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Recent Changes to Texas Alimony Laws

In the past, the Texas Family Code restricted the availability of alimony—called maintenance in Texas—to the following:

  • Spouses who were victims of domestic violence
  • Spouses leaving a marriage of 10 years or longer who were unable to support themselves due to a mental or physical disability
  • Spouses who were unable to obtain employment due to custody of a child with a mental or physical disability precluding employment

Recent changes contained in House Bill No. 901 took effect on September 1, 2011 and expanded the availability of maintenance to former spouses after divorce in Texas.  Most importantly, any spouse who is unable to support him- or-herself following a marriage of 10 years or more may seek maintenance during divorce proceedings.  Additionally, a spouse who is unable to support him or herself due to a physical or mental disability, or due to custody of a child with a physical or mental disability may now seek maintenance regardless of the duration of the marriage.

Besides expanding the availability of maintenance in Texas, H.B. No. 901 made small but important changes to the guidelines Texas courts use for calculating maintenance amounts.  These changes are generally favorable to the spouse seeking maintenance. They include allowing courts to consider marital misconduct by both spouses rather than only the spouse seeking maintenance.

In addition, courts can now consider whether it is feasible, rather than merely possible, for the maintenance-seeking spouse to obtain additional education or training.  The new law also increased the maximum length of a maintenance order from three years to up to ten years, depending on the duration of the marriage.

 

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Robert Reid McInvale
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Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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