Following a divorce, the financially disadvantaged spouse may be awarded alimony payments, also known as spousal support or maintenance. These payments provide financial assistance to ensure the less affluent spouse can maintain a reasonable standard of living. Alimony comes in various forms, such as lump-sum payments, short-term support, or long-term assistance that may last for years.

In the context of alimony payments, child support, and spousal maintenance payments, modification requests are often essential. Long-term alimony orders are not set in stone and can be subject to adjustments if there are significant changes in circumstances. For example, alimony payments may need to be increased or decreased based on the financial situation of either party. In some cases, alimony can even be terminated early if certain conditions are met, such as the recipient spouse’s remarriage or improved financial stability.

In this comprehensive guide, our highly-rated Austin alimony attorney offers valuable insights into the process of modifying spousal support in Texas. They will address the essential factors to consider, the legal requirements, and the steps involved in making a successful modification request.

Modification of Alimony: You Must Prove a Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances

To get an alimony modification in Texas, the petitioner must be able to present compelling evidence that establishes that there is good cause to change the terms of the award. Family law courts are not interested in re-litigating alimony cases. You cannot obtain an alimony modification simply because you believe the original rule was wrong. A modification is not an appeal. This means that new evidence must be presented that proves that the circumstances have changed.

In Texas, to obtain an alimony modification, the petitioner must present persuasive evidence demonstrating good cause for altering the terms of the award. Family law courts are not inclined to revisit alimony cases without valid reasons. A modification is not an appeal, so it cannot be obtained simply because the petitioner believes the initial decision was erroneous. Instead, new evidence must be provided to show that there has been a change in circumstances.

As per Texas state law, the party seeking a modification of spousal support must prove that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances. Some prevalent examples of changes that may warrant a modification of a spousal maintenance order are:

  1. A significant decrease in income for the spouse responsible for alimony payments;
  2. A considerable increase in expenses for the spouse responsible for alimony payments; and
  3. A significant increase in income for the spouse receiving alimony.

In addition to these examples, other factors, such as the former spouse’s physical or mental disability, may also impact the spousal maintenance and child support payments. Each alimony modification case is evaluated individually, as numerous factors could potentially justify a change in the original terms of the award.

For instance, if the spouse responsible for alimony payments develops severe health issues that prevent them from working full-time, alimony may no longer be suitable or feasible. Conversely, Texas courts may determine that alimony is no longer equitable if the receiving party experiences a substantial increase in their earning potential or becomes financially independent. Ultimately, the court will consider the circumstances of each case and decide whether a modification of spousal maintenance is warranted.

Alimony Modifications: Understanding the Effect of a New Relationship

If you are the paying spouse in a spousal maintenance obligation, your responsibility to pay alimony continues even if you enter a new relationship or remarry. However, your obligations automatically terminate if your former spouse remarries. Upon your former partner’s remarriage, you can cease alimony payments without seeking a modification from the court, as your obligations have already ended. The receiving spouse must promptly report their new marriage to their former partner. You might be eligible for reimbursement if you made alimony payments without knowing about the remarriage.

In cases where the requesting spouse enters a new relationship without remarrying, known as a ‘supportive relationship,’ you may still be able to discontinue spousal support payments. However, this is not an automatic process. You must go to court and provide evidence that your ex-spouse is involved in a supportive relationship. Texas law defines this type of relationship as one with marriage-like qualities, including cohabitation or the commingling of assets.

If you believe your obligation to pay alimony should cease due to your former spouse’s involvement in a new relationship, consult an experienced Austin spousal support modification attorney to help navigate the process.

FAQS on Spousal Support Modification

Q: What are the criteria for modifying spousal support in Texas? A: In Texas, spousal support can be modified if there is a material and substantial change in the circumstances of either party. This may include changes in employment, income, health, remarriage of the obligee, or cohabitation with a romantic partner. To request a modification, the requesting party must file a petition with the court, provide evidence of the changed circumstances, and demonstrate that the current spousal support order is no longer appropriate.

Q: How do I request a modification of spousal support in Austin, Texas? A: To request a modification of spousal support in Texas, you will need to file a petition with the court that initially granted the support order. You should provide relevant documentation, such as pay stubs or medical records, to prove the change in circumstances. It is recommended to consult with an attorney experienced in family law to help you navigate the process and ensure that your request is submitted correctly.

Q: What happens if my ex-spouse refuses to cooperate with the modification process? A: If your ex-spouse refuses to cooperate with the modification process, you can proceed with your petition to modify the spousal support order. The court will evaluate the evidence presented by both parties and determine whether a modification is warranted. If the court finds your favor, it may issue a modified support order, which will legally bind your ex-spouse.

Q: Can spousal support be terminated in Texas? A: Spousal support can be terminated in Texas under specific circumstances. Some of these include the death of either party, remarriage of the receiving spouse, or cohabitation with a romantic partner in a relationship similar to a marriage for a continuous period of six months or more. If you believe you meet the criteria for termination of spousal support, you should consult with an attorney to guide you through the process of requesting a termination order from the court.

DO YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MODIFICATION OF SPOUSAL SUPPORT?

We can help. At the Law Office of Ben Carrasco PLLC, our Texas family lawyers have extensive experience handling the full range of alimony cases. If you are seeking a modification of spousal support, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm to set up an immediate review of your case. With an office in Austin, we represent clients throughout the region, including Georgetown, Round Rock, Bastrop, and San Marcos.

About the Author
Ben Carrasco is a highly skilled family law attorney based in Austin, Texas, known for his extensive expertise in family law and business litigation. While his primary focus is family law, Ben brings a wealth of experience in litigating diverse business disputes, ranging from breach of contract and collections to business torts, fraud, and real estate matters. In his family law practice, Ben navigates all aspects of the field, including divorce, child custody, support, property division, and more, offering clients expert guidance throughout the litigation process. His legal journey began in complex commercial litigation, initially with a global law firm and later with a prominent Austin-based firm. However, driven by a desire to make a direct impact on people's lives and embrace the human element of the law, Ben transitioned to family law, a decision that has proven to be deeply rewarding. A proud Austin native with roots in California, Ben completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, before earning his law degree at Stanford Law School, where he excelled in legal writing and served as an associate editor of the Stanford Law and Policy Review.