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Can your ex demand permanent spousal maintenance from you?

On Behalf of | May 4, 2022 | Divorce

It can be hard to predict the financial consequences of a divorce. Some spouses will have a basic divorce process because they already have a marital agreement discussing how to divide their belongings and parental rights.

Without a pre-existing contract with your spouse, you depend on either your ability to negotiate a settlement or the decisions made by a Texas family law judge. Although you might worry about splitting your property, the specter of spousal maintenance, which some states call alimony, may be your most pressing concern.

You may worry that your ex will try to claim your future income and force you to make payments to them, possibly for the rest of your life. Is permanent spousal maintenance truly a risk in typical Texas  divorces? 

Most spousal maintenance is rehabilitative

The concept of spousal maintenance makes perfect sense. A stay-at-home parent or homemaker makes career sacrifices for the benefit of their entire family. One of the reasons you could achieve so much in your career was that you could depend on someone else to take care of your children and your home.

Those years out of the workforce don’t just mean lost wages. They also mean lost future earning potential. Spousal maintenance helps those who are unable to support themselves at the time of a divorce. Typically, Texas family law judges expect able-bodied spouses to make immediate efforts to support themselves when facing divorce.

There is a rebuttable presumption that maintenance is not necessary, which means your spouse has to prove they have a valid claim. Permanent spousal support is only an option in a handful of scenarios.

When is permanent maintenance a possibility?

For your ex to request permanent spousal maintenance payments, your situation will need to meet certain criteria. Typically, your marriage should have lasted for at least 10 years. There should also be some pressing matter that prevents your ex from supporting themselves.

If they have serious health issues, their inability to work because of their medical condition could justify permanent maintenance. If your ex takes primary custody of your child with special needs and cannot work because of the child care requirements, the courts may order a combination of child support and spousal maintenance. Those who are healthy and young enough to return to work will typically only have, at best, a short-term claim to spousal maintenance.

Learning more about the rules that govern Texas divorce proceedings can help you feel more prepared for your day in court.