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How does alimony or spousal maintenance work in Texas?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2021 | Divorce, Family Law |

One spouse may have a particularly difficult financial adjustment when the other files for divorce. Someone who has not worked a full-time job in years, for example, would have a hard time qualifying to lease an apartment or get a mortgage on a house. They may also struggle to earn an actual living wage if they are able to secure viable employment at all.

All is not necessarily lost, though. Alimony or spousal maintenance is money paid by one spouse to the other so that they can live independently after a divorce. When is alimony or spousal maintenance an option in a Texas divorce?

Texas is strict about alimony

Generally the Texas family courts prefer not to award support to adults in divorces. They want to see both spouses make an earnest attempt to support themselves. However, that isn’t always a realistic goal, and in certain circumstances, a dependent spouse can request alimony from their wage-earning ex.

You can generally only receive spousal maintenance if you meet one of two conditions established by Texas state law. The first is that the spouse requesting maintenance was the victim of domestic abuse. To seek support under this condition, there must be a conviction or guilty plea for an act of family violence either in the two years leading up to the divorce or during the divorce proceedings themselves.

The second condition requires that the spouse seeking maintenance be unable to support themselves because of a physical or mental disability affecting them or a minor child they will assume primary responsibility for in the divorce.

Someone may also qualify for spousal support if they don’t have the career skills to support themselves and their marriage lasted at least 10 years.

The amount and duration of alimony will vary significantly

Typically, the courts will only award as much alimony as necessary to augment the income someone can earn on their own. Often, the courts will only order “rehabilitative alimony.” The goal in that case is for payments to last only until someone can earn a living without support.

In rare cases where someone cannot attain financial independence, such as assuming full custody for a child from the marriage with extreme special needs, permanent alimony may be an option. Understanding the rules that apply to spousal maintenance in a Texas divorce can help you understand what support you may receive.