What are Alimony Laws in Texas?
Upon filing for divorce in Texas, the spouse who remains in the home may request spousal support or what is commonly known as alimony. The one who spent most of their time working outside the house may be ordered to pay a specific monthly amount to the one who didn’t.
The Texas Family Code stipulates that the maximum alimony amount a court can order is the lesser of 20% of the paying spouse’s gross monthly income or $5,000 per month. However, these are just the maximum limits. The person seeking alimony still must prove what is actually needed, unless the parties have a contractual agreement. When calculating spousal support, the law provides for what is or is not part of gross monthly income. Consult a reputable family law firm in San Antonio for guidance.
How Long Does Spousal Support Last in Texas?
The duration of spousal support payout is not unlimited and depends on how long the marriage lasted among other things. It is designed to be a temporary adjustment period until the recipient spouse can support themselves. Alimony and spousal support attorneys in San Antonio say the maximum time limits are as follows:
- Five years of support if a couple was married for between ten and 20 years; or alternatively a marriage of less than ten years, but the paying spouse has a family violence conviction in the two years preceding the divorce petition
- Seven years of support if a couple was married for at least 20 years but not more than 30
- Ten years of support if married for 30 years or more
- If the alimony is based upon the disability of the spouse or because the recipient must care for a disabled child of the parties, then it can last for the lifetime of the recipient as long as the disability is in effect and the spouse has not remarried or found other financial support.
However, the law requires courts to limit spousal support to the shortest, most reasonable period that allows the receiving party to find employment to support themselves. Spousal support in Texas is limited in both the amount and the duration of payment.
Factors Affecting Spousal Support Amounts
The receiving spouse isn’t automatically entitled to a statutory maximum amount or percentage. Several factors come into play in determining the payment that can be ordered if the parties have not agreed to an amount:
- Any noneconomic contributions the paying spouse made to the marriage
- Child support payments made by the paying spouse
- The cause of the marriage breakdown
- Whether there was non-criminal domestic abuse involved
- The actual proven minimum reasonable needs of the recipient
Is Spousal Maintenance Modification Allowed in Texas?
Spousal support agreements sometimes take lengthy negotiations and must be approved by family courts. They are legally binding contracts that the paying party must adhere to or risk suffering severe consequences. However, it doesn’t mean that the contracts can’t be changed. The good news for the paying party and bad news for the recipient is that the amount can be reduced but never increased after the divorce.
Spousal support amounts can decrease if situations significantly affect the paying spouse’s ability to keep up with the payments. In other cases, spousal maintenance modification can happen if the receiving spouse has gotten a job that enables them to meet their needs or more of their needs. However, the paying spouse can’t simply stop paying or start paying a different amount, not even by agreement of the parties. Once there is an order in place, it can only be changed by a new order.
The modification must be done through the court, and the requesting spouse must have valid reasons for the request. Skilled alimony and spousal support attorneys in San Antonio can provide more insights. In most cases, modification requests are based on the following reasons:
Material and Substantial Changes in Circumstances
For your spousal support modification request to be granted, you must be able to present compelling evidence establishing a valid cause to modify the terms of the contract. Rarely do family courts re-litigate alimony cases. You cannot be granted alimony nor reduce alimony because you believe the initial ruling was wrong, nor can you ask for an increase because of a situation that occurred after the divorce. A modification request isn’t an appeal for either side. It must be based on facts that occurred after the divorce which would show the need to reduce or stop the alimony.
Some reasons that may warrant a modification of a spousal support order are:
- A significant reduction in income for the spouse paying alimony
- A considerable increase in expenses for the spouse paying alimony
- A significant income increase for the spouse receiving spousal support
- A significant change in the circumstances of disability that warranted the spousal support originally
Changes in the Paying Spouse’s Health
A paying spouse’s physical or mental disability may also impact spousal support payments. For example, if the paying spouse develops significant health issues preventing them from working full time, they may no longer be able to pay the agreed alimony amount. Courts will review each case individually to evaluate unique factors that could justify a modification.
The Effect of a New Relationship
Your responsibility to pay alimony continues even if you remarry or enter a new relationship. However, the obligation ends if the receiving party remarries or moves in with another person in a romantic relationship. In that situation, you can terminate the payments even without seeking modification from the court. Once your former spouse enters a new relationship, it marks the end of your obligations if that termination provision is written in your original court order (which normally is the case). Be sure that you are correct about the new marriage or relationship and have proof if the relationship is denied by the recipient party.
Your former partner must notify you of their new marriage, and you could be eligible for reimbursement for payments you made without knowing about the relationship. If you believe your alimony obligation should cease due to your former spouse’s involvement in a new relationship, talk to experienced San Antonio alimony and spousal support attorneys for the way forward.
How Can I Request a Spousal Support Modification?
You need to file a petition with the court that initially granted the support order to request a modification for spousal support. You should provide relevant documentation, such as your medical records and pay stubs or their wedding announcements to prove the changes in circumstances. Work with skilled San Antonio alimony and spousal support lawyers to help you navigate the process. Your attorney can help you gather the necessary documents, but you will need documentation to support your testimony.
What Happens if My Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Cooperate with the Modification Process?
If your ex-spouse refuses to cooperate with the modification process, you can proceed with the petition to modify the order. The court will evaluate both parties’ evidence to determine whether a modification is warranted. The court may issue a modified support order or an order terminating support if you find favor, which will be legally binding to your ex-spouse.
An Experienced Family Law Lawyer Providing Legal Guidance on Alimony
Spousal maintenance contracts are legally binding, but the terms can be modified based on material and substantial changes in circumstances. If you would like to file a petition for a spousal support modification, talk to skilled San Antonio alimony and spousal support lawyers for legal guidance and representation.
Laura D. Heard Law Firm Inc. has experienced lawyers who can help you fight for what you deserve. Whether you’re seeking spousal support as part of a divorce or wish to have the order modified after divorce for valid reasons, we can help you. Our focus is on protecting your rights and future. Call us at 210-775-0353 to schedule a case evaluation.