Spousal support (or alimony) refers to a financial consideration one spouse pays the other after a divorce (and sometimes during the pendency of a divorce). Not every divorce involves alimony. In fact, alimony is never a certainty, but there are a wide range of considerations the courts apply in determining whether alimony is appropriate in any given situation. If you have questions or concerns related to alimony, an experienced Houston divorce attorney can help.
Who Receives Alimony in Texas?
While a divorcing couple can agree to an alimony arrangement, regardless of whether there is a determination of eligibility or not, there are requirements that must be met for the court to order alimony. First, it must be established that you are eligible for alimony, which means that you must be able to show that you don’t have the financial means to take care of your needs at a reasonable level (where this level rests varies depending upon the lifestyle you and your spouse shared as a married couple). Additionally, one of the following specifications must apply:
- Your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years in duration.
- Your inability to support yourself financially is due to a physical or mental disability.
- The amount of time consumed by caring for a child (of the marriage) with special needs precludes you from earning enough to support yourself.
Alternatively, if your spouse was convicted of (or received a deferred adjudication for) domestic violence anytime in the two years prior to filing for divorce (or during the pendency of the divorce itself), you may also be eligible for alimony.
Factors Taken into Consideration
If you are requesting alimony, all of the following may be taken into consideration:
- The length of your marriage plays an important role in the determination of alimony, and it affects both the amount and the duration of the payments you’ll receive.
- Your separate earning capacities – relative to one another’s – will be taken into careful consideration.
- The court will examine each of your contributions to the marriage. For example, if you put your career on hold to raise your children and help support your spouse’s career, the court will not overlook this important fact.
- The court will weigh your level of education and employment skills in relation to your spouse’s.
- The court will also look at your age, mental and physical health histories, and current overall health in relation to your spouse’s.
- The amount of time that it would take for you to receive the education and/or training that you would need to financially support yourself also enters into the equation.
- If your spouse will also be paying child support, the court will consider how this expense will affect his or her ability to continue supporting himself or herself.
- If your spouse has engaged in hiding, wasting, destroying, or otherwise keeping assets from being accounted for in the course of your divorce, the court will factor in the negative ramifications of these efforts. In the State of Texas, marital assets are divided in a manner that is deemed just and right, which is another way of saying fair. Hiding assets is obviously not a fair practice, and the courts tend not to take kindly in such instances.
- The court will evaluate any separate property that you and your spouse own. Marital property generally refers to that property that you acquire together as a married couple, and separate property is that property that you brought into the marriage with you and kept separate. Any gifts or inheritances that either of you received in your name alone during your marriage is also separate property.
- If your spouse engaged in marital misconduct, such as having an affair and/or engaging in cruelty, the court will likely factor this into its decisions.
Every divorce is unique to the circumstances involved, but the court will weigh all the issues it deems pertinent to your situation in making its decisions about your alimony.
The Duration of Alimony
The Courts must follow strict guidelines when making decisions related to the duration of spousal maintenance. Alimony is not intended to be permanent but is, instead, meant to help the recipients reach the point that they can support themselves. However, if any of the following factors preclude you from working, alimony can be ordered for as long as the conditions exist:
- You care for a child of the marriage who has special needs
- You have a mental or physical disability
- There is another compelling reason
Additionally, the court may order future reviews to reassess your ongoing need for support.
In all other situations in which alimony is deemed appropriate, the court follows the following guidelines:
- If you were married for fewer than 10 years and your spouse was convicted of family violence, the duration of alimony is 5 years.
- If you were married for from 10 to 20 years, the duration of alimony is 5 years.
- If you were married for from 20 to 30 years, the duration of alimony is 7 years.
- If you were married for at least 30 years, the duration of alimony is 10 years.
Unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, Texas courts are required to order alimony for the least amount of time necessary for the recipient to become self-supporting.
End of Maintenance
There are certain circumstances that will end alimony before the court-ordered duration has elapsed, and these include:
- If either former spouse dies.
- If the recipient of alimony remarries.
- If the recipient of alimony lives with another person as a romantic partner
- If the court determines, upon review of the circumstances, that alimony is no longer necessary.
Consult with an Experienced Houston Divorce Lawyer Today
In Texas, the laws related to alimony are exacting. If you are facing a divorce and will require spousal maintenance, the dedicated divorce attorneys at The Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston, are on your side and will aggressively advocate for the alimony to which you are entitled. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 713-781-7775 for a free consultation today.