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Who is eligible for alimony under Texas law?

Some people think that, as part of a divorce settlement, one party will automatically be ordered to pay spousal support (also known as alimony) to the other party. This notion may be especially true in a high value divorce where both parties are accustomed to living a certain lifestyle. However, Texas has strict laws on who can receive spousal support, meaning that many spouses will not be eligible for such payments.

In 2011 amendments to the statutes on court-ordered spousal support were made. As the law currently stands a party must, for a specific reason, be unable to make enough money to meet their minimum reasonable means to qualify for spousal support. Before the amendment the spouses' marriage must have lasted a minimum of one decade, regardless of circumstances, in order to award spousal support. However, under current law, the decade-long marriage requirement will only come into play if the party requesting spousal support is unable to make enough money to meet their minimum reasonable means. This means that depending on the circumstances, an award of spousal support can be made if the marriage lasted five, seven or 10 years.

In addition, if a party is unable to meet their financial needs because of a disability or because they have custody of a child born during the marriage who has a disability, then it may be possible for an award of spousal support to last as long as the spouse or child is disabled, or even indefinitely. That being said, barring these circumstances, a spousal support award will only last as long as is reasonable for the receiving party to earn enough money to meet their minimum reasonable needs.

If the parties entered into a contractual alimony agreement on their own, there is no legal limit on how long payments will last and how much they will be. So, while court-ordered spousal support may be difficult to come by, it is possible for spouses to enter into an agreement out-of-court regarding spousal support. Those with questions about spousal support laws can discuss the matter with a legal professional, so they can make informed choices.

Source: Chron.com, "Alimony not an option for most divorcing in Texas," accessed on Feb. 27, 2018

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