Many people think of alimony as a problem reserved for the top 1%. In reality, the nature of marriage is so different from having to only worry about yourself that a lot of couples filing for divorce find themselves having to broach the topic of alimony.
Often referred to as spousal maintenance, alimony is financial support given to one spouse by the other either during or after divorce — or both. You do not have to have married rich to qualify for alimony; often, it is deemed appropriate when the yearly salaries/incomes of the soon-to-be-former spouses are significantly different.
Take, for example, a marriage in which one spouse takes care of the children and housework while the other works a full-time job. This is just one circumstance that may require alimony to be paid to one spouse because (a) the homemaker is financially dependent on the working spouse and (b) the homemaker is likely to have made personal sacrifices so the working spouse could have a full-time job. Many people may overlook the weight of homemaking, but not the courts.
In Texas, divorcing couples have the power to come to an agreement regarding alimony on their own. If they are unable to reach a mutual compromise, the court can be called in to rule on the matter. In doing so, it will consider numerous factors, including:
- The length of the marriage;
- Each spouse’s income and debts;
- Each spouse’s education and employment background;
- Each spouse’s monetary and unpaid household contributions;
- Whether child support would be affected;
- Whether they have minor children or children with disabilities;
- The ability of either spouse to provide for the other;
- The physical and emotional state of the spouse seeking alimony;
- How long it would take one spouse to become financially independent;
- Whether one spouse engaged in community property damage[JS1];
- The property of each spouse prior to marriage; and
- The grounds for divorce, such as adultery or domestic violence.
Each of these factors is weighed differently and with the others in mind. For instance, even if one spouse earns way more money than the other, it often does not make sense for a one-year marriage to warrant substantial alimony payments.
It should be noted that before any argument for alimony can be made, the spouse seeking support must be eligible for alimony. Texas law requires them to be unable to afford basic needs when the divorce is filed and meet at least one of the four following criteria:
- Domestic violence was perpetrated by the spouse who will pay alimony during the divorce proceedings or within two years of when the divorce was formally filed;
- The spouse seeking alimony cannot gain financial independence due to a disability of their own;
- The spouse seeking alimony is unable to support themselves because they have a child with a disability under their care; or
- The marriage in question lasted longer than 10 years and the spouse seeking alimony does not have the capacity or skills to care for themselves.
With all the different factors involved in arranging an alimony agreement, many people find themselves on a serpentine path wrought with hurdles. Fortunately, a legal professional can help you walk this path with greater ease and may even be able to find you a shortcut. No matter if you are the one pursuing alimony or the one paying it, an attorney can help you reach an agreement that is workable for everyone involved.
Contact the Law Offices of Frank E. Mann, P.C. online today to consult a Houston legal adviser. We offer consultations free of charge and obligation.