With the passage of HB 901 in 2011, Texas thankfully loses its status as being the most restrictive state in the country in allowing post-divorce payments of spousal maintenance, commonly called alimony.
Texas has now moved from being the ‘joke of the country’ in allowing potential alimony awards, to becoming a system that is fair and balanced. There had been many attempts to establish post divorce alimony in Texas for decades, which was first establish in 1997 in Texas. Texas was the last state to approve such alimony. But the old stature was very restrictive.
The old statute allowed a maximum of $2500 per month for a maximum of three years, for a marriage exceeding ten years. This term of time and amount was problematic in a very long term marriage, especially where one spouse had an annual income of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the other next to nothing. Some said the old statute encouraged “Wife Dumping” to the extent that executives would move to Texas to get a divorce.
The new statute, effective September 1st, allows alimony to be paid for up to a ten year period for a marriage that exceeds 30 years, and raises the possible maximum monthly amount to $5000 up from $2500. The new statute continues Texas’ wise policy of basing spousal support on need, and encourages, if not requires, the spouse receiving alimony to be seeking gainful employment or training for same.
Most family lawyers know of cases from their practice where the prior stature really penalized the unemployed spouse, typically a homemaker, for not pursuing a career and subjugating their earning capacity to that of the other spouse, and the divorce was an absolute financial disaster for the ‘have not’ spouse. Now such a person can potentially share in the ex-spouses career benefits for a longer period of time after the divorce, allowing it to be a true dissolution of a partnership instead of being a situation where the high earner takes all.”
Summary of Chapter 8, Texas Family Code-Court Ordered Maintenance as amended 2011
HB 901 amended sections 8.051, et seq, to provide spousal maintenance-alimony-can be ordered by the court as follows:
Duration of Marriage Maximum Period of Alimony
0-10 years No spousal support can be ordered*
10-20 years 5 years
20-30 years 7 years
30 plus years 10years
Maximum Amount of Alimony
Old Law New Law
$2500 per month $5000 per month
The maximum $5000 per month is further limited to 20% of the payor’s gross monthly income.
Limitations and necessary Qualifications:
The alimony payments are intended to cover only the recipients “minimum reasonable needs” and for as short a time as necessary before the recipient can gain the job skills and/or a job to meet such minimum reasonable needs. The legal presumption is that no alimony will be paid.
*Spouses of marriages of less than 10 years may be eligible for alimony in certain cases of family violence or disability.