Texas residents may be familiar with the concept of alimony as funds that flow from one former spouse to the other following divorce. However, what many people do not realize is that alimony is not automatically awarded in every divorce. There are two types of awards: statutory and contractual support.
Statutory support may be awarded over the higher-earning former spouse’s objection. Historically, the law required that people be married at least 10 years before a lower-earning spouse could seek support. However, in 2011, the legislature amended the law to allow support if there are specific reasons that the former spouse seeking support is unable to earn a sufficient income, such as the former spouse’s disability or the disability of a minor child living with the person. The 10-year requirement does not apply to those under these special circumstances. The length of alimony depends on the length of the marriage, and it does not necessarily continue indefinitely. The judge can order that support be paid for five, seven or 10 years. However, if the basis for awarding support is that the former spouse is disabled or caring for a disabled child, then support may be extended as long as the disability lasts.
Contractual support is awarded in situations where the parties agreed to it. There are no limits on what the parties may agree to between themselves. Contractual support arrangements might be included in prenuptial agreements or negotiated in divorce settlement agreements.
When spouses determine that the time has come to end a marriage, a family attorney might be able to help avoid a lengthy court battle by helping to negotiate important issues such as spousal support on behalf of one of the involved parties. An attorney may also be able to help ensure that all assets are uncovered before negotiating or seeking to enforce an agreement.
Source: The Houston Chronicle, “Alimony not an option for most divorcing in Texas”, July 15, 2014