In many states, spousal support is available for almost any length of time the judge designates. But in Texas, the law limits the duration of payments to the “shortest reasonable period that allows the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs,” at least in most cases. Even these payments are unavailable unless the obligee (person receiving spousal support) has diligently tried to become economically self-sufficient.
Words like “reasonable” and “diligently” are rather subjective. So, whether you are an obligee or an obligor (persona paying spousal support), you have substantial legal and financial rights in this area. A Dallas alimony lawyer is a strong voice for you during court proceedings and negotiation sessions. Obligees often need money to rebuild their lives after a divorce, and obligors usually need to keep the money they earn.
Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code includes some payment duration ceilings. Spousal maintenance awards cannot exceed:
- Sixty months if the marriage lasted at least 10 years
- Eighty-four months if the marriage lasted between 20 and 30 years
- 120 months if the marriage lasted longer than 30 years
These caps apply to economically necessary spousal support, as mentioned above. A different cap applies if the obligor was convicted of domestic violence during the marriage.
Obligees aren’t automatically entitled to the maximum duration. A number of factors apply in this determination, such as:
- Awards of separate assets or debts
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage
- Child support receipts or payments
- Fault in the breakup of the marriage
- Non-criminal domestic abuse
Roughly these same factors apply to the number of payments. This determination is also subject to the presumptions mentioned above and a hard cap of $5,000 monthly or 20 percent of the obligor’s average monthly income, whichever is less.
The duration caps are set by law and cannot be changed later unless lawmakers change the Family Code and make those amendments retroactively effective. That usually doesn’t happen. However, the application of the factors, including economic and emotional factors, frequently changes.
Either ex-spouse may work with a Dallas alimony lawyer and make a motion to modify the amount or duration of payments based on changed economic circumstances. For example, if an obligee wins the lottery, the obligor might argue that s/he is now economically self-sufficient and therefore no longer needs alimony. The changed circumstances must be unanticipated. An obligor’s retirement and resulting income reduction may not justice a spousal support reduction, especially if the obligor took an early retirement package.
Subsequent emotional changes usually involve the obligee’s remarriage. Usually, remarriage automatically terminates spousal support payments. The situation is more complicated if the obligee becomes involved in a long-term, marriage-like relationship. A judge could terminate spousal support payments based on several factors, such as the length of the relationship, joint financial ventures, like a joint checking account or a large joint purchase, and financial overlap (e.g. Sam gives money to Rachel’s son even though they aren’t related).
Contact a Dedicated Dallas County Alimony Attorney
Spousal support is available in Texas, but the rules are complex. For a confidential consultation with an experienced alimony lawyer in Dallas, contact Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP by calling (214) 273-2400. Virtual, home and after-hours visits are available.