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Texas law takes conservative approach to alimony

Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers and one of its star players, Kobe Bryant, may have heard that the All-Star shooting guard has reconciled with his wife, Vanessa. Although she filed for divorce in 2011, the couple -- who married in 2000 and have two daughters -- appear to have patched things up. The reconciliation comes as a bit of a surprise considering their history of marital problems, including a very public sexual assault case filed against the basketball player in 2003.

On a financial level, at least, the reconciliation is a positive for Bryant, who could have been required to pay his wife more than $1 million per month in alimony and child support. If this figure strikes you as excessive, you're not alone. Under Texas law such an amount wouldn't be allowed, even for the wealthiest athletes and entertainers.

Texas alimony laws have always been fairly restrictive. The state amended the law in 2011 to briefly extend the time limits that an alimony-paying spouse must adhere to, but it still prevents those who receive alimony from getting more than they truly need in most cases.

For Texans who don't have a job and are considering a divorce, it pays to bear in mind that alimony -- also known as spousal support -- is never automatic under our state laws. To receive this support you must have been married for at least 10 years. The amount granted is based on a spouse's needs, and is generally only allowed if a spouse is unable to earn sufficient income.

Other factors a judge will consider when awarding alimony include whether the couple has children; whether the spouse requesting alimony has a physical or mental disability that prevents him or her from working; and whether the spouse who would pay alimony has been convicted of family violence in the past two years. Any or all of these factors could result in a spousal support order, but even if alimony is granted, it is rarely permanent. The duration typically depends on the number of years the marriage lasted.

A family law attorney can help you understand how alimony might be determined in your own divorce. It should also be said that you and your spouse are free to come up with your own agreement on spousal support, provided it's entirely mutual.

Source: Enstars, "Kobe Bryant Divorce News: Twitter & Instagram PHOTOS Show Happy Family," Shiryn Ghermezian, Feb. 25, 2013

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