If you have significant assets, and you are contemplating divorce, one of your biggest concerns may be the financial fallout you go through with the divorce. Along with being worried about the initial division of assets during the divorce itself, you may also need to worry about having to pay alimony after the divorce is finished. Fort Worth high asset divorce attorney Jon Boyd explains some basic guidelines for an alimony award in a Texas divorce.
Before discussing the prospect of an alimony award, it helps to gain a basic understanding of how assets are handled in a Texas divorce. Texas is a community property state, meaning that all marital assets are divided in a “just and right” manner in a divorce. That doesn’t necessarily mean the end result will be a 50-50 division of assets. The court will start with an equal split in mind; however, a judge can move either direction for good cause. While alimony is not part of the division of assets, the division of assets can impact a spouse’s right to receive alimony.
Alimony is not part of the division of assets nor is it related to child support. Also referred to as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance,” alimony is money paid by one spouse to the other spouse after a divorce. The rationale behind awarding spousal support is that divorce can leave one spouse in a noticeably worse financial position post-divorce if that spouse does not have the ability to earn what the other spouse does. If there is a significant income disparity between you and your wife, there is a possibility that she could be awarded alimony should you decide to move forward with a divorce; however, an alimony award is far from a guarantee.
Texas has clear guidelines regarding the issue of alimony. For your spouse to be entitled to an award of alimony, she will first need to prove that after the division of assets in the divorce there will not be enough property to meet her minimum reasonable needs. She must also prove one (or more) of the following:
You were married for at least 10 years and she made diligent efforts to either earn sufficient income or to develop necessary skills while the divorce is pending to meet her minimum reasonable needs OR
You were convicted of an act of family violence against the other spouse or the couple’s children within two years of the divorce filing, or while the divorce is pending OR
She has an incapacitating disability that arose during marriage OR
She provides care for a child of the marriage (of any age) who has a physical or mental disability that prevents your spouse from earning sufficient income
Factors used to determine the nature, amount, duration, and payment method of alimony in a Texas divorce include:
Your wife’s ability to provide for her reasonable needs
The education and employment skills of both spouses, the time necessary to acquire education or training to enable her to earn enough income to become financially independent
The duration of the marriage
Your wife’s age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition
If child support is a factor in the case, each spouse’s ability to meet needs while paying child support
Whether you or your wife wasted, concealed, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of any community property
Whether your wife contributed to your education, training, or increased earning power during the marriage
The property both spouses brought to the marriage
Your wife’s contributions as a homemaker
Marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment, by either spouse during the marriage,
A history or pattern of family violence
If it becomes apparent that your wife is entitled to alimony, you will undoubtedly want to limit the time you are required to pay that alimony. The good news is that Texas does impose limits on the duration of alimony, as follows:
If the judge orders a spouse to pay support because of a physical or mental disability, duties as a custodial parent of an infant or young child of the marriage, or another compelling reason, support can continue for as long as the conditions exist. OR
5 years, if the spouses were married less than 10 years and the supporting spouse was convicted of family violence
5 years, if the spouses were married more than 10 years but less than 20 years
7 years, if the spouses were married for at least 20 years but not more than 30 years
10 years, if the spouses were married for at least 30 or more years.
Texas does require an alimony order to be for the shortest duration necessary for the supported spouse to become self-supporting. In addition, an alimony award could end prematurely if:
Either party dies
The supported spouse remarries
The supported spouse cohabitates with a third-party while in a dating or romantic relationship
Upon a review or future order of the court
For most men facing a high-asset divorce, the big question is: how much will it cost me? If you are required to pay alimony in Texas, the law caps the amount you will have to pay. Unlike most states, the law limits the amount of alimony that can be ordered to $5000 per month or not more than 20 percent of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income (whichever is less).
If you are contemplating a high asset divorce that may include a request for alimony, contact an experienced Fort Worth father’s rights attorney at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.