- Types of alimony
- Reimbursement alimony
- How courts determine alimony
- Challenges in determining alimony
- How long alimony lasts
- Is permanent alimony a thing?
- How to modify alimony support
- Can you terminate alimony?
- Paying spousal support
- Deducting alimony from your taxes
While Texas allows alimony payments, getting the courts to order them is difficult. Working directly with your ex and developing an alimony contract outside the courtroom is often the best option. If one party breaks the rules, the courts can enforce them. But you won’t rely on the courts to settle disagreements for you.
Once you’ve agreed on an alimony plan, you can’t change the terms without filing paperwork. Typically, you’re done with payment plans in just a few years.
What types of alimony are recognized in Texas?
Alimony payments can level the playing field between you and your spouse. One person pays the other after the divorce, ensuring both can maintain the standard of living that became normal during the marriage.
Two types of alimony are recognized in the Texas legal system. They work very differently.
Contractual alimony involves settlements people make outside the courtroom during a divorce. The benefits of this model include the following:
- Amounts are flexible. You can determine payment amounts independently, even if they're larger or smaller than those listed in Texas courts.
- The length of payments can vary. You can make payments for longer or shorter periods than those listed in Texas law.
- Agreements are enforceable. While you set terms outside of court, your alimony terms are preserved in a contract. If one party breaks the terms, the other can sue.
Spousal maintenance involves payments set by the court during the divorce per Texas law. The benefits of this model include the following:
- Payments are predictable. Both parties know the upper and lower payment limits set by the law and don’t have to guess. There is a firm plan in place.
- Terms tend to be short. Texas laws don’t allow for long alimony payments. Your agreement is typically finished in a few years.
- No negotiation is required. The courts settle your terms, so you’re not required to work directly with your ex.
What is reimbursement alimony in Texas?
Reimbursement alimony is defined as payments to compensate a spouse for sacrifices made during the marriage. If you stayed home with children while your spouse went to work, reimbursement alimony could pay you for unpaid childcare hours.
Texas courts don't recognize this form of alimony outright. But your sacrifices during your marriage could play a role in court-determined spousal support plans. (More on this in a minute.)
The sacrifices you made during your marriage could also be repaid with a contractual alimony agreement you make outside of the courtroom.
How do courts determine alimony in Texas?
Texas law defines spousal maintenance plans. Per the law, the courts must consider 11 factors when deciding how much one party should pay the other.
Those factors include the following:
- Each person's ability to meet their needs as head of an independent household
- The education and employment abilities of both spouses (and how long one person might need to develop employable skills)
- The length of the marriage
- The age, job history, income potential, and physical and mental health of the person seeking payments
- The impact of each spouse’s ability to meet their basic needs while providing child support and spousal support payments
- Evidence of unusual spending, fraud, or financial disruption during the marriage or the divorce
- Contribution of one spouse to the education or training of the other
- Property that is carried into the marriage
- Involvement of a spouse as a homemaker
- Evidence of adultery or cruel treatment during the marriage
- History of family violence
One factor isn’t more important than another. Instead, judges look through all the evidence and weigh the evidence when determining the appropriate spousal support payments.
What are the challenges of determining alimony in Texas?
Texas is widely considered one of the most difficult states for fair court-ordered alimony settlements. The courts prefer that people make arrangements outside of the courtroom. When judges are required to step in, they are hindered by rules that specify small payments for short periods.
Work with your ex on a spousal support plan that suits both of you. If you can't agree, consider hiring a mediator to help you conduct helpful conversations and find the right path forward. This professional can smooth the process and help you and your ex come to a fair agreement you can both live with.
How long does alimony last in Texas?
Just as Texas laws specify how judges decide spousal support payments, those laws also include rules about how long payments can last.
Per Texas laws, payments will end on the following timeframes:
- Five years if one spouse is guilty of a family violence offense within two years of the divorce or if the marriage lasted 10 to 20 years.
- Seven years if the marriage lasted between 20 and 30 years.
- Ten years if the marriage lasted 30 years or longer
Note that no plan for spousal support ordered by the courts lasts longer than 10 years, as per Texas law.
Is permanent alimony a thing?
Per Texas law, spousal support ordered by the courts lasts 10 years at the longest. Courts can’t create a plan for payments that last longer than a decade.
Your individual agreement with your ex could specify longer payments. You could come to those terms together. But if you rely on the courts, the laws determine how long payments last, and they’re not indefinite.
How to modify alimony support
The rules are fixed whether you ask the courts to set your spousal support or agree individually. The only way to change them involves filing paperwork with the court that rendered your divorce. You must cite a material or significant change in circumstances that requires different payments.
Either you or your spouse can head to the courtroom, ask for paperwork, and file it. The court will set a hearing and rule on the changes.
Until the court makes a ruling, you must make the payments you agreed to. Just filing paperwork doesn't change the obligation.
Can you terminate alimony in Texas?
Texas laws allow people to terminate spousal support payments under limited circumstances.
You can terminate spousal support agreements due to one of the three following issues:
- Death of one party
- Remarriage of the person getting payments
- The person getting payments cohabitates with another romantic partner
Cohabitation requires a hearing before the payments stop. The other two factors are easier to prove with court documents (like wedding or death certificates).
How to pay spousal support in Texas
During the divorce process, Texas courts typically enter payment orders. In most cases, the payor’s employer deducts the payments from the person’s paycheck and sends them directly to the recipient.
Can you deduct alimony from your Texas taxes?
Any payments the Texas courts ordered after 2018 aren't part of tax plans. You don't have to include those payments as income if you get them. And you can't deduct them from your taxes if you pay them.
If you have questions about your payments and taxes, it's best to speak with an accountant or similar tax professional.
ReferencesReimbursement Alimony Law and Legal Definition. U.S. Legal.
Family Code, Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 8, Subchapter A. (September 2021). State of Texas.
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony). (January 2023). Texas Law Help.