Filing for divorce is stressful, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed as you navigate your separation. Working with an experienced divorce lawyer in Houston, TX, will provide you with the guidance you need to ensure you are not taken advantage of during your filing and that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Keep reading to learn the answer to one of the most common questions asked by individuals filing for divorce in Texas.
Ask a Divorce Lawyer in Houston, TX: How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in Texas?
In Texas, “spousal maintenance” is the term used for alimony. For the court to award spousal maintenance based on marriage length, the couple must have been married for at least ten years. However, being married for ten years doesn’t automatically entitle either partner to support in the state of Texas; the dependent spouse must also be incapable of earning enough income to meet basic needs.
Although they are uncommon, there are circumstances where spousal maintenance is awarded even if a couple has been married less than ten years. For example, suppose the spouse responsible for maintenance has been convicted of domestic or family violence against their partner or their children during the filing or within two years of it. In that case, the court can consider awarding spousal maintenance.
Another scenario would be if the spouse in need of support cannot earn an income due to mental or physical disability. Finally, if the spouse needing support is the primary caregiver of a child who needs personal supervision and substantial care due to mental or physical disability. If this reason is used to qualify, then the child’s condition must prevent the spouse seeking support from being able to work and earn a reasonable income.
Determining Maintenance Awards
Since Texas law states that spousal maintenance is inappropriate in most circumstances, support-seeking spouses will want to work with Houston’s top family divorce lawyer to give themselves the best possible chance of securing maintenance. Before the court begins the maintenance evaluation, the requesting spouse must demonstrate that they have made a good faith effort to secure an income.
Alternatively, they can also show that they have made a reasonable effort to complete any training or education they require to become financially independent. Finally, the evaluation can begin if the spouse seeking support has made these efforts and cannot meet their basic financial needs.
Texas courts consider numerous factors when determining the amount of support awarded, duration, and the payment method used.
- The duration of the marriage
- The ability of either spouse to provide for the requesting spouse’s needs
- Any property brought to the marriage
- Also, any misconduct, such as adultery by either partner during the marriage
- Any history of domestic or family violence
- If the spouse seeking support contributed as a homemaker
- The age, earning ability, employment history, and health of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The impact of child support on the spouse’s needs
- The education levels of both individuals
- If either spouse concealed, destroyed, or hid community assets during the filing
- If either spouse contributed to the increased earning power or education of the other during the marriage
Duration of Maintenance
When deciding the length of maintenance awards, judges in the state of Texas must adhere to strict guidelines and order support for the shortest duration possible. In situations where the judge orders one spouse to pay maintenance due to the mental or physical disability of the other spouse, custodial parental duties, or other unique circumstances, the support may continue as long as the conditions necessitating support are present.
Texas law limits all other support to:
- Five years, if the union lasted less than ten years and the supporting spouse was convicted of family or domestic violence
- Five years, if the union lasted at least ten years but less than 20 years
- Seven years, if the union lasted at least 20 years, but less than 30 years
- Ten years, if the union lasted at least 30 years
Early Termination of Spousal Maintenance
The supporting spouse is responsible for following the orders as set by the judge. Certain situations can alter the duration of support, such as the death of either spouse.
Remarriage of the supported spouse or their cohabitation with a romantic partner can also end the support early. Spouses can also request a review and modification of their spousal maintenance agreement, but they are responsible for following the original order until an amendment has been made in court.
Judges in Texas are also limited in the amount of maintenance they can award. Spousal support cannot exceed $5000, or 20% of the supporting spouse’s average monthly gross income. Judges may order periodic payments or issue a withholding order to the spouse’s employer.
Texas laws can make it challenging for the spouse seeking support to receive the maintenance they deserve. Hiring a divorce lawyer in Houston, TX, offers you the best chance of being awarded fair alimony during your divorce filing.