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Divorce in Texas and the possibility of spousal support payments

During a Texas divorce, it is not uncommon for a court to consider an award of spousal support for one of the splitting spouses, particularly if the divorce in question is one that involves a couple with a high net worth. Indeed, the chances of spousal support payments also increase if one of the spouse’s ability to support himself or herself has diminished over time due to spending time as a homemaker.

Otherwise known as spousal maintenance in Texas, support payments can only be awarded following divorce if the potential recipient cannot provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs due to a lack of sufficient assets, and he or she meets one of the following requirements:

  • The person seeking spousal maintenance has been married to his or her spouse for 10 years or longer and lacks the ability to make an adequate income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs
  • The person seeking spousal maintenance cannot provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating mental or physical disability
  • The person seeking spousal maintenance is the custodial parent of a disabled child of the marriage, and the care of this child prevents the person from earning an adequate income to provide for the person’s minimum needs
  • The spouse of the person seeking spousal maintenance was convicted of a crime of “family violence” that occurred during the pending divorce or within two years of the divorce filing

Calculating spousal maintenance in Texas

There are many variables that a court may review when deciding the issue of spousal maintenance. For instance, while Texas is considered a “no-fault” state for the purposes of divorce, fault may come into play when calculating potential spousal maintenance payments. In fact, some of the statutorily created factors examined by Texas courts when determining the size and duration of spousal maintenance include:

  • Marital misconduct, which includes cruel treatment and adultery by either spouse during the marriage
  • Each spouse’s ability to independently provide for his or her own minimum reasonable needs
  • The employment skills and education of each spouse, taking into account the time necessary to acquire the additional education or training needed for the spouse seeking maintenance to earn an adequate income
  • The age, earning ability, as well as the emotional and physical condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The property either spouse brought into the marriage
  • The contributions of a spouse as a homemaker

Importantly, these are merely a few of the factors that a court may consider when establishing spousal maintenance amounts and durations, although these awards can be modified following a “material and substantial change in circumstances.” Accordingly, if you are currently considering divorce and believe spousal maintenance will be a contested issue, or if you have questions regarding support modifications, it is always best to consult with an experienced family law attorney to learn what your rights and options may be.

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