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The unique aspects of alimony (spousal maintenance) in Texas
On behalf of Scott Brown
Texas law allows post-divorce spousal maintenance only if there are certain conditions present in divorce.
Marriage, among other things, is a partnership between two people. Texas law recognizes this, which is why in divorce property is divided in a “just and right manner.” Texas is also a community property state, which means that most property acquired by either spouse is marital property, regardless of who purchased the property or whose income was used to make the purchase.
This means that a Texas family court judge has wide authority to divide property fairly, but not necessarily equally. Factors that a judge may consider when dividing property is the earning potential of each spouse, where and with whom the children will live, and if there was a fault ground pled in the divorce.
Dividing assets and property is not the only issue to be resolved, however. The divorcing couple can agree to spousal maintenance, known more commonly as alimony, when divorcing. In addition, a court can award a lump sum or periodic payments to the other spouse for a limited duration in order for one spouse to become integrated into the workforce. Compared to other states, Texas law has relatively stringent requirements for one spouse to receive spousal maintenance.
Spousal maintenance duration and amount
The court can order spousal maintenance if the spouse seeking support will not have enough property at the time of the divorce to provide for basic needs. In addition, one of the following circumstances must exist:
•· A recent history of domestic violence (within two years of filing for divorce)
•· The spouse who is unable to provide for basic needs must have been married for at least 10 years in order to receive spousal maintenance, or have a mental or physical disability that prevents him or her from providing for basic needs
•· The spouse receiving support is providing care to a special needs child
In Texas, there is a presumption against awarding post-divorce spousal maintenance.
No single factor will prompt a court to award spousal maintenance. However, a family court judge will consider factors such as the financial resources of the spouse seeking support, then length of the marriage, and the ability and effort of the spouse seeking maintenance to find work when determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. Under the Texas Family Code, spousal maintenance is not valid three years after the final divorce decree. Post-divorce spousal maintenance could continue indefinitely if one spouse is disabled and therefore unable to find work.
A family law attorney can help
A divorcing spouse who seeks maintenance in order to provide for basic needs must show the court why spousal maintenance is necessary. While spousal support does not exist in Texas as it does in other states, Texas does attempt to divide property and assets fairly and allow each spouse to continue in as similar a financial circumstance as possible after the divorce.
For help with spousal maintenance, property division or other financial aspect of divorce, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Scott M. Brown & Associates.