Modification of Spousal Maintenance
It is not uncommon for one spouse to suffer financial hardships when a couple divorces. In some cases, the courts will decide to award spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, to the economically disadvantaged spouse. While the courts consider numerous factors in determining a suitable maintenance award, circumstances can change, and the amount granted may no longer be appropriate. Fortunately, the law allows parties to seek a modification of spousal maintenance in certain situations. If you receive or pay maintenance and have questions about adjusting the current award, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The Dallas lawyers of McClure Law Group are adept at handling post-divorce issues, and we can advise you of your options and aid you in the pursuit of your desired outcome.Grounds for Granting a Request for Modification of Spousal Maintenance
Following dissolution proceedings, courts may decide to grant spousal maintenance to parties experiencing financial difficulties due to the divorce. Maintenance may be awarded as a lump sum or on a short-term or long-term basis. Generally, requests for modification of spousal maintenance arise in situations involving long-term maintenance. Both the person receiving and the person obligated to pay support have the right to seek an amendment of a maintenance award. Regardless of who files a petition for modification, however, the process and the burden of proof is the same.
A party seeking a modification must file a motion in the court that rendered the original order granting support. Notice of the motion must be given to any other party affected by the order, who must file an answer. The court will then conduct a hearing, during which it will examine evidence and hear testimony from both parties as to whether the modification should be considered. If the court determines that the party seeking a modification has proven there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances, it will grant the motion.
There is no precise rule for what constitutes a substantial and material change, but generally, it is a change that is involuntary, significant, and ongoing in nature. For example, changes in the physical or mental health of a party, employment skills or education, or financial resources or income may be considered grounds for granting a request for a modification. Additionally, if the party receiving support was prevented from earning an income because he or she acted as the custodian of a child of the marriage that needs substantial care because of a disability, the award may be modified if the party is no longer the primary caretaker for the child. Loss of employment or physical or mental disabilities that prevent a person from working that arise after the marriage is not grounds for instituting a spousal support obligation, however.Terminating Spousal Maintenance Under Texas Law
In certain instances, a person ordered to pay maintenance may be able to show that the obligation should be terminated. Specifically, under Texas law, support obligations will terminate when the party receiving maintenance dies or remarries. Any maintenance that accrued before the date of the recipient’s death or remarriage must still be paid, however. Notably, the remarriage of the person obligated to pay maintenance is not grounds for seeking a modification.
The courts will also terminate spousal maintenance if the recipient begins living with a romantic partner. The courts will conduct a hearing to determine if the person receiving maintenance is cohabitating with someone with whom he or she is in a romantic or dating relationship in a permanent location on an ongoing basis and if so, will end the other party’s support obligation.Speak to a Seasoned Dallas Divorce Lawyer
Although the courts aim to rule fairly with regards to spousal maintenance obligations, situations can arise that render a prior ruling unjust and necessitate a change to a prior award. If you need assistance seeking or opposing a request for modification of spousal maintenance, it is smart to speak to an attorney about your options. At McClure Law Group, our seasoned Dallas lawyers possess the knowledge and resources needed to obtain favorable results, and if you hire us, we will work diligently to help you protect your interests. Our primary office is in Dallas, and we are available to meet clients for consultations at our Collin County office in Plano. We frequently represent people in spousal maintenance modification proceedings in Dallas, Frisco, Fort Worth, Irving, McKinney, Richardson, Rockwall, and Garland. We also represent people in family law cases in cities in Dallas, Rockwall, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, and Grayson Counties. You can reach us by calling 214.692.8200 or using our online form to schedule a meeting.