What is the difference between spousal support and alimony?

couple wanting a divorce

What is the difference between spousal support and alimony?

Spousal maintenance, commonly known as spousal support, is a court-ordered type of payment. There’s a series of qualifications that you have to meet for spousal maintenance.

Alimony is a contractual agreement between two parties. The court can’t order alimony, they can only order spousal maintenance.

Spousal Maintenance

Eligibility for spousal support is specifically defined under Chapter Eight of the Texas Family Code. It includes how much support a spouse is entitled to based on the length of the marriage, how much community property is in the marriage, and the minimum need of the requesting spouse. Support is completely dependent upon meeting the requirements listed in the Texas Family Code including both parties being able to support themselves. With spousal support, if the responsible party has circumstances change, the agreement can be modified by the court. Prior to spousal maintenance being added to the Texas Family Code, couples had to be married at least 10 years for eligibility.

Alimony

Alimony is a completely different thing. It is not outlined in the Texas Family Code. It is a contractual agreement between both sides, linked to the marriage. Previously, the person paying alimony could get a tax break and the person receiving alimony had to claim it as income. That changed starting January 1, 2019.

Terms of alimony are completely up to the two parties involved; there are no requirements to meet. There are no automatic termination clauses in an alimony agreement like if one party dies, or gets remarried, it can end, as there are in Chapter Eight Spousal Maintenance. It’s whatever terms the parties create in the agreement. The terms of the contract are a civil agreement, and it holds a contract value outlined in the agreement. This also means that if the responsible parties’ circumstances or income change, they are still contractually liable to the alimony.

In layman’s terms, spousal support is appointed by the court based on laws. Alimony is agreed upon by the two parties divorcing without any specific guidelines to follow.

If you need help with a divorce, child custody, or any other family law issues, please contact our Dallas Fort Worth office at
(940) 566-0606.

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Navarrette | Bowen, P.C. | Family Law Attorneys | Denton, TX

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