What most of us think of as alimony is officially called spousal maintenance in the State of Texas, but the meaning remains the same. Alimony does not play a role in all divorce cases, but if your divorce does involve alimony, it is helpful to have a better understanding of the basics.
Alimony Is Not Automatic
The most salient point about alimony is that it is not automatically a part of every divorce. Alimony, however, may be awarded if you or your spouse requests it, and the court subsequently determines that the requisite financial need is there. In general terms, alimony amounts to payments made by a spouse with the financial means to offset his or her ex’s financial downturn upon divorce. If you and your divorcing spouse are not in agreement on the matter, the court will determine both the amount and the duration of alimony on your behalf.
Permanent alimony means either that it is intended to continue throughout the payor or payee’s lifetime or that it is intended to continue until a date that is predetermined by the court. There are, however, several events that can also halt alimony payments, including:
The payee remarries.
The payee begins cohabitating with a romantic partner.
The payee obtains a high-paying job, or the payee retires and experiences considerably lower earnings.
Permanent alimony is typically reserved for divorces stemming from long marriages, for exes with physical or mental disabilities, and/or for divorces involving children with special needs.
Often, the spouse who is in need of financial support is expected to become more financially independent, and as such, rehabilitative alimony is awarded. The duration of rehabilitative alimony is intended to give the payee time to acquire the skills, training, and/or education necessary to support himself or herself financially.
Amount and Duration
When alimony is deemed appropriate, the court takes a variety of factors into consideration in determining its amount and duration, including:
The marriage’s duration
The age of the spouse seeking support – and his or her physical and mental health
Each spouse’s financial resources
The employment history of the spouse seeking support
The employment skills and level of education necessary (and the time required) for the spouse seeking support to earn what is deemed sufficient income
The contributions made by the spouse seeking support to the other’s career
The property contributions made to the marriage by the spouse seeking support
Any hiding, destruction, or fraudulent disposition of marital property – or excessive spending – involved in the leadup to divorce