Divorce after 10 Years of Marriage in Texas

Gavel on top of money used for Texas alimony payments

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You may have heard of the so-called 10-year rule when it comes to divorce and alimony in Texas, and better understanding the reasoning behind this guideline may help you better understand your own case.

Alimony is not the norm and should never be considered a sure thing. While there are instances when alimony is ordered, the burden of proof in relation to the recipient’s need and the payor’s ability to pay lies with the spouse requesting the support.

If you have questions or concerns about alimony, turn to an experienced Round Rock divorce lawyer who has a wealth of experience successfully guiding cases involving challenging alimony terms to favorable resolutions.

​​Alimony in Texas

In Texas, alimony – or spousal maintenance – is designed to provide financial assistance to a spouse who cannot provide for his or her own reasonable needs after divorce while his or her ex has the financial means to help. In addition to being unable to cover basic needs, the spouse requesting alimony must prove that one of the following requirements applies to the situation:

  • The couple was married for at least ten years, which is where the focus on ten years of marriage comes from.

  • The spouse seeking alimony is unable to support himself or herself due to an incapacitating mental or physical disability.

  • The spouse seeking alimony is the primary custodial parent of a child who requires substantial and ongoing care or supervision as a result of a mental or physical disability that interferes with the recipient’s ability to work outside the home.

  • The spouse required to pay alimony was convicted of domestic violence against the recipient or one or more of the shared children in the two years prior to filing for divorce or while the divorce was pending.

​​The Factors Considered

The State of Texas begins with the presumption that alimony will not play a role in any given divorce. However, if the spouse requesting alimony can prove that, despite good faith efforts, he or she could not acquire the education or training necessary to gain financial independence during the divorce process, the court will conduct a maintenance evaluation.

This evaluation will consider all of the following factors:

  • The duration of the marriage, with 10 years as a basic guideline

  • The recipient’s age, overall mental and physical health, and earning capacity

  • Each spouse’s ability to provide for his or her own reasonable needs

  • Each spouse’s overall level of education and employability

  • The amount of time required for the spouse seeking alimony to gain the skills or education necessary to become financially independent

  • Whether either spouse wasted or otherwise dissipated community assets in the buildup to divorce

  • Whether there is any history of domestic violence

  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marital estate, including raising children and homemaking

  • The degree to which either spouse contributed to the other’s education or earning power

  • The size of each spouse’s separate estate

  • Whether either spouse engaged in marital wrongdoing, including adultery and cruelty

  • Whether there is any history of domestic violence

  • The standard of living achieved during the marriage

​​Alimony’s Duration

There are strict guidelines in place when it comes to the duration of alimony orders in Texas. The end date of alimony payments is always indicated, except for when there is a compelling reason for alimony to be ordered without an end date. The kinds of concerns that rise to this level include the following situations:

  • The recipient has a significant physical or mental disability.

  • The recipient is the primary custodial parent of a shared child who requires substantial and ongoing care or supervision.

In these highly specific instances, alimony can be ordered for as long as the identified reason is present. In such cases, periodic reviews of the order may be required.

In other cases, courts will follow these basic guidelines concerning duration:

  • Alimony is generally ordered for 5 years if the couple was married for at least 10 years but fewer than 20.

  • Alimony is generally ordered for 7 years if the couple was married for at least 20 years but fewer than 30.

  • If the spouses were married for at least 30 years, alimony can be ordered for 10 years.

  • Alimony is generally ordered for 5 years if the couple was married for fewer than 10 years but the supporting spouse was convicted of domestic violence in the 2 years prior to divorce.

Barring a compelling reason (such as those listed above) for ruling otherwise, Texas courts are required to order the briefest duration of alimony necessary for the spouse seeking support to obtain financial independence.

​​When Maintenance Is Terminated

Maintenance can end prior to the court-ordered termination date in response to any of the following situations:

  • The recipient remarries.

  • The recipient begins cohabitating with a romantic partner.

  • Either spouse dies.

  • The court reviews the order.

If you pay alimony and your ex remarries, your obligation ends immediately, and you won’t need to seek a modification with the court. In fact, it is your ex’s obligation to inform you that he or she has remarried.

However, in every other situation in which a modification is available, the matter must go through the court. Until a court order is officially modified, it remains legally binding, and failing to comply can land you in legal trouble.

​​The Alimony Cap

Texas is unique in that it puts a cap on how much alimony can be ordered. The judge can only order up to $5,000 per month or up to 20 percent of the payor’s total monthly income – whichever is lower. However, it’s important to note that any alimony terms included in legally binding prenuptial or postnuptial agreements are binding, even if they exceed the cap.

