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You wrote, My niece paid alimony to her husband for two years. The assumption was that by the end of that time he might be earning a living. There were no children involved, and she was the only one earning, so she thought that was perfectly fair.

I still believe alimony laws still aren't very fair. Would it have been fair for your niece to have paid alimony if she were divorcing her husband largely because he was a spendthrift that wasted her income and rarely contributed anything meaningful to the family unit? What if she had warned him to get work or go to college so he'd be employable, but he'd kept procrastinating?

Unfortunately, most state alimony laws don't make distinctions like this. Also most people don't make their divorce decisions based on any time limits placed on alimony. I think that's why a number of divorced [wo]men are bitter about having to pay alimony. They didn't know they were going to having get stuck supporting their lazy ex for years longer - if they had, they would have probably gotten divorced sooner.

In Texas it is really difficult to get alimony. They don't even call it that here. Instead you have to petition the court for "Temporary Spousal Support" as part of or in response to the divorce petition. Generally you have to show you lack an education and/or are generally unemployable, lacking any recent employment experience. Spousal support is often terminated when the divorce is finalized and it cannot exceed $2,500/month in any case. And yes ... either spouse can file for support.

- Joel
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