Whether your divorce included alimony (or spousal support, as it’s known under Texas law) because it was negotiated between you and your ex or because a judge decided it at a contested hearing, you may no longer think the payments are appropriate.
Something about your life or your ex’s life may have changed since the divorce and you may think you should no longer have to pay alimony at all, or at least the amount should be reduced. Fortunately for you, Texas law may allow you to request a modification of the existing spousal support order.
First, Check Your Divorce Decree
While spousal support is a legally binding obligation for the payor, that obligation can usually—but not always—be changed. The not always part comes in if the alimony in your case is based on an agreement you negotiated during the divorce. Such agreements occasionally provide for non-modifiable spousal support, and it’s difficult to challenge that kind of language.
In essentially every other situation, spousal support is subject to modification, even if it already contains a specific end date or list of events that would terminate your obligation. You’ll want to have your attorney review your divorce decree closely to determine what your options are.
Spousal Maintenance Can End by Operation of Law
Texas law can work in your favor if your ex takes certain actions. These actions end your spousal support obligation immediately:
- Your ex-spouse gets remarried, or
- Your ex begins living with another person on a full-time basis as though they were married (i.e. cohabitation)
Spousal Support Can Be Modified by Agreement
It doesn’t happen all that often, but depending on the relationship between you and your ex, it may be possible to change the alimony arrangement without going to court.
You can work things out between each other and with the help of your lawyers to change the existing agreement to something that works better for your current life. You can also go to mediation, where a mediator can help you have a productive conversation about changing the existing order.
Petitioning to Modify Spousal Support
Usually, changes to alimony orders must be pursued using the modification process provided in the Texas Family Code. This requires showing evidence that circumstances have materially and substantially changed since the original order was entered.
In other words, you have to show that something has transpired in your life or your ex’s life that would warrant reducing or ending the support obligation. Examples of these substantial changes include things like:
- Your ex received a large inheritance or other sudden influx of money and no longer needs your support
- Your ex now has a job that allows them to be financially independent
- You lost your job or suffered something else that greatly reduced your income
- You were injured or developed an illness that impacts how much you can earn
If any significant change has occurred in your life, it’s important to talk to a Texas family lawyer as soon as you can so the modification process can be initiated.
Don’t Stop Paying Alimony on Your Own
Seeking modification can be a lot of work, but it’s necessary to avoid problems. Remember, alimony orders are legally binding. If you stop paying, you could be held in contempt for refusing to pay. A judge could fine you and impose other penalties for nonpayment.
Contact an Arlington Alimony Modification Attorney for Advice
Now that you know the basics of how spousal support orders can be changed or terminated in Texas, it’s time to talk to a lawyer about the next steps.
Schneider Law Firm’s Arlington office handles alimony modifications frequently and our attorneys are ready to explain what can be done in your case. Give us a call at 817-799-7125 or send us a message to schedule a free initial consultation anytime.
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