The Lone Star State has one of the narrowest spousal support laws in the country. Typically, to qualify for alimony in Texas, the marriage must have lasted at least ten years and the obligee (person requesting support) must be unable to earn enough to meet basic needs. Other qualifications, which do not come up very frequently, include the obligee’s incapacitating disability, a family violence conviction within the last two years, and custody of a minor disabled child who requires constant care.
Additionally, in all these cases, there is a presumption that the judge must award the absolute minimum amount of alimony needed to meet basic needs. Usually, this phrase means living above the poverty line, although the standard of living during the marriage could have an effect.
Because Texas’ alimony laws are so subjective, both obligees and obligors (people paying support) need assertive legal representation. Unless you have an experienced Dallas spousal support attorney in your corner, there is a good chance the alimony award will not accurately reflect the obligee’s needs or the obligor’s ability to pay.
Setting Alimony in Texas
In addition to the aforementioned minimum necessary presumption, Dallas County judges set the amount and duration of payments according to several factors, including:
- Length of the marriage,
- Financial resources, including separate property, available to each spouse,
- Dissipation (waste) of marital assets,
- Fault in the breakup of the marriage (most states don’t include this factor),
- Non-economic contributions to the marriage, and
- Relative earning capacity of each spouse.
Some caps apply to the duration of payments. Usually, payments may last a maximum of five (family violence conviction or a ten-year marriage), seven (twenty to thirty-year marriage), or ten (longer marriages) years.
Premarital agreements usually factor into these determinations as well. Usually, Texas judges uphold these pacts, which often include spousal support limits.
Modifying Spousal Support in Texas
Usually, modifying a spousal support order is a two-step process. First, the party requesting the modification must prove that relevant financial or emotional circumstances have materially and substantially changed. These financial circumstances usually involve the obligor’s decreased income and/or the obligee’s increased income.
Additionally, such financial changes must be unanticipated, good-faith changes. The obligor’s requirement does not automatically trigger a reduction, since retirement is an unanticipated event. Furthermore, obligees cannot quit their jobs to increase the obligor’s alimony obligation, and vice versa.
Emotional circumstances usually mean the obligee’s remarriage. Normally, remarriage terminates alimony obligations as a matter of law. Long-term cohabitation and a committed romantic relationship might also fit the bill.
If a modification is appropriate, the judge re-applies the aforementioned factors to the ex-spouses’ financial situation and reassesses the necessary amount of alimony. In Texas, spousal support may only be reduced in a modification, and not increased.
Contact a Dedicated Dallas Spousal Support Attorney
Texas’ alimony laws are rather narrow and quite complex. For a confidential and initial free consultation with an experienced spousal support lawyer in Dallas, contact Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP. Our firm has more Super Lawyers than any other organization in the Lone Star State. Call today at (214) 273-2400.