​​Taxes

Alimony has very specific tax implications. For those alimony agreements that were finalized on or after January 1, 2019, the recipient isn’t responsible for paying income tax on the payments received, and the payor doesn’t get a tax deduction for making the payments. This arrangement is a tax-obligation reversal in relation to prior years.

​​The Ten-Year Rule

The ten-year rule suggests that, unless your marriage lasted at least ten years, alimony won’t be considered in the event of divorce. Conversely, the rule supports the idea that divorce after ten years may include alimony or alimony of longer duration.

Alimony is sometimes awarded in divorces after marriages that last fewer than ten years, but the duration tends to be quite limited – and it’s generally referred to as temporary spousal support or maintenance.

For those marriages that exceed the ten-year point, any alimony that’s awarded is likely to have a lengthier duration. Under highly specific circumstances, alimony can even be awarded indefinitely.

While the ten-year rule does have some bearing in Texas divorces, it is by no means a strict – or even an official – rule. The length of the marriage is not the only factor that Texas courts take into consideration when ruling on alimony. Learn more about the factors that will affect your case by consulting with a Round Rock divorce attorney.

​​The Significance of Ten Years of Marriage

There are a range of reasons why ten years is considered significant in relation to divorce outcomes.

​​Financial Stability

Once a couple has been married for a significant amount of time, such as ten years, there is a presumption that the situation each spouse is in at the time of divorce will have a more profound effect on future finances.

For example, if one spouse gave up a career to support the other’s while also raising the children and keeping the home fires burning for a decade or more, it could directly affect that spouse’s ability to support himself or herself financially.

​​Standard of Living

Over the course of a marriage that lasts a decade, the couple has time to establish the standard of living that the family enjoys. Texas courts are interested in both parties maintaining this standard of living post-divorce, which can lead to alimony orders. This standard of living component can include matters such as housing, health care, education, and other factors that enhance quality of life.

​​Economic Contributions

When a marriage exceeds ten years, each spouse is likely to have made significant contributions to the household. While the couple’s joint efforts are likely to have solidified their joint financial independence, one spouse may be financially disadvantaged after a divorce – despite significant contributions. Implementing a ten-year standard helps balance this financial discrepancy.

​​Transition Period

Divorce upsets the lives of both spouses, and the longer the marriage, the larger the disruption. After being married for a full ten years, one spouse may have to adjust to new financial circumstances that may require further education, job training, or the acquisition of job skills.

If one spouse doesn’t work outside the home during a ten-year marriage, it can substantially affect his or her financial independence, and the State of Texas recognizes this fact.

​​FAQ about Alimony in Texas

The answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about alimony may help you better navigate your own challenging case. A Round Rock divorce attorney can help you answer questions specific to your case.

​We Were Married for Ten Years. Will My Ex Automatically Get Alimony?

Alimony is never automatic in Texas divorces. Alimony will only be awarded if your ex can prove that he or she doesn’t have the financial means to provide for reasonable needs as a result of divorce – and that you have the means to help.

​​Is the Ten-Year Rule Set in Stone?

While many people refer to the ten-year rule regarding divorce and alimony, it isn’t actually a rule. In fact, it’s more of a guideline. Texas courts take many factors into account when making alimony determinations, and when a marriage lasts over ten years, it tends to signify that the conditions for alimony are more likely to be met than they are after a shorter marriage.

​​My Ex Is Remarrying. Will That Affect the Alimony Payments I Make?

If you pay your ex alimony and he or she remarries, your ex is responsible for informing you about the marriage, which eliminates your alimony requirement. Remarriage is the only circumstance that does not require an alimony modification with the court.

If your ex doesn’t inform you of the remarriage, he or she will be required to repay you for any alimony payments you made after the wedding date. However, remarriage is very different from cohabitation with a romantic partner. If your ex begins living with a romantic partner, it can affect your alimony payments, but you will need to seek a modification with the court.

​​What Are My Chances of Receiving Alimony?

If you were married to your spouse for a considerable amount of time, if divorce will leave you unable to provide for your own reasonable needs, and if your ex has the financial ability to help, alimony may be ordered. When ruling on alimony, the court will consider factors like the length of your marriage, your contributions to the household, and your relative earning power as compared to your ex’s.

Every alimony decision is made in accordance with the unique circumstances involved. As such, it’s always wise to hire a Round Rock divorce lawyer with an impressive range of experience effectively and efficiently handling cases involving alimony.

​​Does Alimony Last Forever?

Alimony is typically set for a specific duration and does not last forever. Only when there is a compelling reason for keeping alimony open-ended, such as when the recipient has a serious mental or physical disability, will the court award alimony without an end date.

You Need an Experienced Round Rock Divorce Attorney on Your Side

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Round Rock, Texas, appreciates your concerns about alimony and has the legal skills, insights, and resources to help. To learn more, please don’t delay contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 to schedule your FREE consultation today.

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