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Basics of Spousal Maintenance in Texas: How Much & How Long?

Spousal support is a component of many Texas divorces, and is designed to ensure that neither spouse experiences significant financial hardship nor impoverishment in the months or years following the dissolution of the marriage. Historically, one spouse had served in the primary “breadwinning” role while the other tended mostly to domestic matters, childrearing and homemaking. In the event of a divorce in this situation, the homemaker spouse often experienced an inability to find gainful employment – prompting the advent of spousal support laws to ensure that divorce did not necessarily lead to financial ruin to the spouse unprepared for the job market.

In Texas, a court may order spousal maintenance only if the “spouse seeking maintenance will lack sufficient property… to provide for the spouse's minimum reasonable needs.” Moreover, the court must find that the spouse seeking maintenance also fits into one of the following categories:

  • Has been a victim of domestic violence at some point during the marriage
  • Has a physical or mental handicap making self-support impossible or unduly burdensome
  • Has been in the marriage for at least 10 years and “lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the [his or her] minimum reasonable needs”
  • Is the primary custodian of a child of the marriage who needs continual care due to a mental or physical handicap

In most instances, spousal support does not last forever. Undoubtedly, the recipient spouse foregoes the right to support upon remarriage – and, possibly, cohabitation in a subsequent romantic relationship. In many cases, a divorce decree will specify a definite length of time for support payments, and will generally require the recipient to make reasonable efforts to secure a regular income.

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