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A look at the requirements for spousal support orders in Texas

Fort Worth residents who are looking toward a divorce may be interested in the law surrounding spousal support payments. These payments are subject to several qualifications before they can be ordered by a court.

Under Texas law, only certain divorce situations are eligible for spousal support payments, also known as alimony. The former couple must have been married for at least 10 years and the spouse receiving the payments must be unable to provide for their own minimum standard of living in order for alimony to be ordered. Another situation where alimony is lawful is when the ex-spouse is disable or caring for a disabled child. Lastly, if the spouse paying the alimony was convicted of domestic violence within the two years prior to the divorce, alimony can be ordered.

A judge is also limited in the amount and duration of the spousal support order. For instance, there is a limit of the lesser of either 20 percent of the paying spouse's monthly income or $5,000. The duration of the payments after a divorce are also limited. In cases where an ex-spouse or one of their children is disabled and requires ongoing support, the payment duration can be lengthened. Though there are limits to the amounts and duration, a failure to pay alimony ordered by a judge is enforceable by fines and jail time.

Alimony can also be agreed upon by a contract between the former spouses. This is known as contractual maintenance, and is often part of a more comprehensive settlement agreement between the parties. An attorney may be useful in assessing a person's financial situation and negotiating such an agreement with the other party. The attorney may then be able to draft a divorce settlement agreement, addressing spousal support, property division and other divorce legal issues.

Source: State Bar of Texas, "Pro Se Divorce Handbook ", December 23, 2014

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