Alimony, or as Texas calls it, “spousal maintenance,” is not usually permanent. In many cases, spousal maintenance only lasts for a limited period of time to help divorced people get back on their feet. Especially if they have medical needs or the marriage was especially long, alimony may last longer. The Dallas family lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., explain how alimony works in Texas, and how long alimony can last for.
When Does Texas Provide Long-Term Alimony
To get alimony in the first place, you must have a good reason. This means that alimony is not automatic in a Dallas divorce case and that you must meet certain criteria before the court will consider awarding you alimony. The first requirement is that a spouse would not have “sufficient property … to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs,” according to Texas Family Code § 8.051. In addition to this requirement, there must be one of the following conditions to justify alimony:
- The proposed payor was convicted of a domestic violence offense within the past 2 years;
- The spouse has a physical or mental disability that prevents them from supporting themselves;
- The marriage lasted 10 or more years; or
- The spouse supports a child with a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from making enough money for basic support.
The court still looks at various factors to determine how much alimony will be ordered and the frequency of payments. These factors include:
- Each party’s ability to support the recipient;
- Each party’s education and job skills, and the availability/cost of additional training/education;
- The length of the marriage;
- Each spouse’s age, health, earning ability, and job history;
- The effect of child support on each party’s self-support;
- Either party’s outrageous spending using their marital funds;
- A spouse’s contributions to the other’s education/job training;
- The property each party brought to the marriage;
- A spouse’s contributions as homemaker;
- Either party’s adultery or cruel treatment;
- Any history of domestic violence.
Based on these requirements and factors, the judge may award alimony. However, the duration of the alimony payments is still to be determined.
Duration of Alimony in a Texas Divorce
Texas Family Code § 8.054 is very particular about how long alimony can last for under various circumstances. In most cases, alimony is not permanent. Instead, this spousal support is used to help the divorced spouse become financially independent and help them establish themselves before alimony ends.
If the alimony was awarded because of a domestic violence crime and the couple was married for less than 10 years, the alimony can last no longer than 5 years. Otherwise, alimony is typically limited based on the number of years the marriage lasted. These limits are as follows:
- 5-year limit for marriages lasting 10-20 years,
- 7-year limit for marriages lasting 20-30 years, and
- 10-year limit for marriages lasting 30 years or more.
In addition to these limitations, the statute also orders judges to limit the length of these payments as much as they can to the “shortest reasonable period” to get the recipient back to earning enough income to support themselves. This does not apply if the recipient needs extra help or care because of physical or mental disabilities, caring for young children from the marriage, or another valid reason they cannot support themselves.
If alimony is awarded because of your physical/mental disability or the physical/mental disability of a child you care for, the court may order continuing maintenance payments despite these limitations. As long as the disability persists, you can continue getting alimony to help support yourself.
Alimony can also be terminated early if the payor requests it. If at any time, the recipient becomes able to support themselves, the payor might go to court and request that a judge reassess the alimony order. If the recipient no longer qualifies for alimony or has enough income to support themselves, the judge may modify alimony to reduce the payments, may shorten the overall length of alimony, or may terminate alimony altogether. However, the payor must first prove that there are changed circumstances.
If you are receiving alimony, you can also request that it be terminated at any time. This might happen in situations where you no longer want to be financially connected to your ex in any way, or if you are in a new relationship and want to stop alimony.
Talk to an Alimony Lawyer in Dallas About How Long Your Alimony Can Last
The Texas family law attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., represent clients in divorce cases, alimony cases, and other family law issues. If you are considering a divorce or are currently going through a divorce and need to discuss alimony with an attorney, call our law offices today. We offer free consultations on new cases. Call (817) 476-1797 today to schedule your free consultation.