When a marriage falls apart, it may erode over time, or it may seem sudden. Much of how spouses continue through divorce proceedings depends largely on why and how the marriage ended.

If you are a parent who has sacrificed a career to stay home and raise children, then you may feel like your future is in limbo. With no discernible source of income, how will you pay bills? Will you lose custody of your children? Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is allowable under Texas law. Understanding the basics when it comes to helping an unemployed spouse through a divorce may help reduce emotional stress throughout the process.

Fundamental alimony law

State law sets out the basic requirements that judges may choose to follow when considering ordering spousal maintenance. First and foremost, the statute contemplates the length of time the couple’s marriage lasted. The threshold for alimony eligibility begins at 10 years. Next, the court may look at the earning potential of the unemployed or underemployed spouse in comparison to the other spouse’s salary. Finally, the court looks at whether the earning spouse makes enough to remit regular payments to the other.

Deviation from the law

Not every marriage is exact, and conversely, no two divorces are either. While the statutes contemplate some basic requirements for the awarding of spousal maintenance, each situation is unique, and some factors may require a judge to make exceptions. Some marriages may last fewer than the 10-year benchmark, but if the earning disparity between spouses is due to one spouse not working, then the judge may grant spousal maintenance. There are other situations where the judge may deviate from the law or allow the parties to come to an agreement that makes sense despite the legal definition and requirements of spousal maintenance.

If you do find yourself getting an award of spousal maintenance, most payments last three years. Your most favorable chance of getting alimony awarded may hinge on your arguments for it. A professional with experience in this area is an ally that you want on your side.