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Spousal Support in Texas

What is Spousal Support?

Under Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code, spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance or alimony, refers to an award in a dissolution of marriage, whether a divorce or annulment, requiring regular payments from one spouse’s future income to support the other spouse as ordered by the court. This setup applies only to formerly married spouses, which means that unmarried cohabitants cannot seek maintenance from their partners.

Spousal support is designed as a temporary form of financial assistance for a spouse who is unable to support herself or himself. Texas Courts consider facts on a case-by-case basis in determining spousal support. Spousal support beyond divorce is not easy to obtain. Our Texas spousal support lawyer Daniella Lyttle is here to assist.

Eligibility Guidelines for Spousal Support

For the court to recognize either spouse’s eligibility for maintenance, the spouse seeking financial support must prove that he or she does not have the sufficient property to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs.

Spouses seeking spousal support must also show that they have gone out of their way to seek employment or develop the necessary skills to support themselves while they are separated from their spouses and the divorce proceedings are underway. The exception is when the spouse seeking support is unable to earn sufficient income for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of incapacitating physical or mental disability.

Length of Spousal Support

Under Texas law, the court shall limit the duration of a maintenance order to the shortest reasonable period that allows spouses seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs.

But the court can generally order indefinite spousal support if the spouse seeking maintenance:

  • Suffers from a physical or mental disability;
  • Is the custodian of an infant or young child of the marriage who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning a sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs;
  • Has another compelling reason compromising the ability to provide for his or her reasonable needs.
  • Generally, the majority of people requesting spousal support receive it for two to three years. Again, it’s important to note that the legislature intended for spousal support to be temporary and as defined as possible.

But under ordinary circumstances, the court can order the following lengths of time for spousal support

  • Five years after the date of order if the spouses were married to each other for less than 10 but not more than 20 years;
  • Seven years if the spouses were married to each other for at least 20 but not more than 30 years;
  • Ten years if the spouses were married to each other for 30 years or more.

In any case, spousal support ends when the supporting spouse passes away or the spouse accepting alimony payments remarries or is co-habitating with a partner.

Calculating the Amount of Spousal Support

Should the Texas court recognize the eligibility of a spouse for spousal support, the judge will have to decide how much and for how long, based on factors that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The financial resources of each spouse after the marriage, including separate property
  • The employment history and education skills of each spouse
  • The time and effort needed by the spouse seeking spousal support to find work, education, and skills to support herself or himself
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and health of the spouses
  • The financial conduct and general conduct of both spouses
  • The spouses’ homemaker contributions
  • The history of family violence, if any
  • The amount of child support being paid
  • The earning ability of the spouse being asked to pay maintenance

In determining the base amount, the Texas judge may sometimes look at the difference between the petitioner’s monthly income and monthly expenses, with the difference being the upper limit for any spousal-maintenance award.

Enforcing Spousal Support

Under §8.059 of the Texas Family Code, the court may enforce a spousal maintenance order by contempt (fine or jail time).

But the supporting spouse can appeal for a modification of the amount he or she pays, or even have it completely eliminated if there is a significant change in the supporting spouse’s ability to make payments or the receiving spouse’s ability to meet monthly expenses.

For questions and legal advice about spousal support, get in touch with the Texas spousal support attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation.

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