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Spousal Support in Texas

Posted on in Spousal Support

Texas high-asset divorce attorney, Texas complex litigation attorney, spousal maintenance,At a time when many states are passing laws to limit alimony, the Texas Legislature recently expanded the spousal maintenance provisions in Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code. Even with these modest amendments, spousal support laws in The Lone Star State are not nearly as broad as they are in other jurisdictions.

When Can I Get Alimony?

First and foremost, spousal maintenance is not automatic in Texas. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a legal presumption that spousal support is unnecessary. Obligees – persons receiving maintenance – may rebut that presumption by proving that they made a diligent effort to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs or developed sufficient skills to provide for their reasonable needs.

An obligee must also meet other eligibility requirements. Most commonly, the obligee must establish:

  • An inability to earn sufficient income due to a physical or mental disability;
  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years and the obligee lacks the ability to provide for minimum reasonable needs; or
  • The obligee has custody of a minor disabled child.

Note that the law keeps repeating the phrase "minimum reasonable needs." As a rule of thumb, most judges consider alimony as a way to overcome a significant economic obstacle and not as a way to equalize the standard of living between the ex-spouses.

Amount and Duration

The duration is tied to the length of the marriage. Under the old law, if the marriage lasted fewer than 10 years, alimony was out of the question. Although the legislature eliminated that requirement, there is still a presumption that a court "shall limit the duration of a maintenance order to the shortest reasonable period." The maximum period increased from three to 10 years.

The maximum amount changed as well. Under the old law, the cap was 20 percent of the obligor's average monthly gross income or $2,500. Now, the cap is 20 percent or $5,000. To determine the precise amount, a court may consider "all relevant factors," including:

  • Ability to independently provide for minimum reasonable needs;
  • Education and employment skills of each spouse;
  • Obligee's age, employment history, physical condition and earning capacity;
  • Duration of the marriage;
  • Dissipation (waste) of assets by either spouse;
  • Effect of child support payments;
  • The separate property of both spouses;
  • Non Economic contributions to the marriage (e.g. foregoing career to stay home with children);
  • Fault in the breakup of the marriage; and
  • Any history of family violence.

The obligation ends when the order expires or when the obligee remarries or cohabitates. A maintenance order may also be modified later.

Spousal maintenance can be an important part of a just and right division of the marital estate. For a consultation with an aggressive Cedar Park high-asset divorce attorney, contact our office. Mr. Powers is Board Certified in Family Law.

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