If you recently married and realized it is not a good fit, you may wonder if you are eligible for alimony payments from your spouse as part of the legal divorce process. You might even have questions like “How long do you have to be married to get alimony?”
Let’s explore how the length of your marriage is taken into consideration when determining alimony payments in Texas.
How Does Alimony Work in Texas?
During a divorce, the Texas family court system may award alimony to one spouse if specific terms are met. Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support, is a monetary award paid by one spouse to the other and is meant to provide financial support while they adapt to life after divorce.
To determine if alimony is appropriate, the court will consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the income of both spouses, and other relevant information. Consider the following qualifications to receive spousal support.
Texas Alimony Qualifications
Texas has some of the most restrictive alimony laws in the country. You must meet certain qualifications to be eligible to receive alimony in a Texas divorce. Specifically, the spouse seeking maintenance must be unable to meet their basic needs financially. Additionally, in most cases, the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years.
For marriages lasting fewer than 10 years, the court will consider other factors to determine if alimony is appropriate. They include:
- A recent act of family violence committed by the supporting spouse
- A physical or mental disability preventing the spouse seeking alimony from earning a sufficient income
- Inability to work due to the substantial care needs of a disabled custodial child
If you’ve been married for less than 10 years, your circumstances must fall under one of the exceptions listed above for the court to consider awarding alimony payments.
How the Terms of Alimony Payments Are Determined
When a spouse is awarded alimony, the court will evaluate various factors to calculate how much support should be paid. These include:
- The length of the marriage
- The earning capacity of each spouse
- The education and job skills of each spouse
- The age of both spouses
- The lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage
- The health of both spouses
- The non-financial contributions made by each spouse to the marriage, such as homemaking and child-rearing
- The financial resources of each spouse
- The fault of either spouse in causing the divorce, if applicable, such as adultery or cruelty
All these factors aside, Texas law limits alimony orders to $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s average gross monthly income — whichever is lower.
Texas also has strict guidelines for the duration of alimony payments. There are limits on how long payments can be made based on the length of the marriage. They include:
- Five years of payments for marriages lasting less than 10 years when the supporting spouse has a family violence conviction
- Five years of payments for marriages lasting between 10 and 20 years
- Seven years of payments for marriages lasting between 20 and 30 years
- 10 years of payments for marriages lasting 30 or more years
Keep in mind that these are only limits – or maximums – and the court can award a shorter length of payments depending on the individual circumstances. Judges are required to order alimony for the shortest length of time needed for the recipient to become self-supporting, and this may be less than the maximum period of time.
The only exceptions to these guidelines are when the support payments are being made due to a disability or parental duties, in which case there may be no limit.
Other compelling circumstances may also be considered. The payments may continue as long as the conditions that caused the need for alimony to persist. The court may conduct periodic reviews to ensure the payments are still necessary.
Additional Support Beyond Learning How Long You Have to be Married to Get Alimony
Unfortunately, alimony is often not an option for those ending short-term marriages. However, independent settlements are always an option if the parties can agree on a fair arrangement.
To ensure that your rights are fully protected and that you receive the best outcome possible in your divorce agreement, it is important to speak with an experienced Texas family law attorney.
At Parker & Aguilar, we are dedicated to helping people in Texas navigate the complexities of divorce. Our attorneys can help in specific ways:
- Review the timeline affecting annulment vs. divorce.
- Help you understand the factors that could influence any potential alimony payments.
- Guide you through your legal options.
- Help you determine the best way forward for your unique situation.
We understand you may have additional questions besides, “How long do you have to be married to get alimony?” We are here to help you answer all of your questions so that you can arrive at the best possible living situation.
We assist clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, contact us today to learn more and get started on your case.
You can reach our attorneys at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office). We look forward to helping you resolve your divorce in the most timely and cost-effective manner possible.