In Texas, when a couple gets divorced, they can come to an agreement outside of court about whether one spouse should receive alimony, and the court is likely to approve the arrangement.
Often, though, spouses are unable to agree on alimony, and they have to ask the court to make the determination, which is basically a two-part process.
First, the court will determine whether the spouse seeking alimony is eligible to receive it.
Texas courts take into consideration many factors when determining eligibility for court-ordered alimony, also called spousal maintenance. Of primary concern, though, is whether the spouse seeking alimony is able to provide for his or her own minimum reasonable needs. If not, then alimony may be ordered.
The court may also order alimony under any of the following circumstances:
- The spouse being asked to pay alimony was convicted of a family violence crime against the other spouse or the other spouse's child.
- The spouses were married for at least 10 years and the spouse seeking alimony is unable to earn sufficient income to cover basic needs.
- The spouse seeking maintenance has an incapacitating mental or physical disability.
- The spouse seeking maintenance is the custodian of a child who requires special care because of a mental or physical disability.
Second, the court will determine the amount and duration of payments.
Depending on the circumstances, there may be multiple factors that affect the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. Those factors include:
- Each spouse's financial resources and ability to provide for his or her own basic needs
- The age, earning ability, education and employment history of the spouse seeking alimony
- The physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking alimony
- How long it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire the education or job training needed to provide for his or her own basic needs
- How much property each spouse brought to the marriage
- Whether court-ordered alimony would affect either spouse's ability to pay child support
- A spouse's contribution as a homemaker
- Any marital misconduct such as cruel treatment or adultery
- Any history of family violence
- Any acts by either spouse that resulted in the abnormal loss, destruction or concealment of community property
Keep in mind that court-ordered alimony is based on facts presented to the court, and an experienced divorce attorney is best suited to make your case.
Whether you are seeking maintenance or being asked to pay, it is important to work with a lawyer who will give you straightforward, cost-effective guidance in divorce and family law matters. A skilled negotiator can present your case and help ensure that your quality of life does not suffer after your divorce.
For more on alimony and property division, please see the Law Office of Mark M. Childress' divorce overview.