Skip to Main Content

Can I Receive Alimony If I Am Disabled or My Children Have Special Needs?

In any Galveston divorce case, neither spouse is automatically entitled to alimony. The court has the discretion to order “spousal maintenance” if certain conditions are satisfied. For instance, a spouse may receive maintenance payments if he or she suffers from an “incapacitating physical or mental disability” or is the custodian of a special needs child and lacks sufficient income or property to provide for their “reasonable minimum needs” after the divorce becomes final.

Houston Court Reverses Alimony Award Due to Wife’s Disability Benefits

What constitutes a person’s “reasonable minimum needs” will vary from case to case. A judge will consider the testimony from the spouses as well as their respective financial statements. But remember, the burden of proof is always on the spouse seeking alimony.

Consider this recent appeals court decision. The husband and wife in this case were married in 1995 and separated in 2009. The wife sued for divorce in 2014. Following a trial where the spouses were the only witnesses, the court granted a divorce and, among other terms, ordered the husband to pay the wife $972 per month in alimony.

The husband appealed that and other parts of the divorce court’s judgment. The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals agreed with the husband that the award of spousal maintenance was not supported by the evidence. Accordingly, the court deleted the maintenance award while upholding the rest of the divorce judgment.

The appeals court noted that at trial, the wife’s testimony and supporting exhibits established she had monthly expenses of $1,455. Her monthly income included $1,409 in Supplemental Security Income (SSI)–the wife suffers from end-stage renal disease and two of the couple’s three children are classified as special needs–and under the final divorce decree adopted by the trial court, the wife will receive an additional $1,000 per month as part of the division of community property. Even excluding the children’s portion of the SSI benefits from the calculation of the spouse’s income, the 14th District said the wife will still have “at least $1,603 per month in property” following the divorce, which is enough to meet her “minimum basic needs” of $1,455 per month.

Need Help From a Galveston Divorce Attorney?

It should be noted that there are other scenarios aside from incapacity or the needs of a child where a spouse may still petition the court to award alimony, such as marriages that lasted at least 10 years or which ended due to the other spouse’s acts of domestic violence. But as the case above illustrates, the courts are not in the habit of granting alimony merely out of sympathy. There must still be concrete evidence that the spouse cannot meet their basic monthly expenses before maintenance payments may even be considered.

If you are in the process of going through a divorce, it is important to have skilled representation to assist you in handling issues like requests for spousal maintenance. If you need to speak with a Galveston divorce lawyer about your situation, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.