In Texas, the term “alimony” refers to the monetary support that one spouse receives from the other as the result of divorce proceedings. These payments may also be referred to by the court as “spousal maintenance.” In Texas, the alimony that a spouse may receive from their former spouse can depend on the length of the marriage.
According to the Texas Family Code, alimony may only become an option for couples who were married for 10 years or longer. Even in situations where a long-term marriage is ending, the spouse requesting alimony payments must demonstrate an inability to meet their minimum, reasonable needs without the support of their former spouse.
How Long Does Alimony Last in Texas?
In Texas, the length of time during which spousal maintenance must be paid most often depends on the length of the marriage. Even long-term marriages in Texas may not result in the requirement of alimony payments for life.
If a marriage did not last 10 years, a spouse will not be ordered to make alimony payments in Texas. For marriages lasting between 10 and 20 years, the maximum amount of time that alimony may be ordered is five years. Marriages lasting between 20 and 30 years do not yield significantly longer periods of alimony; for these marriages, support can be ordered for a maximum of seven years.
Even marriages of over 30 years have limits in regards to alimony support. For these unions, spousal maintenance can be paid for a maximum of ten years only.
How Is Alimony Determined in Texas
Texas is unfortunately one of the more difficult states to obtain alimony support in. Eligibility for alimony support in Texas is very narrowly defined, and the duration of payment and amount of award may be restricted.
In Texas, the spouse requesting spousal support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, must be able to demonstrate an inability to meet his or her “minimum reasonable needs,” through the assets, property, and income he or she anticipates making on their own.
At the time of divorce proceedings, either spouse may request alimony support in Texas. However, the amount awarded by the court will depend largely on the property ownership and income expectations of the requesting spouse.
Although alimony support in Texas is reasonably difficult to obtain in comparison to divorce proceedings in other states, two spouses may enter into a separate contract for the payment of alimony which contains more generous terms than a judge would be able to order under Texas law.
Can Alimony be Reduced in Texas?
Alimony agreements can only be changed through the court system. This process is called “alimony modification” or “maintenance award modification.” The court can make a change to alimony orders if there has been a demonstrable change in circumstances for one or both of the spouses since the original alimony order.
Until a court officially rules to change an alimony order, the spouse required to make alimony payments as deemed by the original order must continue to make those payments. Until a judge hears your request for modification, you are still required to make payments according to the order that has been set forth. Failure to keep up with alimony payment in Texas could have varying degrees of consequences, including attorney’s fees, bank liens, or even jail time.
In certain circumstances, maintenance awards may terminate before the end of the obligation set forth in the alimony agreement. If the supported spouse remarries, for example, a judge may hear the other party’s request for alimony modification and decide to terminate the obligation. Likewise, in Texas, if the spouse receiving alimony support moves in with another romantic partner, a court may determine that spousal support is no longer necessary for that spouse to meet their reasonable needs.
Alimony in Texas may be reduced for various reasons specific to each spouses’ circumstances, upon review or future order of a court. Obtaining the expertise of a lawyer may be helpful to determine if your circumstances have changed to the point where it may reasonably be expected that the court would agree to reduce or terminate an alimony agreement.
It’s important to understand that until the judge hears your request for an alimony modification, you must continue to follow the court order.
Reasons Alimony May Be Reduced in Texas
If a spouse’s circumstances have changed, a lawyer may help you to determine if the change in circumstances is significant enough for a judge to agree to reduce the alimony payments from the original order.
If one spouse is no longer able to provide for their own reasonable financial needs, that spouse may no longer be obligated to pay alimony following a hearing with a judge.
A judge will also take into consideration the education and employment skills of each spouse. How long it may take a spouse to acquire an education or the necessary training to enable that spouse to become financially independent may also be considered. If a formerly dependent spouse has obtained further education and become financially independent, the spouse making alimony payments may have grounds to reduce or eliminate those payments entirely.
The physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking spousal maintenance may also be taken into account by the judge determining an alimony obligation. Age, employment status, and hypothetical earning ability may also be considered by a judge. If the circumstances relating to this information have changed significantly, a spouse may have grounds to reduce the alimony being paid to their former spouse.
Child support may also be a factor in determining whether or not alimony payments are still necessary. Each spouse’s ability to meet their own needs while making child support payments is another factor taking into consideration when Texas judges determine alimony support.
Alimony may also be affected by property damage committed by one spouse against another. If the spouse receiving alimony payments wasted, concealed, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of any communal property, a judge in Texas may find that that spouse is no longer entitled to alimony payments.
If a spouse contributed to the other’s education, training, or increased earning power during their marriage, this may also be grounds for a judge to revise or make changes to ordered alimony payments.
Property brought to the marriage, the contributions of one spouse as a homemaker, and any marital misconduct, including adultery, cruel treatment, or domestic violence, may also be cited by the court as factors relating to the determination or grounds for revision of alimony payments.
Tarrant County’s Family Law Attorney
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who are dealing with alimony and other post-divorce issues. As a divorcee, Wendy understands the difficulties involved and will work to resolve your case fairly and will protect your interests and those of your children.