In many marriages, one spouse goes out into the world and works to earn a living for their family and themselves. The other spouse often times remains in the home and provides economic value through raising children, preforming upkeep on the home and generally being available to perform emergency tasks.
Both spouses serve a necessary purpose for the marital relationship but ultimately the spouse who works has developed skills and experience working that the spouse who remains in the home has not. If either spouse wanted to get a divorce then the spouse who remained in the home is put in a position where he or she will have to look for a job and earn an income to sustain an individual lifestyle.
It is due to situations like this that the State of Texas allows for spousal maintenance under Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code. Spousal maintenance is paid directly from the paying spouse to the receiving spouse. Our Family Code lays out the specific rules for spousal maintenance but spouses are able to agree to any sort of agreement they would like.
I have had a prior client whose spouse agreed to pay her $2,000 a month until her death in alimony. If the ex-husband would have died first then that $2,000 a month obligation would become the responsibility of his estate to pay her. These folks specifically indicated in their Final Decree of Divorce that the agreement should act like the terms of a contract and be enforceable as such.
What happens during the modification process?
About three years after the divorce was resolved, our client’s ex-husband decided to file a petition to modify the divorce decree’s language regarding spousal maintenance. It was not enough for him to simply tell the court that he doesn’t feel like paying that much money anymore, however.
He had to offer an argument to the judge that there had been a material and substantial change in the circumstances of our client and that as a result the monthly payment of $2,000 was either no longer necessary at all or at the very least needed to be modified downward.
What the ex-husband was asking the court to do was to go back and review the language in the Final Decree of Divorce that had to do with the contractual agreement to pay spousal maintenance. It would be necessary in all likelihood to have testimony put forth regarding the desire of the parties to the Decree at the time it was signed as well as the current financial status of the ex-husband.
How our former client responded to a modification being filed
Our client came to us with information regarding her ex-husband’s financial state which is very important. If her ex husband had been able to show that he truly had no income or wealth with which to pay the spousal support then it would have been difficult for a court not to grant his modification request.
The information our client provided had to do with various real estate that her ex husband owned across the State that was titled in the name of his business rather than himself. This got our office to thinking that discovery would need to be issued to this gentleman where he would need to provide tax filings and other financial documents that would assist us in determining whether or not he was as destitute as he claimed to be.
Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances
As we discussed earlier, a material and substantial change in circumstances need be shown by the party requesting the modification in order to have that request granted. The position of the ex husband was that he had been going through some difficulties with his health in recent years that left him unable to work and earn an income sufficient to both provide for his daily necessities and pay the spousal maintenance as ordered.
The savings that he had been living off of was being used to pay his bills and help him subsist until he became well enough to work again.
Our client was able to present her side of the story to the judge as well. She had been going through her own set of difficulties specifically with her mental health, since the time of the divorce. She had not been able to work in the past year and was considering the possibility of having to file for social security disability. She testified to the sad truth that she was living with her sister and brother in law and could barely function independent of them.
Through the discovery process we were able to ascertain that our client’s ex-husband’s business had not been doing near as poorly as he would have led the court to believe. Furthermore, the ex-husband had re-married and together the couple had purchased a tract of land early in the marriage before health problems began to affect him.
Considering the evidence put forth by both sides, the judge ruled that the ex-husband had failed to show that a material and substantial change in circumstances had occurred. While his health had been poor, he had testified to the assets he did own that could be liquidated.
Furthermore, the health conditions did not bar him from working- only from working the sort of high impact, heavy exertion jobs that he had once been involved with. Thespousal support order was maintained.
Questions about spousal support in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC prides itself on diligent representation and sterling customer service. It is our duty to put the interests of our clients ahead of our own and we take that duty seriously. If you are in a position where you feel like a modification of a spousal support order is necessary please do not hesitate to contact our office today. A free of charge consultation is available to you six days a week with one of our licensed family lawattorneys.
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