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Understanding alimony in Texas

Texas residents involved in a divorce proceeding are often surprised by how complicated the process is regarding spousal support, or alimony. The two types of alimony in Texas are spousal maintenance payments, which are ordered by the court, and contractual alimony. Laws regarding spousal maintenance were first enacted in 1995. In order to quality for maintenance, courts considered the ability to make payments, the needs of the spouse requesting payments, any disabilities affecting the spouse or children, the length of the marriage and if domestic violence was evident during the marriage.

During 2011, statutes concerning the duration of spousal maintenance and eligibility were amended. Spousal maintenance may last up to five, seven or 10 years depending on the length of the marriage. Spouses who are unable to earn income due to a disability, or are the custodian to a child suffering a disability, may receive alimony indefinitely. In most circumstances, though, alimony is designed to only last until the requesting spouse can generate enough income to meet minimum reasonable needs.

As opposed to spousal maintenance, contractual alimony is support paid after the divorce based on an agreement previously reached between the two parties. Courts do not impose limits on the amount, duration or eligibility of contractual alimony.

Persons who need guidance or have concerns about alimony often benefit from conferring with legal counsel at the outset of the process. An attorney with experience in family law and divorce matters may be able to ensure that the concerns are addressed during negotiations. The attorney might be able to provide accurate financial projections of how alimony payments will affect the life and other obligations of a client after the divorce process has been completed.

Source: The Houston Chronicle , "Alimony not an option for most divorcing in Texas", July 15, 2014

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