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Texas gives discretion to judges in granting spousal maintenance awards

Spousal support in the Lone Star State is only narrowly awarded.

The payment of spousal maintenance from one ex-spouse to the other after a divorce can make a huge impact on the standard of living of each person.

A divorcing couple can create a contract between them that contains the terms of a spousal maintenance agreement. That contractual agreement would not be limited by the Texas law that limits what a judge can award if the issue ends up in court. Aside from an agreement on spousal maintenance, any award of spousal maintenance is at the discretion of the court.

Eligibility

The first condition of eligibility is that the recipient will lack sufficient property, including the spouse's separate property, to provide for the spouse's "minimum reasonable needs." After that, one of these second conditions must exist:

  • A recent case regarding family violence (certain conditions must be met)
  • Incapacitating mental or physical disability
  • A marriage of at least 10 years and inability to earn enough money to meet minimum reasonable needs
  • Recipient cares for a child of the marriage that requires substantial care and personal supervision, preventing the ex-spouse from earning enough income to meet their minimum reasonable needs

Once eligibility is established, the court must consider "all relevant factors" in fashioning further details of the award, including 11 specific factors in a list such as length of marriage, "marital misconduct, including adultery and cruel treatment," family violence, contributions by one to the other's career and more.

Amount

State statute provides that the amount of monthly alimony may not be more than the lesser of $5,000 or 20 percent of the payor's average monthly gross income.

Duration

If an alimony recipient's eligibility is based on incapacitating disability or the responsibility of caring for a disabled child of the marriage, the court may order ongoing alimony unless the condition changes. However, in most situations, duration is limited by the length of the marriage:

  • Five years is the limit for marriages less than 10 years if the award was based on family violence or for marriages of 10 to 20 years
  • Seven years for marriages of 20 to 30 years
  • Ten years for marriages of at least 30 years

The duration of an award is determined by the judge and according to the statute, must be limited to the "shortest reasonable period" for the recipient to earn enough to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs, unless his or her ability to meet his or her own needs is "substantially or totally diminished" by disability, care of a young child of the marriage or another "compelling impediment."

Spousal maintenance also stops if either party dies, the recipient remarries or he or she "cohabits" with someone in a "dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis."

This article covers the basics of Texas spousal maintenance law, but in application to individual cases, the law can be complicated. Anyone with questions about Texas spousal maintenance or considering divorce should seek the legal advice of an experienced family lawyer.

Attorney Lori Watson of The Law Office of Lori Watson in Georgetown represents clients facing alimony issues as well as a broad array of additional family law matters.

Clients say : "She was always realistic and positive about the case; the end result was very close to what was anticipated. Lori Watson truly cared about my case and its equitable resolution. Communication with her was effortless and personable, her responses timely and pertinent. I would confidently recommend the services of Lori Watson to not only my closest friends, but family members included."

Clients say : " I first approached Lori Watson to handle my divorce two years ago. In the initial consultation I was put at ease by her objectivity and insightful nature and knew I would be well represented. Early on she assessed what was becoming a dangerous situation and placed well thought out procedures in place that were intended to protect but at the same time not provoke unwanted actions."

Clients say : " I am the single mother of a 5 year old child. Our situation is somewhat complicated because my daughter’s father and I were never married and he lives out of state. My daughter has never lived with her father which has made it difficult for the two of them to form a strong parent/child relationship. I had an attorney, whom at the time was not practicing family law." read more >>

Clients say : " I hired Ms. Watson to help me get through probably one of the most difficult times of my life, my divorce and custody battle for my children. Throughout the long-drawn out battle, Lori was very professional, empathetic to my situation, but more importantly was always there by my side." read more >>

Clients say : " Lori handled my complicated divorce with an estranged wife and children with psychological issues. Lori quickly grasped what the main issue would be in a long term contested divorce and formulated a strategy to address it." read more >>

Clients say : " Many have encountered stereotypical lawyers that tend to give attorneys a negative image. Lori Watson does not fit that stereotype and takes a fresh approach to practicing family law. As one who is in need of a family lawyer knows, it is usually a very difficult time in life with many stressors and heightened emotions. My situation was especially trying and lasted nearly a year." read more >>

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Law Office of Lori Watson
804 S Main St
Georgetown, TX 78626

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