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Do I Have to Pay Alimony if My Ex Is Cohabiting during COVID-19?

The question of when spousal support, spousal maintenance or alimony is due to a person in Texas is one where we need to think about all the circumstances in a person's life and where to give a complete answer. In the event that you are a person who has been obligated to pay your ex-spouse spousal maintenance after your divorce or you are currently receiving contractual alimony or spousal maintenance then you will want to pay attention to the information in this blog post. This is especially true during the time when Your living situation may have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The bottom line is that the obligation to pay or receive spousal support or contractual alimony is not permanent. In Texas, judges are not going to bend over backward to award spousal maintenance in a divorce. Contractual alimony exists when you and your ex-spouse agreed in mediation to have some amount of money be exchanged between them after the divorce. There is no obligation to pay spousal maintenance or contractual alimony if your ex-spouse more to pass away. Likewise, if you would have passed away, you're a state would not be obligated to pay spousal maintenance either. 

Remarriage of your ex-spouse who has the right to receive spousal maintenance or contractual alimony would result in here she no longer being eligible to receive these payments. The thought behind this is that because your ex-spouse now has another outlet to receive income That he or she no longer has to rely in part on your payments of spousal maintenance or contractual alimony. 

To what extent does cohabitation impact your obligation to pay contractual alimony or spousal maintenance? 

However, the most likely scenario that could put into question your need to continue to pay contractual alimony or spousal maintenance has to do with your ex-spouse beginning to live with another person after your divorce. Let's assume that your ex-wife began dating someone a few months after your divorce ended. She had been living on her own for the first few months of the relationship but now you have come to find out that she has moved in with her boyfriend. While you don't have much concern Over her relationship status you are very concerned about whether or not you would need to continue to pay spousal maintenance given this change in her living status. 

The law in Texas is that if a court finds that you are permanently residing with another person with whom you were engaged in an intimate relationship then You would no longer be eligible to receive spouse omens or contractual alimony. From my experience, the tricky part of the whole scenario is Being able to prove that a person is living full time with a significant other. As I'm sure you could imagine it can be difficult to pin down A person's living situation Absent concrete evidence. We can speculate about where you're living and with whom you're living but there needs to be more evidence usually than speculation to confirm living arrangements. 

Can adjustments be made to the level of spousal maintenance or contractual alimony that you were obligated to pay? 

The amount of maintenance that you are expected to pay to your ex-spouse can be reduced or eliminated altogether. However, you need to keep in mind that of reduction or elimination of a maintenance obligation cannot occur without your first filing a lawsuit in the family court that issued the original order. You can file motions to terminate or modify special maintenance and then Present evidence to a judge showing that your obligation has ceased due to the cohabitation of your ex-spouse with a person he or she is engaged in a dating relationship with.

As with any modification case in Texas you would need to present a material and substantial change in the circumstances of either yourself or your ex-spouse in order to justify the modification. If you are the spouse who is obligated to pay spousal maintenance, you can take solace in the fact that your ex-spouse cannot ask a judge to increase the amount I was parcel maintenance that he or she is receiving. By filing a modification or an elimination of spousal maintenance request with the court your obligation cannot go Up it can only go down.

Filing a motion to modify spousal maintenance would be like filing any other family lawsuit in Texas. You would need to 1st file the lawsuit then has your ex-spouse served with notice of the lawsuit itself as well as a hearing date to present your evidence to a judge. Keep in mind that right now during the pandemic it has become increasingly difficult to get hearing dates due to the closure of most of the family law courts in our area. So, the realistic option Would be for you and your ex-spouse to work together to negotiate through these issues and to see if you can come to a conclusion on your own without having to go before a judge. 

Examining the circumstances that may lead to a change in habitation during the COVID-19 pandemic 

There may be many reasons why your ex-spouse may choose to change the living situation during the course of this pandemic. For one, she may have lost her job or had a decrease in her income to the point where she is no longer able to afford to pay rent at her previous residence. If she chooses to move in with a significant other than that maybe a defense that she would use in a hearing on this matter in front of a judge. Specifically, she could argue that she is only moved in temporarily with this other person due to extreme financial hardships caused by the pandemic. 

