Spouses divorcing in Texas: Be aware of your alimony rights

When a married couple decides to get divorced, one spouse or the other is often responsible for alimony payments. The duration and amount of the payments will depend on a number of factors, including the state in which the couple divorced.

Recently, experts have noted a rising trend in the number of women responsible for alimony payments following a divorce. Historically, men were responsible for such payments, as they were most frequently the main breadwinners in the family. As women have taken on a more active role in the workplace, the number of women out-earning their significant others has been increasing.

Rising number of women responsible for alimony payments

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of women who earn more than their husbands has been on the rise since 1987. In 1987, in families in which both the husband and wife worked, 17 percent of the wives earned more than their husbands. By 2011, 28 percent of wives in households with two wage earners had higher earnings than their husbands. In addition, an increase has been noted in the number of households in which wives are the sole breadwinner in the family.

Consequently, when couples decide to divorce, more women are now responsible for making alimony payments to their former husband. This trend has been noted at the same time as many states have taken action to end permanent alimony. In Texas, permanent alimony is not an option, as the length of alimony payments is dictated by statute.

Alimony payments in Texas

Under Texas law, the length of an alimony award is dependent upon the amount of time the couple was married. Generally, if the couple was married for 10 to 20 years, the alimony award will not continue for longer than five years. In some cases, spouses who were married for under 10 years may also receive alimony, in which case the award will also not exceed five years.

For couples who were married between 20 to 30 years, alimony may be awarded for up to seven years. Finally, spouses who divorce after 30 or more years of marriage may receive alimony payments for up to 10 years.

The law in Texas also requires that the alimony award be limited to "the shortest reasonable period" that permits the spouse receiving the award "to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse's minimum reasonable needs."

When an individual is involved in a divorce, seeking the advice of an experienced family law attorney will ensure his or her alimony rights are protected.