What you need to know about getting post divorce spousal support in Texas. In this post, the wife is referred to as the spouse receiving spousal support for convenience only. It should be understood that husbands can also request and receive spousal support from wives

Can I get temporary spousal support while our case is pending?

Texas courts routinely order temporary alimony during the pendency of the divorce (from the day of filing the petition until the day the divorce is granted)  How much is ordered depends on the earnings and expenses of each spouse as well as which court your case is set in.

Where child support is being paid, the guideline level of child support is first calculated. Then, spousal support is determined.

Am I entitled to spousal support after the divorce is final and if so for how long?

Texas is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to ordering spousal support; or maintenance as it is defined in the Texas statute.  There are very strict restrictions created by the Texas statute, which limit the situations in which alimony can be awarded.  In Texas a court may order alimony only if the payor committed an act of family violence within 2 years of the divorce, or if the marriage was 10 years or longer and the recipient is unable to support themselves due to disability, taking care of a disabled child, or clearly lacks income earning ability.
Some of the limitations of the Texas Law were expanded on June 17, 2011 (taking effect on September 1, 2011). The new law is described below.  The new Texas statute requires that a court review the following factors before awarding alimony:
1. Each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s needs independently, considering that spouse’s financial resources on dissolution of the marriage;
2. The education and employment skills of the spouses, the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income, and the availability and feasibility of that education or training;
3. The duration of the marriage;
4. The age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
5. The effect on each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs while providing periodic child support payments or maintenance, if applicable;
6. The acts by either spouse resulting in excessive or abnormal expenditures or destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community property, joint tenancy, or other property held in common;
7. The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
8. The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
9. The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
10. The marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage; and
11. Any history or pattern of family violence, as defined by Section 71.004.

Is the spousal support I am paying tax deductible?

The Internal Revenue Code provides that all spousal support payments are tax deductible by the paying spouse and taxable to the recipient spouse as “ordinary income.” For this reason, it is not uncommon for a negotiated settlement to include the payment of a high amount of spousal support, because such a payment results in tax benefit to the husband.

How much spousal support can I get and how long will it be paid?

The Texas statute limits the amount of alimony to the amount required to pay the recipient’s minimum reasonable needs, and also has a formula which sets a CAP or Not-to-Exceed limitation on the amount of alimony to be paid.

The Texas CAP for alimony payments should not exceed the lesser of $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the payor’s average monthly gross income.

The Texas statute also limits the duration of alimony to the shortest reasonable period that allows the recipient to meet their minimum reasonable needs and as follows: The Texas statute durational component is calculated as follows:  Alimony shall be paid for a maximum of:

5 years, if due to a family violence conviction and marriage is under 10 years;
5 years, if marriage is between 10 and 20 years;
7 years, if marriage is between 20 and 30 years;
10 years, if marriage is 30 years or more;
except in the case of an incapacitating physical or mental disability, in which case the award may last as long as the disability.

In addition, the Texas statute allows the Courts to terminate alimony if the recipient cohabits with another person in a permanent place of abode on a continuing, conjugal basis.

Sample Calculation:
Calculation of Maximum Alimony Order:
John’s Gross Income $125,000
x 20% 
Suggested Annual Alimony CAP: $ 25,000 from John to Jane

< $60,000 ($5,000/month cap)
Suggested Annual Alimony CAP:  $ 25,000 from John to Jane

Calculation of Maximum Alimony Duration:
Length of Marriage 19 years
>10 years
Suggested Maximum Duration:  5 years

Can I get medical insurance benefits through my spouse’s employer after the dissolution of marriage?

Under Federal Law you might be entitled to keep your medical insurance benefits under your former spouse’s group plan. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 created what are commonly known as “C.O.B.R.A.” benefits, which are available to the former spouses of people who work for employers who have 20 or more employees.

In general this law provides that employers must offer “continuation coverage” for the first three years after the termination of the marriage. The law further provides that the employer can charge the former spouse for this coverage, but the charge cannot be more than 2% greater than what is charged to employees.

After the three years have ended, the law states that the employer must offer a former spouse the right to purchase “conversion coverage”, but there are no limits on how much the employer can charge for this coverage.

The C.O.B.R.A law further provides that the former spouse does not have to pass a physical examination in order to obtain the continuation or conversion benefits. This is significant if you have any pre-existing conditions that might not be covered by another medical insurance carrier.

In order to obtain your C.O.B.R.A. benefits you have to file your application with your spouse’s employer by no later than sixty (60) days after the termination of your marriage. If you do not file your application by that date you will not be able to get these important benefits.

If you wish to have your C.O.B.R.A. benefits you must contact your former spouse’s employer directly and request the appropriate forms.

The purpose of this post to is to you what you need to know about getting post divorce spousal support in Texas.