Alimony, or spousal maintenance in Texas, refers to the payments that one spouse pays to another following the couple’s separation or divorce. Alimony is intended to balance significant financial disparity between spouses, such as when only one spouse works or one spouse earns a significantly higher income than the other.
As a result, the spouse receiving alimony can continue to enjoy a roughly equivalent standard of living and can have the income they need to seek training and professional opportunities that will allow them to become self-sufficient.
Due to its purpose, alimony is rarely permanently awarded. If you are seeking alimony following your separation or divorce, you may want to know how long you may be entitled to receive alimony payments under Texas law.
Alimony in Texas
In Texas, alimony is either classified as contractual alimony or as court-ordered alimony. Contractual alimony refers to an alimony arrangement that a couple agrees to as part of their divorce settlement. Although a divorce settlement usually must be approved by the court, the parties often have wide latitude to draft the terms of their contractual alimony arrangement.
Conversely, court-ordered alimony refers to an alimony arrangement that is imposed by the court as part of divorce litigation. When a couple files for divorce, one or both spouses will inform the court that they wish to raise alimony or spousal support as an issue to be decided in the case. If the court finds that alimony is warranted, it will establish an alimony order as part of the judgment of divorce.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
A court may order alimony when needed by the recipient spouse under certain circumstances, such as due to the recipient’s physical or mental disability, or their duties as a custodial parent, or some other reason. In these cases, the court may order that alimony continue so long as the conditions that warranted the alimony order continue to exist.
In all other cases, Texas law limits alimony orders to:
- Up to five years, if the couple was married for less than ten years, but the payor spouse was convicted of domestic violence.
- Up to five years, if the couple was married for at least ten but less than 20 years.
- Up to seven years, if the couple was married for at least 20 but less than 30 years.
- Up to ten years, if the couple was married for 30 or more years.
Courts are encouraged to limit alimony orders to the shortest time necessary for the recipient spouse to become self-sufficient.
Maintenance orders can end before the court-ordered or statutory termination date if:
- Either spouse deceases.
- The recipient spouse remarries.
- The recipient spouse cohabitates with someone in a dating or romantic relationship.
- Upon a material change of circumstances as found by the court.
When Would Alimony Not Be Granted?
A court may decide not to grant alimony if it finds:
- The duration of the marriage was too short.
- The spouse from whom alimony is sought cannot afford an alimony obligation.
- Both spouses have roughly equivalent incomes or earning potential.
- The spouse seeking alimony committed domestic violence against the other spouse.
How a Lawyer Could Help
When you are considering seeking alimony in your Texas divorce, a family law attorney can help by:
- Reviewing the facts and circumstances of your case to advise you whether you may be eligible for court-ordered alimony
- Preparing filings in your divorce case to raise the issue of alimony
- Negotiating on your behalf for contractual alimony as part of your divorce settlement
- Helping you collect your financial records and review your spouse’s records to give the court a full picture of your and your spouse’s respective financial situations
- Advocating for court-ordered alimony during the divorce trial
- Representing you in a motion for modification of an existing spousal maintenance order
If you have questions about your rights to alimony, contact the Fort Worth alimony lawyer at Hargrave Law, PC, today for a confidential consultation. We have offices conveniently located in Bedford and Carrollton (by appointment) to serve you. Call us at (817)-282-0679 or contact us online to speak with a skilled family lawyer today.