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Spousal maintenance, now easier to get in Texas divorce

Divorce is a sad, stressful and common occurrence across Texas these days. There are many aspects to consider when filing for divorce. A person's financial well-being may be at the top of that list. This can become even more complicated when a couple has to divide shared marital property in a high asset divorce. Just because there are many assets to be divided doesn't guarantee spousal maintenance or alimony will be paid to the less financially-endowed spouse. However, a change in Texas legislation back in 2011 may make it easier for a spouse to receive spousal maintenance.

Texas legislation on spousal maintenance became effective in 1995. That legislation made it impossible to qualify for spousal maintenance unless the marriage was 10 years or older. Amendments were made to this in 2011 wherein the court now takes into consideration marriages less than 10 years old. Details such as disabilities of the spouse or child, or lack of education or skills to gain employment are now measured when the courts consider awarding spousal maintenance. The 10 year rule now only exists when the requesting spouse cannot provide for his or her minimal needs.

Previously, if a marriage was less than 10 years old, the court would not have taken into consideration disabilities or lack of education when awarding spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is different from contractual alimony in that contractual alimony is agreed upon by the two divorcing parties and not court-ordered. This is important to high asset divorces less than 10 years old where one spouse may have no contractual obligation to the alimony asking spouse.

Asset division may leave a spouse with a small fortune in a high asset divorce. But oftentimes it is not an amount that is sufficient for the ex-spouse to maintain a similar standard of living that the person had during marriage. That is where spousal maintenance comes in. For the spouse seeking spousal maintenance, it could be easier than ever to qualify in Texas.

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

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