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Ask a Family Law Attorney: Is Alimony Always Ordered in a Divorce?

In some divorces, the family court orders alimony payments to the spouse who earns a lower wage or has custody of children from the marriage. However, alimony is not awarded in all divorces. Learn more about alimony rules in Texas before you contact a family law attorney.

Ask a Family Law Attorney: Is Alimony Always Ordered in a Divorce?

Alimony is an option for most marriages that have lasted over 10 years in Texas. In fact, alimony or spousal support is also called maintenance in Texas, and maintenance can be considered voluntary. In many divorces, the court will ask spouses to collaborate to reach an agreement on spousal support payments.

There are very few cases in which the court will order spousal support payments. For example, if there has been family violence in the marriage, the court may mandate spousal support payments as a sort of punitive damage.

Who Qualifies for Alimony in Texas?

The first and most important qualification for alimony is that the spouse asking for spousal support does not have adequate income, property, or assets to meet minimum needs. The spouse asking for spousal support is generally the spouse that earns a lower wage, so gender is not a determining factor.

The spouse that has to pay maintenance must meet requirements such as a conviction for a crime that is considered an act of family violence during the marriage. This act of family violence must have occurred within two years before the divorce was filed or while the divorce was pending.

Can You Get Alimony If the Marriage Lasted Less Than 10 Years?

In many cases, spouses asking for maintenance can only receive spousal support if the marriage has lasted for 10 years. However, there are special circumstances in which spouses may be awarded spousal support if the marriage lasted less than 10 years. For example, if the spouse paying alimony was convicted of an act of family violence, then payments will be mandated even if the marriage lasted less than 10 years.

Sometimes, spousal support is also ordered by the court if the spouse asking for alimony is a sponsored immigrant. In the state of Texas, this means that the sponsored immigrant can ask the court for an affidavit of support that will order the sponsoring spouse to make alimony payments. These payments will last until the immigrant spouse is declared a US citizen or until the immigrant spouse has earned adequate work history.

How Does the Court Calculate Financial Need?

The family court will calculate alimony payments based on financial needs. The court will look at several factors to determine whether the spouse asking for alimony payments meets the need-based requirements for spousal support. For example, the court will examine the financial resources available to each spouse, the education and employment of each spouse, and factors such as age and health.

Texas mandates that the spouse who wants to receive spousal support payments demonstrates a search for employment, education, and training to eventually meet their own financial needs. The exception to this rule is if there’s an affidavit of support that is enforced, such as for marriages that involved family violence.

Does Child Support Affect Alimony Payments?

Child support payments do not affect spousal maintenance payments. The court considers child support and spousal support to be separate payments that have separate calculations. That said, if the spouse asking for spousal support has custody of the children of the marriage, it may be easier for that spouse to receive alimony payments. Family law attorneys in Houston TX will have more information about how child support can influence alimony.

How Long Are Alimony Payments Made?

In cases where spousal support is awarded because of family violence, spousal support payments can be made for up to five years. For marriages that lasted at least 10 years but less than 20, these payments can also be made for five years. For marriages that lasted 20 to 30 years, spousal support is made for seven years. And for marriages that lasted for 30 or more years, payments can be made for up to 10 years.

In many cases, the court may order that spousal support payments continue to be made until the spouse receiving payments can earn a sufficient income. For example, if the spouse receiving payments is the caretaker for a disabled child, the court may order alimony payments for as long as the spouse is taking care of the disabled child.

How Are Payments Made?

Alimony payments are typically considered voluntary, which means that the spouse making these payments will have to write a check or make other payment arrangements each month. However, if the spousal support payments are enforced by court order, these payments may be garnished from the wages of the spouse making a payment.

In Texas, spousal support payments are not guaranteed. However, if the spouse asking for alimony meets certain requirements or there is documented family violence from the marriage, spousal support may be awarded.


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