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Spousal maintenance awards are extremely restricted in Texas divorce

Texas laws regarding alimony are relatively strict as compared to those of other states.

Texas family laws governing spousal maintenance, traditionally called alimony and meaning the payment of support from one ex-spouse to the other, are among the strictest of any state in the nation, even considering those of some states that have recently enacted alimony reforms.

Accordingly, it may be advantageous for divorcing parties to negotiate the terms of spousal maintenance in a private agreement. But if they cannot agree, the judge in the divorce will determine whether it will be awarded and its terms as limited by Texas law.

Texas spousal support is relatively restrictive in durational limitations; in requiring recipient spouses to support themselves if at all possible; and in denying alimony if an ex-spouse is able to meet his or her "minimum reasonable needs."

Eligibility for spousal maintenance

The basic eligibility requirements in Texas are that alimony may only be ordered if the recipient spouse does not have enough assets to provide for minimum reasonable needs and one of the following is true:

  •  The paying spouse recently committed family violence against the other spouse or the receiving spouse's child.
  • The recipient spouse cannot earn enough to meet minimum reasonable needs because of an "incapacitating physical or mental disability."
  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years and the receiving spouse "lacks the ability" to earn enough to meet minimum reasonable needs. (Further, there is a rebuttable presumption that alimony is not warranted in this situation unless the receiving spouse has "exercised diligence" in either trying to earn enough or developing the skills to do so during separation and while the divorce has been pending.)
  • The recipient spouse cares for a child of the marriage (minor or adult) who needs "substantial care and personal supervision" because of a physical or mental disability, keeping the recipient spouse from being able to earn enough money to meet minimum reasonable needs.

Terms of alimony order

If eligibility is established, the judge must set the "nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments" by weighing all relevant factors, including these:

  • Each spouse's ability to meet minimum reasonable needs
  • Each spouse's education and vocational skills, and how long it would take for the receiving spouse to get enough education or training to earn enough, providing education or training is available and feasible
  • Length of marriage
  • Age, job history, earning ability and "physical and emotional condition" of recipient spouse
  • Effect of child support or alimony obligations on each spouse's ability to provide for him or herself
  • Whether either excessively spent; or destroyed, hid or fraudulently disposed of property
  • Contribution by one to the other's "education, training, or increased earning power"
  • Property brought into the marriage
  • Homemaker contributions
  • "Marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment"
  • Family violence

Amount and duration

The law caps the monthly payment a court can order at the lesser of $5,000 or one-fifth of the paying spouse's average monthly gross income.

There are also strict and complicated limits on duration depending on the circumstances, including length of marriage, the bases of eligibility, disability, custody of a young child and how long it will take to become self-supporting.

Anyone in Texas facing divorce and its related issues like alimony, whether he or she would be the potential payer or recipient, should seek the advice of an experienced family lawyer as early in the process as possible.

In Dallas, lawyer Bruce E. Turner, provides family law representation to clients throughout the Metroplex.

Keywords: Texas, alimony, spousal maintenance, divorce, judge, spousal support, eligibility, minimum reasonable needs, disability, factor, family violence, duration

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Bruce Turner

In addition to his law degree, Bruce Turner has a master's degree in tax law and is Board Certified in Commercial Real Estate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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Turner, Bruce E.
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Bruce Turner with Bennett, Weston LaJone & Turner, P.C.

Attorney Bruce Turner is located in Dallas and represents people and businesses throughout DFW and the Metroplex, including Denton, Carrollton, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Farmers Branch, Irving, Las Colinas, Corinth, Highland Village, The Colony, Plano, Frisco, Allen, McKinney, Mesquite, Grand Prairie, Garland and Grapevine as well as Collin County, Denton County and Dallas County in Texas.

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