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How does alimony work in Texas?

The end of a marriage doesn't necessarily stop all transactions or lines of communication between the ex-spouses. Divorced parents, for example, have to coordinate child custody matters and handle issues such as child support. Another post-divorce obligation is alimony.

In Texas there are two kinds of alimony -- contractual alimony and spousal maintenance. Contractual alimony isn't subject to the same court oversight as spousal maintenance. Generally, payment of contractual alimony is based on an agreement signed by both parties.

To receive spousal maintenance, however, one has to qualify. Lawmakers in Texas created a spousal maintenance statute about 20 years ago. In 2011 a number of spousal maintenance statutes were amended.

Determining a spousal maintenance award can be a complicated matter, and the court will consider a range of factors. For example, does the person seeking support have a disability or care for a child with a disability? How long was the marriage? Was there domestic violence while the parties were married? Is the potentially paying spouse able to make the payments?

Spousal maintenance can be awarded if the court finds that the requesting spouse is unable to "earn sufficient income to provide for minimum reasonable needs." It used to be the case that courts awarded spousal maintenance only if the parties had been married for a minimum of 10 years. Now the courts take into consideration matters such as disability and the requesting spouse's ability to gain employment.

If the requesting spouse has a disability, then spousal maintenance may be ordered for the duration of the disability. In some of these cases, maintenance is ordered indefinitely. Generally, though, courts order maintenance for 10 years, seven years or five years.

If you have questions about alimony and other property-related matters in a divorce, then please visit our Texas family law website.

Source: Chron.com, "Alimony not an option for most divorcing in Texas," July 15, 2014

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