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How a child with special needs could impact alimony claims

The Texas courts end your marriage when they finalize your divorce, a move that theoretically ends the obligations you and your spouse have to one another. However, there are scenarios in which one spouse may still have some responsibility for supporting the other after a divorce.

Texas has historically been a state that does not award long-term alimony, also known as spousal maintenance, in divorce proceedings. While there is a greater likelihood now than there was several decades ago for a dependent spouse to receive alimony or maintenance after a divorce, most spouses going through a divorce should anticipate that the support they received will be minimal at best and will likely terminate within a few months or possibly a couple of years after the divorce.

If you and your spouse share a child with special needs, however, how the courts approach alimony might change as a result.

Providing care for a child with special needs can end a career

Most expecting parents don’t plan to have a child with special needs. While both parents may have intended to continue working to support the family after the birth of a child, it may no longer be reasonable or cost-effective to take that approach after the birth of a child with special needs.

First of all, there may be a few or no reliable child care options, and even if you can find a professional or facility that can meet your child’s special needs, you may not be able to afford the costs that come with more intensive medical care. Many families find that the better option is to have one parent stay home to take care of the child.

Unfortunately, that parent loses out on their career development indefinitely. That affects their economic status at the time of the divorce and their ability to provide for themselves and the child after divorce. If that caretaker continues in their role after the divorce, their contributions to the family by doing so may justify long-term or permanent alimony.

Connecting with the alimony you need isn’t automatic

Unlike child support, which the courts order in almost all divorces with minor children, spousal maintenance or alimony only gets awarded in situations where one spouse asks for it.

It’s possible that your ex will recognize the contributions you have made throughout the marriage and will make in the future by continuing to care for your child. Sometimes, divorcing spouses can reach an agreement outside of courts that will include ongoing maintenance payments to the caregiving parent.

Other times, you may need to document the child’s needs and your role in providing care for them carefully so that you can ask the court to award you alimony.