Alimony was a part of nearly every divorce in past generations. The arrangement was often due to the traditional role of the husband acting as the sole breadwinner for the family, while the wife would raise the family, run the house and possibly only work part-time or volunteer. Even if the couple divorced, the breadwinner would just continue to work and support two households and the wife would get full custody or act as the custodial parent.
Alimony is now done on a case-by-case basis
While child support is still common or a shared financial burden, spousal maintenance (as alimony is now called) is considered on a case-by-case basis. The judge (if they choose to litigate) or the couple will look at the following issues among others, to determine whether spousal maintenance is necessary, and if so, for what amount and for how long.
- Length of marriage: The marriage usually must last ten years in order for the non-earning spouse to qualify for spousal maintenance.
- Lack of assets: The spouse lacks sufficient property, including community property, to provide for their own reasonable minimum needs.
- Earning potential: The spouse lacks training, job history or ability to support themself and provide for that spouse’s reasonable minimum needs.
- Is it realistic: It may be unrealistic to expect a spouse to return to work if they have been out of the workforce for a long time or are too old to return to work.
- Family violence: An abused spouse or parent of an abused child can seek maintenance regardless of how long the marriage lasts, as long as the abuse occurred within two years of filing for divorce and has been proven.
- Caregiver: The spouse cares for a disabled child or is otherwise unable to support themselves due to disability or because they must care for a disabled child full-time.
- Prenuptial agreement: This legal document may dictate or eliminate spousal maintenance.
There may be arrangements for a limited number of payments, a lump sum settlement, a sunset clause that ends with the children becoming adults, or the spouse getting training to reenter the workforce and support themself.
Seek a just and right arrangement
Couples who divorce in Texas divide their community assets, and the divorce decree should be a just and fair division of assets. Financial circumstances may also substantially change after the divorce, which can prompt either party to modify the maintenance agreement.
An experienced, Board-Certified Texas Family Law expert attorney can help a client through the divorce process, especially when it involves alimony, an extensive list of community property and separate property, or disputes over the value of the marital estate.