In some states, laws about post-marital financial support for ex-spouses have been reformed in recent years to include new limitations. Texas lawmakers changed spousal maintenance laws in 2011. However, instead of tightening the rules, the legislators slightly expanded support boundaries.
In the present, as in the past, only spouses who invest a minimum of 10 years in a marriage qualify to receive alimony. Under the old rules, no alimony recipient could receive support for more than three years. The support time limit has been stretched to five years for 10- to 20-year marriages, seven years for 20- to 30-year marriages and 10 years for marriages lasting 30 years or longer.
A $2,500 monthly support maximum was raised to $5,000 per month or an amount equal to 20 percent of a payer's gross income, whichever is less. Judges follow these guidelines, when determining how to resolve an alimony case, but there is ample room for judicial discretion.
Spousal maintenance cases are judged on individual merits - there is no alimony award guarantee. The prospective recipient's need for support must be as evident as the other spouse's ability to pay it. Spousal support covers "reasonable needs" for as little time as it takes for the recipient spouse to become self-sufficient.
The assessment of need factors into the property the ex-spouses divided during the divorce, plus the education and employability of the allegedly deficient spouse. The court reviews past and anticipated earning capacities, mental and physical health, ages and unpaid marital contributions. An example of unpaid support may be the sacrifice of a career or education to take care of a home and raise children.
Texas judges also base support decisions on spousal misconduct including violence, fraud, financial irresponsibility and adultery. Support orders may be modified, if circumstances change significantly for either ex-spouse. Attorneys provide support for the positions of either spouse in an alimony dispute.
Source: Lifetime Planning, "New Alimony Laws" Amy Fearnow, accessed Feb. 18, 2015