Your Comprehensive Guide to Spousal Maintenance and Cohabitation in Texas
Following a divorce, the financially-better-off party may be required to make ongoing payments to their former spouse. Known as alimony, spousal support, or spousal maintenance, these payments are not guaranteed in Texas. Spousal maintenance is subject to strict rules and regulations in our state. Under Texas law (Texas Family Code § 8.056), a person’s obligation to pay spousal support automatically terminates “on the remarriage of the obligee.”
This raises an important question: Does spousal maintenance still get paid if the recipient is cohabiting with a romantic partner but did not actually get remarried? In Texas, the answer is “it depends”—cohabitation is not sufficient to automatically stop payments, but it may be good cause to terminate court-ordered spousal support. In this article, our Houston spousal maintenance lawyer provides a comprehensive guide to spousal support, remarriage, and cohabitation in Texas.
Four Things You Should Know About Cohabitation and Spousal Support in Texas
1. The Recipient’s Romantic Cohabitation May Be Good Cause to Stop Paying Post-Divorce Spousal Support
When a recipient spouse gets remarried, their former spouse can stop making alimony payments. No court hearing is required. That being said, actual remarriage is not always required to bring an end to spousal maintenance payments. Texas views this as a “substance over form” issue. In other words, a person getting into a marriage-like relationship could also be good cause to end spousal support—but it requires a ruling from a judge. In this context, cohabitation is defined as moving in with a long-term romantic partner.
2. You Cannot Act On Your Own: A Voluntary Agreement or Court Hearing is Required
It is important to emphasize that an obligor cannot simply decide to stop making spousal support payments because they believe that their former spouse is cohabitating with a new romantic partner. While they may have good cause for the termination of post-divorce maintenance, the reality is that Texas law requires an agreement or a court hearing. Your former spouse must come forward with a voluntary agreement to stop receiving any further spousal support or you must go to a judge and request an end to the support payments. If support was ordered in a Final Decree of Divorce, that obligation remains enforceable until a judge modifies that order.
3.The Relationship Must Be ‘Permanent’ in the Eyes of Texas Law
In Texas, cohabitation with a romantic partner is only good cause to end spousal support if that relationship is deemed to be “permanent” in the eyes of Texas law. What constitutes a “permanent” romantic relationship depends on many different factors. A person moving in with their boyfriend/girlfriend for a few weeks while they find a new place to live is clearly not “permanent.” The Texas spousal support statute defines the term permanent as “a place of abode on a continuing basis.”
4. Actual Cohabitation is Not Necessarily Required (Supportive Romantic Relationships)
Texas law also allows for the early termination of spousal maintenance without a remarriage or actual cohabitation in a limited number of circumstances. The obligor may be justified in petitioning to terminate spousal support if their former partner has entered a new supportive long-term romantic relationship. These cases are especially complicated as the specific circumstances always matter. If you have any questions about non-cohabiting romantic relationships and spousal maintenance, an experienced Houston family law attorney can help.
The Obligor’s Remarriage or Cohabitation is Not a Relevant Factor
The remarriage or cohabitation of the obligee could have an effect on spousal support in Texas. A new marriage or a new cohabitating relationship by the obligor (payor of spousal support) has no direct impact. If you are the spouse paying post-divorce spousal support, you are not allowed to stop making payments because you got remarried or you got into a new, serious romantic relationship. However, if you cannot continue to keep up with spousal support payments for good-faith financial reasons—loss of a job, health problems, etc.—you may be able to get a spousal support modification from a Texas judge. If you have any specific questions about getting a spousal maintenance modification in Southeast Texas, an experienced Houston family law attorney can help you navigate the process.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Houston Spousal Support Attorney
At the Ramos Law Group, PLLC, our Houston family lawyers are solutions-driven advocates for our clients. If you have any specific questions or concerns about spousal maintenance and cohabitation in Texas, we are here as your legal resource. Give us a call at 713-225-6200 or contact our legal team online to arrange your strictly confidential, no obligation initial family law consultation. From our Houston law office, we represent clients in Harris County and throughout Southeast Texas.