Posted by Michelle May O’Neil on May 2, 2011

Until recent years, Texas did not allow for the payment of alimony and, even now, it is available in extremely limited circumstances and limited duration.

A spouse can be awarded alimony/maintenance under the Texas Family Code only if one of two specific conditions exists.

The first is if the other spouse was convicted of a crime involving family violence within the two years prior to the filing of the divorce suit.  This includes class C misdemeanor convictions if the allegation involved family violence.  It also includes occasions where the defendant received deferred adjudication in exchange for a plea of guilty.

The other starts with a 10-year marriage, where the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property (including property awarded in the divorce) to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs.  If that factor exists, then, the inquiry turns to whether the spouse can or cannot work outside the home because he/she has an incapacitating personal physical or mental disability; or, he/she is the primary caregiver of a child requiring substantial care due to a physical or mental disability; or the spouse clearly lacks adequate skills to find a job to support minimum reasonable needs.

Most alimony claims rely on the second of the conditions.  But for the request to be successful, the spouse must be able to show a reasonable attempt to find an appropriate job or get job training.

Judges are further limited in the right to award maintenance by state law that says support can continue for no longer than necessary to provide for the spouse’s needs, but no more than three years after the divorce is finalized.  The exception to this rule is when the maintenance is awarded based on a disability of either the spouse receiving maintenance or caring for a disabled child, in which case the award may be indefinite in duration.  Also, monthly payment amount is limited to either $2,500 or 20 percent of the paying spouse’s average gross income – whichever amount is lower. 

If this post was helpful, you may be interested in purchasing our book, Basics of Texas Divorce Law which includes several other topics you may want to know more about such as, the divorce proceeding, division of property and issues related to children.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.