Alimony in Texas is limited and the rules are complex

On behalf of The Rachel Firm posted in Divorce on Thursday, July 24, 2014.

A divorcing spouse who has been dependent financially on the other spouse will oftentimes seek alimony, also known as spousal maintenance. In Texas, a spouse’s eligibility for alimony is more limited than in some other states, and its duration is also limited by law.

In most cases, alimony will only be awarded to a spouse by the court if two conditions are met. First, the couple must have been married for at least ten years. The second condition requires that the spouse requesting alimony must be unable to earn enough money to minimally support themselves.

The 10-year minimum does not apply, however, in certain cases where the spouse from whom alimony is sought committed family violence and the other spouse will not have enough property to meet their minimum needs after the divorce. It also does not apply in cases where the spouse seeking alimony is mentally or physically disabled to the point they cannot earn enough income, or where they are prevented from earning enough income due to a child with a disability who requires substantial care.

Alimony in Texas can be awarded for periods of ten, seven or five years. This time period is usually determined by the amount of time the couple has been married. When the alimony is awarded due to a spouse’s or child’s disability, it can be awarded for the duration of the disability, which can mean indefinitely.

Alimony can also be agreed to by the parties as part of an overall divorce settlement. When alimony is the result of negotiation and agreement, it is known as contractual alimony. In the case of contractual alimony, none of the prerequisites of the statute apply. The parties are free to agree to whatever they wish.

The alimony laws in Texas can be complex. A spouse seeking spousal support in a divorce would be well-advised to consult an experienced family law attorney to determine what they are entitled to, and what they can reasonably negotiate if necessary.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “Alimony not an option for most divorcing in Texas,” July 15, 2014