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Am I at financial risk because I stayed home with the children?

Some families with young children find it easier to divide wage-earning and child-rearing duties. For families that can subsist on one income, this arrangement can be ideal for young children. But what happens when divorce enters the picture? For a divorcing parent who hasn't been building a career, maintaining a separate household can be a scary prospect.

Because Texas is a community property state, it's assumed that both parents will leave the marriage holding equal resources; therefore, alimony is unusual. However, exceptions exist. In order to receive maintenance in Texas, a spouse must prove that he or she meets specific criteria. Among those factors that a court may take into account when considering spousal support are the following:

  • Familial abuse within two years of the divorce filing.
  • Physical or mental disability that precludes self-sufficient income.
  • A physically or mentally disabled child who requires full-time care.
  • Marriage of at least 10 years and an inability to provide for minimum reasonable needs.

In the absence of abuse or disability, the last qualification may result in spousal support. Texas courts expect able-bodied adults to work, but it is understood that extended time out of the workforce can be a stumbling block. Non-working spouses must prove that additional training or schooling is necessary to earn a reasonable income. There is no assumption that any standard of living must be met, however. Instead, spousal support is sometimes granted for a period of three years, during which the non-working parent will take necessary steps toward reasonable self-sufficiency.

Each family situation is different, and the court will weigh financial assets and the specific preparation you need to find gainful employment. If the courts do find that divorce will leave you in a tenuous situation, allowances can be made that ultimately buy you time. Even then, spousal support is limited and time-constrained, and it's up to you to use that time wisely.

If you think your situation is one that meets these qualifications, consider consulting with an attorney who is knowledgeable about the complexities of Texas divorce law. Careful assessment and planning before your divorce may lay the groundwork for a comfortable future after it.

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