Modifying Spousal Support Obligations in Texas
In many states, alimony is a key component of most divorce financial settlements. But Texas only has a limited alimony law. Generally, spousal support is available if the marriage lasted at least ten years and the requesting spouse is unable to provide for minimally reasonable needs. “Minimally reasonable needs” usually means the poverty line. A few other spouses qualify for alimony as well.
Judges use a number of factors to determine the specific amount and duration of payments. More on this below.
Because of the subjective nature of the law in Texas, obligors (people paying support) and obligees (people receiving support) have important legal and financial rights. A good Galveston family law attorney stands up for these rights, both in court and at the negotiating table.
Incomes frequently change over time, as do economic needs. Therefore, financial changes are the most common bases for spousal support modification in Galveston County. These changes usually support successful modification actions if the changes were:
- Substantial: As a rule of thumb, if the income increase or decrease is more than 10 percent, the change is substantial. Evidence on this point includes paystubs and bank statements.
- Unanticipated: Retirement is a good example. Everyone gets older. So, retirement does not necessarily justify a spousal support decrease.
- Permanent: Self-employed people and business-owners often experience peaks and valleys. Generally, the peak or valley must last at least three months to be permanent. Evidence on this point includes lifestyle changes, such as a new car.
Additionally, the financial change basis must be involuntary, at least to an extent. Obligors cannot quit high-paying jobs to decrease their payment obligations. Likewise, obligees cannot leave their jobs to artificially create economic need.
Most people know remarriage terminates spousal support obligations. However, many people do not know that Texas lawmakers recently expanded the definition of “remarried,” at least in this context.
Remarriage means more than legally remarried. If an obligee is in a long term, financially supportive relationship with another person, that relationship could be tantamount to remarriage. Evidence on this point includes major joint purchases, joint financial accounts, and cross-familial support (Ed helps Jane’s children financially even though he is not legally married to Jane).
Factors to Consider
To recalculate the amount and duration of payments, mostly the amount of payments, the judge uses the same basic factors that were available at the original determination phase. Some of these factors include:
- Length of the marriage,
- Noneconomic contribution to the relationship,
- Obligee’s economic need,
- Obligor’s ability to pay,
- Standard of living during the marriage, and
- Any agreements between the parties.
That last bullet might be the most important one. Most Galveston County judges approve agreed modifications. Typically, they do not even require hearings. For this reason, attorneys often negotiate with one another before filing to iron out any differences of opinion. If the parties present an agreed motion, the process is much smoother.
Reach Out to a Savvy Lawyer
The amount and duration of alimony payments is subject to change. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Galveston County family lawyer, contact Lindamood & Robinson, P.C., Attorneys at Law. Convenient payment plans are available.