In Texas, alimony is referred to as “spousal maintenance.” When a couple divorces, a judge may order the higher-earning spouse to pay alimony to the lower-earning spouse, especially when the dependent spouse lacks sufficient property after the divorce to provide for their basic needs.
Alimony is not awarded freely in Texas like some states. Instead, there has to be an actual need for it. For support to be ordered, other, specific circumstances must be present, such as domestic violence or a marriage that lasted at least 10 years, and the spouse asking for support must have an inability to earn a sufficient income.
Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony
Spousal maintenance in Texas typically does not last forever. While lifetime maintenance can be ordered if the dependent spouse is caring for a physically or mentally disabled child, even lifetime maintenance payments are reviewed periodically and can be terminated if a judge believes they are no longer necessary.
In all other alimony cases, Texas law imposes maximum time limits based on the length of the marriage:
- If the marriage lasted 10 to 20 years, alimony cannot exceed 5 years.
- If the marriage lasted 20 to 30 years, alimony cannot exceed 7 years.
- If the marriage lasted 30 years or longer, alimony cannot exceed 10 years.
The above are maximum time limits and they are not absolute. Either spouse or the court can have the case reviewed and spousal maintenance may be modified or terminated if the court determines there has been a significant change in circumstances.
“What about remarriage or cohabitation?” Under Texas law, spousal maintenance can be terminated regardless of the above time limits if the receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates with someone else because they are in a romantic relationship. However, it has to be a significant other, it can’t be a roommate or a family member.