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How is Texas alimony eligibility determined?

When some Houston married couples separate, one spouse provides financial support for the other. In Texas, temporary spousal support covers the separation period prior to divorce. When support continues after the divorce, payments are called spousal maintenance rather than support or alimony.

Eligibility for spousal maintenance is by no means automatic. The spouse who wishes to receive support must have a legitimate need, like the inability to earn a sufficient income due to a lack of education and job skills. At the same time, the paying spouse must have the ability to provide support, while meeting his or her own minimum needs and, in some cases, child support obligations.

Spousal health and the length of a couple's marriage are factors. Unpaid marital support, like maintaining the couple's home and backing a spouse's education or career goals, also counts. A judge will be influenced by incidents of cruelty, adultery and domestic violence.

Texas community property laws require spouses to divide marital property equally that, ideally, is supposed to place the exes on equal footing and lessen the need for maintenance. Consequently, spousal support after divorce is designed to be temporary, until the recipient spouse has adequate time to develop and secure the means to be self-supporting.

Spouses don't have to rely on a judge to come to terms about support beyond marriage. Texas courts honor contractual alimony agreements, designed and approved by divorcing spouses. The amount and duration of payments are left up to the parties involved, without the eligibility requirements.

The ex-spouse who violates a maintenance court order can be charged with contempt of court. However, there is no state agency helping the recipient spouse collect unpaid support as there is for overdue child support.

Family law attorneys can help spouses create contractual agreements that don't rely on a judge's decision. Lawyers also provide advice for maintenance cases that end up in court.

Source: FindLaw, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics" Dec. 30, 2014

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