When a couple is divorcing, the alimony question is on everyone’s mind. You may be wondering how much alimony (sometimes referred to as spousal support) you may have to pay or how much you may receive.
In 2011, the Texas alimony laws radically changed. While the new law is praised for being more fair and balanced, alimony in Texas still is not guaranteed. Alimony is need-based and is granted only to provide for a spouse’s minimum reasonable needs. A judge orders alimony only when a spouse cannot earn sufficient income to meet his/her needs and it is ordered only for a defined minimum period.
Texas alimony law allows for a payment of up to $5,000 per month, or 20 percent of a spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever is less. Under the new law, no alimony is awarded for marriages that lasted under 10 years. If the marriage lasted between 10–20 years, alimony can be awarded for up to five years after the marriage ends. If the marriage lasted 20–30 years, alimony can be awarded for up to seven years. Finally, if the marriage lasted 30 years or longer, alimony can be awarded for up to 10 years.
A judge considers many factors before determining how much alimony to order and for how long. To identify minimum reasonable needs, the judge considers the age, education and employment skills of the spouse requesting alimony. If one spouse contributed to the marriage as a homemaker or helped the other spouse attain education, those factors are considered as well. The judge may also consider whether either party hid assets, committed fraud, committed adultery or engaged in family violence.
If a spouse’s circumstances change once alimony is ordered, the alimony order can be altered by filing a petition with the court.
If alimony is in your future, either on the paying or receiving end, it’s best to consult with an experienced family law attorney to best protect your rights.