Until about twenty years ago, the answer was “no.” The Legislature enacted limited alimony in the 1990s, and the law has been recently expanded with 2011’s House Bill 901. In sum, more people in need now qualify for more financial assistance from their ex-spouses, and there are still some fairly significant limitations.
The old Section 8 of the Family Code allowed spousal maintenance payments only if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the recipient spouse was unable to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs, if there was a spousal abuse charge or conviction, and in a few other extraordinary circumstances.
House Bill 901 largely reworked the existing 8.051. Although the same general principles are in effect, there were some significant changes:
There are also some changes regarding the nature and extent of a spouse’s disability and the eligibility for maintenance.
When setting the amount of maintenance, the judge can consider “all relevant factors”, including:
Other factors include the contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse, the property brought to the marriage by either spouse, and the contribution of a spouse as homemaker. Under the old law, a judge could require a spouse to liquidate a retirement fund to either pay bills or pay alimony.
Before 2011, there was a cap of three years and $2,500 per month, regardless of the circumstances.
Now, the amount can be up to $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the payor spouse’s income whichever is less.