Texas was the last state in the union to enact a post-divorce alimony statute. The Texas term for payments by one former spouse to another after divorce is “spousal maintenance”.
For a number of years, the Texas spousal maintenance statute was the most conservative in the country. In most cases to qualify for spousal maintenance the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years and a party needed to convince the judge that she/he would be unable to earn enough money after the divorce to support herself/himself. If a spouse met those requirements, the prior law set the outer limits on spousal maintenance payments at a term of three years and no more than 20% of the paying party’s monthly earnings up to $2,500 per month.
Under the new statute, the amount and duration of payments that the judge may order have been significantly changed. If the parties were married between ten and twenty years, the spousal maintenance payments could run for up to five years. If the marriage lasted between twenty and thirty years, the payments could be extended for up to seven years. If the divorce took place after more than thirty years, the payments could span up to ten years. Further, the potential amount of the payments was increased from $2,500 per month to $5,000 per month.
Although the Texas spousal maintenance law remains very conservative when compared to the laws of other states, the revised law gives the judge more latitude to assist a former spouse who would otherwise be in dire financial straits after the divorce.