Posted by Mary E. Ramos | Family Law
Regardless of whether an award of alimony (or its proper Texas name – spousal maintenance) came through an agreement of the parties or a contested hearing, a so-called “final” divorce decree is not necessarily set in stone. Texas divorce laws recognize that the status quo that existed at the close of the divorce case will change over time, and the arrangement for spousal maintenance may no longer be practical. Therefore, the statute provides a process for modifying spousal support under certain circumstances. By meeting the legal requirements and going through the necessary steps, it is possible to adjust support and obtain a new order from the court.
However, an assertion that you simply do not want to pay alimony anymore is not sufficient to meet the standard designated by law. You must support the proposed changes with proper facts and submit essential evidence, so retaining a Texas alimony modification lawyer is crucial. It is also helpful to review your options and the steps to take when you seek to adjust spousal maintenance.
Check Your Final Divorce Decree
At the outset, you should review the current order on record with the court regarding alimony. Texas uses the term spousal maintenance to refer to what people familiarly known as spousal support or alimony, and the arrangement is a legally binding obligation for the payor. In assessing the final divorce decree, you must first determine whether it is possible to make changes. When spousal maintenance is based upon an agreement you reached during the divorce process, you may be prohibited from altering non-modifiable support. However, even if the order indicates a specific end date or event that terminates spousal support, it is usually possible to change it.
Termination of Alimony by Operation of Law
Texas divorce statutes may work in your favor if the recipient takes action to end your legal obligation to pay support. By law, alimony terminates when:
- Your ex-spouse remarries; OR,
- Your ex begins cohabitating with another individual as a married couple.
Modifying Spousal Maintenance by Agreement
Depending on your relationship with the recipient, you may be able to make changes to spousal maintenance by agreement. Resolving the issue through compromise is ideal, since you will not need to go to a contested hearing to modify support. In some cases, you might even consider mediation. The process is intended to facilitate the agreement process, since the mediator will encourage you to engage in productive conversation about ending or changing alimony or spousal maintenance.
Keep in mind that the new agreement does need to be entered as a court order, whether the parties work things out via their attorneys or by participating in mediation.
Petition to Modify Alimony or Spousal Support
When your ex will not agree to make changes to spousal support, you will need to follow the process for modification as established by Texas divorce laws. Under the statute, you are required to prove a material and substantial change in circumstances as grounds to alter alimony.
A modification is NOT an appeal of the court’s final divorce decree, so the point is not to show how the order was entered in error. Instead, you need evidence that some event has transpired or another factor impacts alimony, and these circumstances could not have been anticipated at the time of entering the final divorce decree. Examples include:
- The recipient of the spousal support won the lottery or received an inheritance;
- The recipient has benefitted from training and/or education and is able to be financially independent;
- You lost your job or suffered some other significant reduction in income;
- You were injured or developed a medical condition that is disabling or impacts your ability to earn a living.
Consequences for Not Paying Alimony
The above options and process for modifying spousal maintenance may seem daunting, but it is still necessary to go through the steps to avoid legal problems. The court’s order on alimony is legally binding, so there are consequences for nonpayment – which is essentially breaking the law. You could be found in contempt of court for refusing to pay, so a judge could impose fines and other penalties.
Count on a Texas Alimony Modifications Attorney for Legal Help
It is useful to know how the process works when you want to make changes to spousal support in Texas, but it is wise to rely on an experienced divorce lawyer in a real-life case. The Ramos Law Group, PLLC has represented clients on both sides of the alimony modification issue, so we are prepared to assist with all essential tasks. To learn more, please contact our offices in Houston, TX to set up a consultation with a member of our team.
Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Mary E. Ramos