Family Law Scenario: Spousal Support

Karen has been married to Martin for nearly 20 years. They have three children together, two of which have special needs. Karen also suffers from various medical issues which require care. She does not work, but she does receive some income through Social Security. Mother is deeply unhappy in the marriage and wants to file for divorce. But she is concerned about being able to make ends meet and provide for her children, given their needs and her own disability.

She will be entitled to child support if she wins custody (which seems likely as she has been the children’s primary caregiver for over a decade). But she wants to know if she is entitled to alimony. Texas is a very unfriendly state when it comes to spousal support, but courts will award it. Karen has to show a number of facts: the marriage has to last over ten years, and she has to show that she is unable to meet her minimum basic needs. She has indicated that she can stay with her mother, rent-free, and receives nearly $1,500.00 each month in disability. She will probably receive an additional $1,000.00 each month, leaving her with $2,500.00 each month to support her children. Given their medical needs and fairly active lives, she does not believe this will be enough.

If Karen hires us to represent her in her divorce, ensuring she receives spousal support will e incredibly difficult. Although she has been married for over ten years, she has to show that she is wholly unable to meet the minimum basic needs. She cannot work due to her disability, which is a significant factor. We would have to show the court what her basic monthly expenses are, and that she is unable to meet them, even after her income and child support are computed. This will involve having her affirm to a budget and expenses form, potentially subpoenaing various bills and perhaps even medical records, as well as acquiring testimony from herself or even her mother. We would need to establish what the standard of living was during the marriage. Yet, given the harsh attitude of Texas courts when it comes to spousal support, the judge could still decide not to award her any spousal support. The best course of action for Karen, in this case, is to demonstrate that the children have significant costs associated with their disabilities, and ask the court to provide a higher amount of monthly child support in excess of the guidelines, as this is a lower threshold and burden for Karen to demonstrate