Another circumstance that I could see leading to the movement of an ex-spouse into the residence of a significant other is due to their prior residents being unsafe due to concerns over the COVID-19 virus. I am envisioning a scenario where your ex-spouse lived in an apartment complex or other residential situation where many people came down with the virus and your ex-spouse decided to move before, he or she became ill. Again, I could see this being argued if it temporary and not permanent move in with the person That would last only as long as the rest of their health did as far as the ability to become infected by the virus. 

Finally, we have the age-old scenario above your ex-spouse and their significant other wanting to take their relationship to the next level and move in with one another as a result. This is a much more standard arrangement that we would see happen in any time period and not just during a pandemic. I think that this is a situation That it is more difficult to mount a good defense against as far as arguing that the person is not permanently living with a boyfriend or girlfriend. 

If you are going through a divorce right now what ability do you have to negotiate for spousal maintenance? 

This is probably a relevant question for anyone who is currently going through the divorce process. If you are going through a divorce and need temporary help, then you can speak to your attorney about that and begin a conversation with your spouse about whether or not temporary spousal support can be paid. Just like in the scenarios above where we were discussing people who had lost income or lost their jobs completely due to the coronavirus then you may be in need of the support to help you get your feet on the ground in a stable position after your divorce has been filed. 

This is especially true if you have been a stay at home parent or stay at home spouse for an extended period of time. In many marriage relationships one spouse takes on the responsibility of the financial provider while the other spouse takes on the responsibility of caring for the home and children. This arrangement tends to work out fine when times are good but in the face of a divorce it can leave the stay at home spouse much more vulnerable. These are circumstances that can more readily lead to the need for temporary spousal support even during the relatively short period of time that makes up a divorce. 

Payments of spousal maintenance during a divorce argued to be fair do in no small part because one spouse may have given up employment or educational opportunities in order to be available to care for a home or family. For example, if you stayed at home to take care of the house and family while your husband went to law school to become an attorney then your sacrifices in the professional world directly allowed your spouse to be able to attain Levels of success in their own professional sphere. Many times, a spouse that becomes a stay at home parent does so after working for periods of time in order to help put their spouse through school. 

What should you do if you come to find out that your ex-spouse has begun to cohabitate during the pandemic? 

The answer to this question Maybe what many of you have come to this blog to figure out. Ultimately, I can provide you with much information on this subject is possible but what you really need to know is how you can and should proceed in the event that you come to find out that your ex-spouse is living with another person Other full time basis during the course of this pandemic. We have already discussed that there are multiple scenarios which are not far-fetched at all which would lead to your ex-spouse needing or wanting to move in with their significant other. Now we need to discuss what that means for you and a potential family law case that seeks to eliminate the obligation to pay spousal maintenance or contractual alimony.

In order to move forward and to give yourself as good of a chance as any to have your obligation To pay spousal maintenance eliminated you should have evidence proving your case. Hearsay and rumors about the living situation of your ex-spouse are probably insufficient to have your obligation removed.  You should be prepared with witness statements or other concrete evidence to show that your ex-spouse has in fact moved in with another person.  If you are struggling to come up with this kind of evidence, then I would suggest that you take a look at social media. 

Whether people believe this or not social media is more than just a place for you to connect With friends and family. Increasingly, social media has begun to play a role in Court cases as posts and messages on social media take on forms of evidence in these cases. While many of us feel comfortable posting information about ourselves in photographs on social media, the reality is that this information can be used against us depending on What information is made available and what these photographs may show. 

Depending on how frequently your ex-spouse uses social media he may be able to take up information or photographs which can corroborate your position that he or she has moved in with a significant other on a permanent basis during the pandemic. What this means realistically for you is that you do not have to play private detective or Snoop around to find any kind of evidence like this. Rather the best evidence available to you maybe at your fingertips where you can access it from the safety of your own home. 

Questions about the material presented in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material presented in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office, over the phone and via video. If you have questions about your circumstances are wanting to learn more about the services that we provide to our clients and their families, please contact us today.  

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