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Collin County Divorce AttorneyDuring a couple's divorce, one party may ask for financial support from their former partner. This form of support is officially known as spousal maintenance in Texas, although it can also be referred to as alimony or spousal support. Maintenance will not be an issue that will be addressed in every divorce, but it may be a factor in cases where one spouse earns most or all of the income used to provide for a family's needs, especially if the other spouse may struggle to support themselves while also caring for children or other family members. In cases where spousal support is appropriate, the parties will need to understand how the amount that one spouse will pay to the other will be determined.

Factors Used to Determine Spousal Support Payments

Generally, spousal maintenance will only be awarded in a small number of situations. These may include cases in which a spouse or child has been a victim of domestic violence, as well as situations where a spouse has a disability that prevents them from earning an income or devotes their time to caring for a child with a disability. If these issues are not a factor, spousal support will usually only be granted if a couple was married for at least 10 years and a spouse will be unable to support themselves financially, such as when a spouse has been a homemaker for the majority of the couple's marriage.

If a family court judge determines that a spouse is eligible for spousal maintenance, they will then consider a variety of factors to determine the amount that should be paid, the method and frequency of payments, and the duration that payments will last. These factors include:

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Spousal maintenance – also referred to as “alimony” in many jurisdictions outside of Texas – continues to be among the most controversial issues in family law. This is partly because of media influence. Some spousal maintenance cases – such as those involving celebrities – are published in the mainstream media, and sometimes the amounts of maintenance awards can be astounding to observers. Spousal maintenance won’t stop being controversial anytime soon, but the reality of maintenance is quite different from what lay people often assume. In this post, we’re going to give a quick review of spousal maintenance and how this concept works here in Texas.

Spousal Maintenance is Based on Two Basic Conditions

Not only is spousal maintenance not award in all cases, the qualifications for spousal maintenance are actually quite high in Texas. To qualify for spousal maintenance, the requesting spouse needs to meet two conditions: (1) the requesting doesn’t have the means to provide for basic needs at the time of the divorce, and (2) one of four other circumstances must be present:

(a) The provisioning spouse must have been convicted of domestic violence within two years of the divorce filing

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Recently, we have discussed some of the basics regarding child support awards and spousal maintenance awards. As we saw, both of these obligations are based on complex systems built into the fabric of Texas family law. What we didn’t discuss in any detail, however, is the fact that both of these obligations can be modified after an initial determination. Depending on the circumstances at hand, a Texas judge can decide to change or, in the case of spousal maintenance, even eliminate an obligation altogether.

In this post, we will discuss some of the factors which go into the decision-making process underlying these modifications.

Modifying a Texas Child Support Award

As mentioned, child support awards are determined according to a well-established system in Texas. But, after an award has been created, this doesn’t mean that this obligation will remain in place indefinitely. Whenever there is a significant change in either parent's life, or the child's life, this change may be sufficient to amend the award.

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Spousal maintenance – also referred to as “alimony” in many states throughout the nation – refers to financial support given to a person by that person's former spouse. Spousal maintenance can be given for a variety of different reasons in the State of Texas. When considering spousal maintenance, Texas judges conduct a case-by-case analysis and give weight to a range of factors; however, certain conditions must be present in order for a spousal maintenance request to be considered initially. Judges have some leeway in determining whether maintenance is appropriate in a given situation, but Texas law is rather strict in its treatment of the duration and amount of maintenance orders.

In this post, we will discuss the qualifications of spousal maintenance, and the standing presumption against maintenance in Texas. We will also go over some of the factors which play into spousal maintenance determinations, and how duration is decided.

Qualifications of Spousal Maintenance in Texas Law

Under Texas law, either spouse can request spousal maintenance following a divorce. But, in order for a maintenance request to even be considered, the requesting spouse must demonstrate that he or she lacks the ability to provide for essential or basic minimum needs. In addition, once that hurdle is met, the requesting spouse must show that at least one of four conditions are present: (1) the maintenance giving spouse was convicted of domestic violence within the last two years before the filing of the divorce, (2) the couple was married for a minimum of 10 years, and the requesting spouse lacks the ability to provide for basic minimum needs, (3) the requesting spouse possesses a physical or mental disability which impedes his or her ability to provide for basic minimum needs, or (4) the requesting spouse must take care of a child who requires supervision due to a physical or mental disability, and this parental responsibility inhibits the spouse from being self-supportive.

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