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How do courts determine alimony in Dallas? (Part 2)

Alimony or spousal support, to briefly recap, is money that a court orders one divorcing spouse to pay to the other in order to mitigate any unfair economic effects of the split. Depending on the circumstances, it could be money that an ex-husband pays to the ex-wife (traditionally, the most common scenario), or vice versa (which has become increasingly common in recent years).

Alimony is not like child support. There are state guidelines in Texas mandating child support levels, mechanisms for collection, and even punitive measures for non-paying parents. Courts have more flexibility in determining alimony payments. How do they do so? Let's take a look at some considerations, given that this is not intended as specific legal advice, but only general information.

Factors like age and health (physical and mental) are among the main things a court will consider. Generally, spouses who are younger and healthier would have less of a claim to alimony payments than spouses who are older or in worse health, because advanced age and poor health could limit a spouse's earning power post-divorce. Obviously, if one spouse is better off financially, that will likely be a major factor that could lead to that spouse paying alimony.

The court will also consider how long it might take for a spouse receiving alimony to get the training and education needed in order to develop his or her self-sufficiency. This could lead to a limit on the number of years for which alimony would be paid. Finally, courts will look at factors like the couple's lifestyle during the marriage and the paying spouse's ability to make alimony payments without compromising his or her own financial stability.

While a court has flexibility to consider and weigh these types of factors in coming to a decision, that doesn't mean that spouses have flexibility in making court-ordered alimony payments. We'll look in our next post at what can happen when payments are not made in full and on time.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics," accessed on April 12, 2015

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