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Is Spousal Maintenance Automatic?

In Texas, alimony or spousal support is referred to as “spousal maintenance,” which is money that a typically higher-earning spouse pays to a lower-earning spouse for financial support. Like other states, spousal maintenance is not automatically awarded in a divorce. Quite the contrary--unless there is a conviction for family violence (domestic violence), the court assumes that spousal maintenance does not apply unless very specific statutory requirements can be met.

Factors Considered by the Court

When determining if spousal support is appropriate, the court should consider the following factors before rendering a decision:

  • Each spouse’s income and assets,
  • The length of the marriage,
  • The age and health of each spouse,
  • Each spouse’s ability to provide for their basic needs,
  • Infidelity on behalf of either spouse,
  • Any history of spousal abuse or child abuse,
  • The emotional health of each spouse,
  • Either spouse’s contributions to the education or increased earning ability of the other spouse,
  • The employment history and earning capacity of each spouse, and
  • If a spouse will be paying child support and if those payments will affect his or her ability to pay for their basic needs.

Factors that Improve Qualification

To be eligible for considering for spousal maintenance, a spouse must prove he or she has insufficient income and property to provide for their basic needs and one of the following is true:

  • Within two years of the divorce action, the higher-earning spouse was convicted of committing family violence against their spouse or child.
  • Due to a physical or mental disability, the lower-earning spouse cannot provide for themselves.
  • The marriage lasted ten or more years, and the lower-earning spouse cannot earn enough income to provide for themselves.
  • The lower-earning spouse has custody of the couple’s child who has a physical or mental disability which prevents the spouse seeking support from being financially independent.

Unless spousal maintenance is ordered due to a physical or mental disability on behalf of the lower-earning spouse or a disabled child, spousal support is ordered for a limited period of time – usually no longer than five to ten years, typically depending on the length of the marriage and the facts of the case. As a standard rule, the court is motivated to order spousal maintenance for the shortest reasonable time.

To learn more about spousal maintenance in a Katy and Cypress divorce, contact the Hunt Law Firm, PLLC today.