Alimony & Spousal Support
No longer is alimony an automatic part of a divorce settlement. In fact, Texas law presumes that alimony, referred to as spousal maintenance in this state, should not be awarded. There are exceptions, and if you are seeking spousal support, independent of child support, you must meet certain qualifications before you can even ask for support. Regardless of whether you are the fighting for support or your ex is seeking it, you should retain the counsel of an experience alimony lawyer before appearing in court.
How to Qualify for Spousal Support in Texas
You must meet at least one of the following situations:
- Your spouse was convicted of domestic violence either during the divorce proceeding or within two years prior to the filing of the divorce petition.
- A physical or mental disability prevents you from providing for your own basic needs.
- You were married for at least 10 years and cannot provide for your basic needs without support.
- You have custody of a child from the marriage who requires special care due to a physical or mental disability.
If you qualify under one of these criteria, that is not the end of the process. The court will then consider your individual circumstances and determine whether or not to order spousal maintenance and, if so, for how long you will be entitled to receive it.
Factors Courts Consider Once it is Determined You Qualify for Alimony
The court will consider all relevant evidence, but will specifically look at all of the following:
- How long you were married.
- The financial resources that will be available to each spouse when the divorce is finalized.
Each spouse’s education and employment opportunities.
- The health of each spouse.
- Whether the spouse seeking support contributed to the education and professional career of the other.
- Whether either spouse wasted community assets.
- Any misconduct on the part of either party, such as adultery or attempting to hide assets.
- Whether the spouse from whom support is being sought is also paying child support.
- Whether one spouse was a homemaker during the marriage, giving up employment opportunities to take care of the children.
Alimony and Spousal Support Time Limits
Even if you qualify, and after considering all these factors, the court determines you should be awarded spousal maintenance, the law places limits on how long you can receive support.
Alimony & Spousal Support Modifications
For a modification of statutory alimony or spousal support (as opposed to contractual alimony), the burden of proof is on the person wanting the modification – the paying party. A Court will look at the change in circumstances since the Order or agreement was made and make a decision about whether that change in circumstances, along with the current state of matters, should lead to a decrease or elimination of the alimony. For instance, a change like the person receiving the alimony getting a good job or the person paying it has lost their job can be enough to eliminate or decrease the alimony payments.
How Long Spousal Maintenance Will Last
If the order for support is based on the mental or physical disability of the spouse, or on the spouse needing to care for a mentally or physically disabled child, the award may be for an unlimited period of time. Otherwise, the following limitations apply:
• If the marriage lasted for less than 10 years, and the award was based on the paying spouse’s domestic violence conviction, it can last for no more than five years.
• If the marriage was 10 to 20 years, spousal maintenance must end after five years.
• For marriages lasting between 20 to 30 years, it ends after seven years.
• Marriages more than 30 years, the award can be for up to 10 years.
The court is not required to give the maximum amount of time, but will decide the duration of the spousal maintenance award based on the shortest amount of time the receiving spouse will need before being able to support themselves.
Support will end in all cases when:
• The receiving spouse dies.
• The receiving spouse remarries.
• The paying spouse proves at a court hearing that the receiving spouse is living in a permanent home with a person he or she is involved in a romantic or dating relationship.
Will the Court Always Award Alimony?
Under Texas law, “alimony” doesn’t exist in the same way that it does in other states. While Texas courts can award spousal maintenance, certain conditions must be met. Depending on the situation for which spousal maintenance was awarded, it can be for a finite period or an indefinite period.
First, a spouse must be legally eligible to receive support. What makes a person eligible? First, the spouse seeking maintenance must have insufficient assets and/or income to provide for her reasonable needs. In addition, that spouse must be able to show other elements concerning the marriage, including, for example: the length of the marriage, the spouse’s ability to provide for herself and her children, evidence of a physical or mental disability, and the paying spouse’s conviction of a domestic violence offense.
These issues can be complicated, and it’s important to talk with a lawyer experienced with divorce cases who can take a close look at your situation.
Contact an Alimony Lawyer Today!
If you are contemplating asking for spousal maintenance, or your spouse has asked for it and you do not believe he or she deserves it, contact Jeff Anderson, an experienced and board certified family lawyer who will listen to your side of the case and advise you on the best way to proceed. When you need the best spousal support lawyer, call us in Dallas at (972) 248-8383 or Frisco at (972) 963-5464 or request an appointment online now.