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How Can Spousal Maintenance Be Terminated or Modified in Texas?

If you find yourself obligated to pay spousal maintenance, this blog post is crucial for you. Here, we’ll delve into the circumstances and details surrounding modification. We’ll explore how and why you may be able to modify or terminate outright your responsibility to pay your ex-spouse maintenance. This discussion also includes strategies on how to avoid spousal support altogether.

Let’s start with the most straightforward part of our discuss. You have no obligation to pay spousal maintenance if your ex-spouse passes away. If you pass away while still obligated to pay spousal maintenance, your estate is not required to continue payments. Last, if your ex-spouse re-marries then your obligation to pay spousal maintenance likewise ceases. Let’s now delve into some topics that may be more challenging to comprehend.

What if your ex-spouse begins to live with another person?

Here you are, fulfilling your obligation to pay spousal maintenance to someone who initiated the divorce. This is regardless whether you desired the divorce yourself. It’s improbable that you willingly wanted to provide spousal maintenance to this individual. Nonetheless, you’ve diligently adhered to the court’s orders, striving to abide by the rules even when they’re disagreeable.

One day you find out from a mutual friend that your ex-wife has moved in with a boyfriend. This revelation comes as a surprise, as you hadn’t been keeping up with the affairs of your ex-spouse. Your immediate concern turns to the matter of spousal maintenance. It seems unjust to continue payments to your ex-spouse if they receive financial support from another.

A family court in Texas can terminate your obligation to pay spousal maintenance under these circumstances. If a court determines that your spouse has been cohabitating with their significant other on a permanent basis, this is typically sufficient grounds to terminate your obligation to pay spousal maintenance.

How can the obligation to pay spousal maintenance be modified?

You can modify or reduce the specific amount of spousal maintenance stated in your final decree of divorce. You must first file a motion to modify in court and present evidence to justify your request. A substantial change in circumstances would need to be shown by you, the moving party. Also, your ex-spouse cannot file a counter motion to increase the amount of support to be paid. Likewise, an independent motion to modify cannot be filed by her asking for an increase in spousal maintenance. The reason being is that spousal maintenance can only be modified downward and cannot be modified upward.

You would need to file your modification lawsuit. Then have it served upon your ex-spouse just like any other type of civil lawsuit in Texas. Notice is needed prior to a hearing on the matter. Your spouse would need to file an answer with a specific period of time. Once service has been achieved, you can proceed to a hearing. It’s where both of you can present evidence as to why the spousal maintenance should be decreased or maintained.

In a Texas modification case, you must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances since your last court appearance. That change could have occurred in your life or in that of your ex-spouse. The court will compare both your financial circumstances then and now to assess the change.

Can your ex-spouse try to get an order granting her spousal maintenance after the divorce has occurred?

This is a concern that I have run into from time to time. The question boils down to whether an ex-spouse can return to divorce court to request spousal maintenance after the divorce is finalized. Essentially, can your ex-spouse get a second bite at the apple when it comes to getting spousal maintenance ordered?

I can understand why a person would try to do so. Imagine getting a divorce and only having worked a few times off and on over the past years during the marriage. If your ex-spouse finds a job quickly but is then laid off, she may be in a desperate position. Or, even worse, your ex-spouse may suffer a physical or mental disability that prevents her from working.

Even bearing in mind these sort of scenarios, your ex-spouse cannot go back and attempt to get spousal maintenance ordered against you. Once your divorce is finalized, your ex-spouse is foreclosed from ever again asking for spousal maintenance.

How can you enforce a spousal maintenance order in Texas?

Let’s look at the issue of enforcing a spousal maintenance order from the perspective of the ex-spouse who is supposed to be receiving the money. Whether you and your ex-spouse agreed in mediation to pay spousal maintenance or it was ordered by the judge, a court order can be enforced that obligates your ex-spouse to pay you spousal maintenance. However, it is only when a court orders the payment of maintenance that contempt can be used as a method of enforcement. Contempt of court is when a party to a case before that court violates a court order-either in front of thee judge or outside the presence of the court. There are a wide range of punishments that can be assessed in this scenario, including jail time (though it is not likely).

Some courts in Texas have ruled that even when you and your ex-spouse did agree to the payment of spousal maintenance, that contempt is a possible enforcement mechanism when a violation of the court orders occurs. To avoid any problems with how the language in the order is read, you should make sure that it is clear specific as to the responsibilities each party shares under that order in relation to spousal maintenance.

What defenses are available to your spouse as to why spousal maintenance was not paid?

There are circumstances that may exist in your spouse’s life that will actually work out to act as defenses on their behalf as to why he or she is not current in their paying you spousal maintenance. The most straightforward of those defenses is that your ex-spouse just lacked the ability to pay spousal maintenance as frequently and as much as is ordered in the final decree of divorce. Losing a job, getting sick or disabled or any range of circumstances could relate to this defense.