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Temporary Spousal Support: Protecting the Financially Dependent Spouse
April 24, 2015

Silhouetted couple against yellow background sitting back to back with arms foldedDuring a divorce case in Texas, a trial court can order one spouse to pay temporary spousal support to the other spouse. The obligation to pay temporary spousal support can last all the way to the end of the divorce case, and the amount of the spousal support is at the discretion of the trial court. This article explores what factors courts have considered in awarding temporary spousal support and the legal basis for temporary spousal support.

Before proceeding, it's important to note the significant difference between temporary spousal support and regular spousal support. Regular spousal support: (1) is awarded after a divorce is finalized, (2) can only be awarded if specific requirements are met and (3) has standards for how much it will be and for how long it will last. For a more detailed look at spousal support after divorce, check out our FAQ titled "Can I get alimony?" Unlike spousal support after divorce, temporary spousal support can only happen during the divorce case. And also unlike spousal support after divorce, temporary spousal support has no set standards in the Texas Family Code to determine how much it will be and when it can be required.

So why can Texas courts order one spouse to pay the other spouse support while the spouses are divorcing? The answer has to do with the fact that during a divorce case, both spouses are still married. In Texas, spouses have a legal duty to support each other. This duty is clearly laid out in Section 2.501 of the Texas Family Code. That duty to support your spouse is all the legal justification a court needs to order one spouse to pay support to the other spouse during a divorce.

When will courts require temporary spousal support to be paid? The short answer is, "When one spouse is financially dependent on the other spouse." Temporary spousal support is likely to be ordered when one spouse has no or limited earning ability and no or limited access to financial resources. If such a financially dependent spouse wasn't receiving temporary spousal support, that spouse would be in the very real danger of becoming destitute during the divorce process. Temporary spousal support protects the financially dependent spouse when the other spouse files for divorce. Temporary spousal support also affords the financially dependent spouse the freedom to file for divorce without the fear of immediately losing the ability to pay for necessary and reasonable expenses.

How much temporary spousal support will have to be paid depends on what life was like for the spouses prior to the filing of the divorce. Courts generally are looking to maintain the status quo when figuring out how much temporary spousal to order. A good benchmark is to calculate the average monthly reasonable and necessary expenses of the financially dependent spouse prior to divorce. As the attorney for the financially dependent spouse, it would be my job to prepare evidence of my client's necessary and reasonable expenses for the court.

The payment of temporary spousal support can come in multiple forms. One spouse can be ordered to directly pay the other spouse's bills. It is also common for one spouse to pay the other spouse a lump monthly payment. Again, there is no defined method for payment of temporary spousal support, and the facts of a particular case will weigh heavily on the method of payment.

One final and important point is that courts will consider the payment of temporary spousal support when deciding how to split up the community estate of the parties.

If you feel you may be entitled to temporary spousal support and need assistance with a divorce, contact Sugar Land divorce attorney Chikeersha Puvvada at 832-317-6705 or online today to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

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