Alimony, also called spousal maintenance in Texas, is financial support provided from one spouse to the other spouse who does not have the income or assets to be self-supporting. Thus, it is common for courts in the state to award alimony to the financially weaker spouse. But in 2011, the Texas legislature made significant changes to its alimony laws, making it much more difficult for a spouse to receive alimony.
Entitlement to Alimony
Alimony laws in Texas set forth specific requirements you must meet to be entitled to receive alimony payments from your spouse. First, you must have been married for at least 10 years; the only exception to this rule is if you can show your spouse was convicted of domestic violence against you. But meeting the marriage duration requirement, or being a victim of domestic violence, is not, by itself, enough to receive alimony. You must then show an inability to maintain employment with an income substantial enough to be self-supporting.
Alimony will also be awarded in Texas if you can establish you have a disability that makes you unable to work and earn a self-supporting income. If you do not have a disability, but care for a child with a disability - that requires substantial care and providing that care prevents you from earning a sufficient income to be self-supporting - you may be entitled to alimony.
Factors Considered by Court
When deciding if you are entitled to alimony, and if so, the appropriate amount, a Texas court will consider several factors to determine an award that fits both spouses' circumstances. The main consideration is the value of assets and income of both parties. The court wants to make sure the alimony award is sufficient to provide for your needs, but also a legal obligation your spouse can meet while still satisfying his own needs.
The court also considers the education and work experience of both parties; your roles during the marriage -- homemaker vs. wage earner; your ability to work; efforts by you to obtain employment; time needed for you to complete education or training necessary to obtain employment; and any marital misconduct. Texas is one of few states that considers marital misconduct, such as abuse or adultery, so if you committed adultery, you may lose your right to seek alimony. And if your spouse committed adultery or domestic violence, he may be required to pay more in alimony.
Amount and Duration
Unlike most states, Texas has set a maximum on the monthly amount and total duration of alimony payments. Legislation passed in 2011 increased the maximum monthly alimony amount to $5,000, or 20 percent of the owing spouse's income. Duration of payments is based on the length of the spouses' marriage. Alimony payments for a marriage lasting between 10 and 20 years are limited to five years. A spouse can receive alimony for up to seven years if the marriage lasted between 20 and 30 years. For marriages of more than 30 years, the maximum duration of alimony is 10 years.
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