Alimony Lawyer in Houston, Helping Our Clients Reach an Equitable Solution
Divorce proceedings can create a variety of difficulties in a former couple’s lives. Even when there are no significant marital assets or children involved, there are typically still important issues that must be decided. One of the most common issues involves spousal support and maintenance payments. A court may decide that one spouse needs to make payments to another after their divorce decree is final — and sometimes even before that point. While it may seem simple on the surface, this can actually be a complex area of family law. That’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to contact an alimony lawyer in Houston today.
At Von Dohlen Law Firm, we strive to make the divorce process simple for those involved. We know this is a difficult time, and the last thing you need is costly litigation that can drag on for far too long. That’s why we do everything in our power to help you reach a fair solution without litigation. While this isn’t always possible — particularly when the former partners can’t reach an agreement — it’s a good place to start. After speaking with a family law firm in Houston, you’ll have a better idea of what’s possible and how to get the best outcome in your divorce. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony, spousal support, and spousal maintenance are often used interchangeably. There are some differences between these terms, but for big-picture purposes, we can treat them as if they’re the same. Essentially, these are payments typically made to a spouse who doesn’t have sufficient income to meet their minimum reasonable needs. The paying spouse can either agree to make these payments or they could be forced to during a divorce proceeding.
There are many considerations that go into whether someone will have to pay spousal support. There are also a variety of factors that can affect how much spousal maintenance is required and for how long it must be paid. The important thing to remember is that alimony is not required under Texas law. In fact, Texas has some of the most stringent laws that control when courts may award alimony.
What Types of Alimony Are Allowed in Texas?
There are different types of alimony in Texas, and none of them are affected by child support or property division. A common form of alimony is temporary spousal support. This is often ordered prior to a final divorce decree so that one spouse can maintain their current standard of living during proceedings. It’s important to note that the issuance of temporary support does not indicate that alimony will be granted as part of a final divorce decree.
There are also differences between contractual alimony and court-ordered spousal maintenance. The former is an agreement that former partners create during their divorce case. This removes the need for the court to order spousal maintenance since payments are already agreed to. If one spouse defaults on this payment, it’s a contractual issue rather than a family law issue. On the other hand, court-ordered maintenance occurs when a judge decides that support must be provided to the spouse seeking alimony.
Who Is Eligible for Spousal Support in Texas?
Unlike other states, Texas begins with a presumption that spousal support should not be paid. In order to be eligible for such payments, the supported spouse must show that they’re unable to meet their minimum reasonable needs. This means that — even after good faith efforts to earn money and support themselves — the individual is still unable to meet their basic needs. Alimony lawyers often spend vast amounts of time in court trying to prove this on behalf of their clients.
However, this single factor isn’t enough. In addition to being unable to meet their own minimum reasonable needs, the requesting spouse must also show that:
- The paying spouse was convicted of a family violence charge against their partner or children within two years of filing for divorce or while the divorce was playing out.
- The requesting spouse can’t meet their own needs because they suffer from a mental disability or incapacitating injury.
- The marriage has lasted for a minimum of 10 years.
- The spouse requesting support can’t earn an income because they’re the custodial parent of a disabled child that needs supervision or extensive care.
If these requirements are met, Texas courts can award alimony. However, several factors can affect the level of support provided. A judge will consider the paying spouse’s income, whether marital misconduct occurred, how long the marriage lasted, the supported spouse’s employment skills, and even whether one spouse engaged in bad faith actions (e.g., hiding property) during the divorce. These are just a few potential considerations.
How Long Does Spousal Support Last?
An individual will have to pay spousal support calculated by the judge for as long as their divorce order decrees. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest areas of spousal maintenance law to understand. That’s because Texas is very clear on the duration of alimony payments. In all cases, it’s expected that any judge who decides to order maintenance should only make it last for the minimal time the recipient spouse needs to become self-supporting. Spousal maintenance is limited in Texas, however, to the following lengths of time:
- Five years: If a marriage lasted at least 10 years but less than 20, a judge can order five years of support payments. Marriages lasting less than 10 years are also eligible if family violence occurred.
- Seven years: If a couple was married for more than 20 years but less than 30, a judge can order seven years of support payments.
- Ten years: If a marriage lasts at least 30 years, then the spouse ordered to pay alimony may need to do so for an entire decade.
The court can order future reviews to decide whether alimony payments should continue. Their decision during these hearings will often rely upon whether the recipient spouse can earn sufficient income to meet their own needs. Alimony orders can also be ended if the spouse seeking maintenance remarries, moves in with a third party with whom they share a romantic relationship, or if either party to the order dies.
Can a Physical or Mental Disability Extend Spousal Maintenance?
In most cases, alimony will not last indefinitely. Once a spouse’s minimum reasonable needs can be met — or some other condition dictating the end of the order occurs — the court may decide that payments should cease. In cases where a physical or mental disability exists, however, courts very often order that payments should continue for as long as the disability persists. This means an individual may have to make periodic payments for an indeterminant amount of time or even permanently.
Such orders are also possible in other scenarios. For instance, spousal maintenance may not have a defined length if the recipient is the custodial parent of both partners’ infant or young child. Other compelling reasons could also support such a court order. Clearly, this is a complex legal area that can have a significant effect on the outcome of a divorce suit. That’s why speaking with a Houston alimony attorney is so important. Texas has unique statutes related to spousal maintenance, but with the help of an attorney, you can secure a fair outcome.
Contact an Alimony Lawyer in Houston Today
Whether you’re a spouse seeking maintenance or an individual who will have to pay it, getting help from a legal professional is wise. Texas is one of the most difficult states to receive spousal support payments as part of a divorce decree, but doing so is far from impossible. The best possible outcome could involve a contractual alimony agreement between you and your former partner, but this is not required in Texas law. The right approach to your case will depend entirely on your unique circumstances. We can help you seek a better outcome or simply understand your legal position — because everyone deserves competent legal help.
At Von Dohlen Law Firm, we’ll work hard to help you achieve better results in your divorce proceeding. Unless you’re able to reach an agreement with your former partner, however, a judge will make the final decision. Fortunately, a skilled legal professional can help present your case so there’s a better likelihood of you getting the spousal support outcome you’re hoping for. Contact us today by calling 713-844-8396 to schedule a confidential consultation with an alimony lawyer in Houston. Regardless of the specifics of your situation, we will fight hard to help you get a fair result.