paid to the spouse with limited resources and with temporary child custody.
Tracy B. Stewart, CPA, CFP, CDFA focuses exclusively on divorce financial consulting at Stewart Financial Consulting in College Station, TX.