How much alimony (maintenance) can I get in my divorce?

As a divorce attorney in Dallas County, Texas, I regularly get asked the question as to whether or not a client is eligible to receive alimony in a divorce proceeding in Texas.   The general presumption in Texas divorce cases is that alimony (referred to as spousal maintenance under the Texas Family Code) is not warranted in a divorce proceeding unless a party has exercised due diligence in 1) earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs, or 2) developing the necessary skills to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs during a period of separation and during the time the suit for divorce is pending.

How long can I receive maintenance?

The Texas Family Code in section 8.054 states that a court may not order spousal maintenance that remains in effect for more than 5 years after the date of the order if the spouses were married to each for less than 10 years and eligibility of the spouse for whom maintenance is ordered is established under section 8.051; or, the spouses were married to each other for at least 10 years but not more than 20 years.

A court may not order maintenance that remains in effect for more than 7 years after the date of the order if the spouses were married to each other for at least 20 years but not more than 30 years. Similarly, the court may not order maintenance that remains in effect for more than 10 years after the date of the order if the spouses were married to each other for 30 years or more. The Court shall limit the duration of a maintenance order to the shortest reasonable period that allows the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs unless the ability of the spouse to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs substantially or totally diminish because of a physical or mental disability of the spouse seeking maintenance, duties as the custodian of an infant or young child of the marriage; or, another compelling impediment to earing sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.

How much maintenance can I receive from my spouse?

In Texas, a court may not order maintenance that requires the payor of the maintenance to pay monthly more than the lesser of $5,000 or 20 percent of the payor’s average monthly gross income.   Gross income includes all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses.   Gross income also means any interest, dividends, and royalty income and includes all self-employment income. Courts also include net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not including noncash items such as depreciation).   All other income actually received by a payor including severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, unemployment benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source gifts and prizes, maintenance, and alimony are including in the calculation.

When does maintenance terminate?

The obligation to pay maintenance terminates on the death of either party or on the remarriage of the party receiving the maintenance.   Maintenance also terminates if the court, after a hearing, finds that the receiving party cohabits with another person with whom the party has a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis.