Alimony vs. Spousal Support: Understanding the Difference

Family law is one of the most complex areas of our legal system. In Texas, state variances can make familial disputes all the more confusing, especially when it comes to key matters like alimony and spousal support.

While spousal support and alimony are often used interchangeably in Texas, there are key differences between the two. It’s imperative for couples and families to understand these distinctions while navigating the complexities of divorce, financial obligations, and related matters in Texas family courts.

In this blog, we’ll explore the purpose of spousal support/alimony in Texas, outline key differences between the two, and discuss how an experienced family lawyer can help you throughout the process.

Alimony vs. Spousal Support/Maintenance in Texas

In Texas, spousal support and alimony serve a similar purpose: to provide financial assistance to a lower-earning or non-earning spouse following a divorce. Such support is intended to help the receiving spouse maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living to what they had during the marriage, in addition to addressing any economic disparities caused by the divorce with the purpose of securing a fair outcome for both parties.

However, variances in state laws and related factors can make it difficult for couples to differentiate between various types of spousal support. Alimony is often confused with other terms, including spousal support and spousal maintenance. What are the differences between these terms in the state of Texas?

Keep reading to learn more about alimony vs. spousal support/maintenance in the Lone Star State.

Are Alimony & Spousal Support the Same in Texas?

Put simply, yes. Terms like alimony, spousal support, and spousal maintenance are often used interchangeably in Texas to define a sole legal concept: financial assistance provided by one spouse to the other upon the dissolution of their marriage. However, there are various differences to keep in mind when considering these terms.

While the term “alimony” is typically used in non-community property states, spousal support (also known as spousal maintenance) is the preferred term in community property states like Texas. Although alimony is not a right under Texas family law, itcan be included as an obligation between divorcing spouses so long as both parties mutually agree on it.

Types of Spousal Support in Texas

A key difference between alimony and spousal support/maintenance in Texas is how the order is enforced. Generally, there are two types of spousal maintenance for Texas cupules undergoing divorce, including:

  1. Court-Ordered Spousal Maintenance: This order comes directly from the court. The judge can weigh a variety of factors to determine 1.) if spousal support is appropriate; 2.) the payment amount; and 3.) how long the spousal maintenance will be paid.
  2. Contractual Alimony: Unlike court-ordered spousal support, contractual alimony can only occur between two consenting spouses who reach a mutual agreement.

How Is Spousal Support Decided in a Texas Divorce?

In Texas, specific eligibility criteria must be met for a spouse to receive spousal support. Keep in mind that spousal maintenance is separate from property division, asset distribution, child support, and other divorce-related decisions, meaning that the requesting spouse is responsible for demonstrating a legitimate financial need for spousal support after all of the community property (also known as marital property or jointly owned property) is divided.

To accomplish this, the requesting party must show they lack sufficient means to meet their basic needs. They must also satisfy at least one of these requirements:

  • The requesting spouse has been married for at least ten years;
  • The requesting spouse lacks the ability to earn enough income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs due to a physical or mental disability; or
  • The requesting spouse has custody of a child from the marriage with a physical or mental disability.

Calculating Spousal Maintenance in Texas

In Texas, the amount of spousal support is calculated based on predefined guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code. Generally, spousal maintenance is calculated as 20% of the paying spouse's average monthly gross income, so long as it doesn’t exceed a monthly maximum of $5,000. However, if the court finds that this guideline would be unjust or inappropriate, it has the discretion to deviate from it.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

The duration of spousal support in Texas depends on the length of the marriage. For marriages lasting less than ten years, the duration of spousal support is generally limited to no more than five years. However, for marriages lasting ten years or longer, there is no specific time limit, meaning that the court can determine an appropriate spousal support duration at their discretion.

In Texas, family courts can consider a wide range of factors to accomplish this, including (but not limited to):

  • Each spouse's financial resources and needs
  • The education and employment skills of both spouses
  • The age, physical and mental health, and ability to work of both spouses
  • Marital misconduct, if it affected the economic situation of either spouse
  • Contributions made during the marriage, including homemaking and child-rearing

Remember,navigating the complexities of spousal support in Texas can be challenging and confusing, especially for Texans who lack a comprehensive understanding of state law. It’s imperative to consult with a trusted family lawyer who can guide your steps with wisdom and integrity throughout the legal proceedings.

Contact a Compassionate Family Lawyer in DFW

Our experienced family law attorney offers sound counsel to Texas families and couples throughout DFW. If you’re in need of trusted advocacy for an upcoming divorce, custody dispute, or related family matter, look no further than the superior representation at the Law Office of Lauren Cain.

Since 2004, our compassionate team has proudly served fellow Texans by assisting with a wide range of family matters, from annulments to paternity rights. Reach out to our firm today to learn how Attorney Lauren Cain can help you and your loved ones navigate the intricacies of family court proceedings in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Turn to a DFW lawyer you can trust to keep your family’s best interests at heart. Call (214) 234-2622 to request a free consultation.