Texas state law and spousal support: Do I qualify?

In some situations, a divorcing couple in Texas could qualify for alimony payments.

Getting a divorce is a difficult matter. In addition to the emotional turmoil that comes with ending a relationship, financial considerations are also a concern. This can lead to questions about meeting financial obligations. When attempting to answer these questions, a person going through a divorce may wonder if alimony, or spousal support, is an option.

Does Texas state law allow for alimony after divorce?

In short the answer to this question is yes, Texas allows for spousal support payments to be a part of a divorce settlement agreement. However, the application of a spousal support determination will vary for each couple depending on the details of their unique situation.

In order to get a better understanding of how the process works, it helps to know some of the basics of state law. Texas state law defines spousal support as maintenance, and defines maintenance as "an award in a suit for dissolution of a marriage of periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse." An order for spousal support payments is allowed in a variety of situations. In general, spouses that were married for over ten years or are the primary caretaker of a child from the marriage often qualify.

How is spousal support determined?

Various considerations are taken into account when a court determines the adequate amount of maintenance that one spouse, referred to as the obligor, should pay to the other. Some examples include:

  • Independent ability. The court will review each individual's ability to provide for his or herself. This includes a review of financial resources, education and employment skills.
  • Length of marriage. The duration of the marriage is also taken into account.
  • Health. The age, health and emotional condition of each can also be factored into the determination.
  • Marital support in building a career. Courts also consider the contribution of one spouse to the other's education or training in his or her career that has resulted in an increased earning capacity.
  • Misconduct. Infidelity and cruel treatment are also relevant factors in this determination.

It is important to note that this order is generally set to last for a certain period of time. If the marriage lasted ten years or less, the order often spans for five years. If married for twenty years, the order may be set to extend for seven years and if married for thirty or more years the order is generally set to provide support for ten years. There are some exceptions to these time limits. If, for example, one parent is the primary caretaker for a young child the order may extend for a longer period of time.

Do I need an attorney?

It is wise to seek legal counsel when going through a divorce in Texas. Establishing that spousal support is necessary can require various pieces of evidence. Determining the right types of evidence can be difficult and state law is not always clear. This is highlighted when reviewing a second exception to the time period guidelines noted above. The exception states that any other "compelling impediment to earning sufficient income" could be taken into consideration when determining how long maintenance payments should last. How exactly is another "impediment" established? What could qualify? An attorney can help you answer these questions.

It is also important to note that spousal maintenance is just one of many legal issues that can arise during a divorce. An experienced divorce attorney can help to address all relevant issues, better ensuring the resulting divorce settlement is crafted to meet your needs after the divorce is complete.