When Can I Request a Modification of an Alimony Agreement?

During a divorce, the court may determine alimony and spousal maintenance support to assist the less-advantaged spouse financially. In Texas, alimony is technically awarded only by contractual agreement, but when parties don’t agree, the court may order spousal maintenance (which for practical purposes is the same thing as alimony) if certain conditions apply. Spousal maintenance in Texas is support from the paying spouse’s income that is ordered at the time of final divorce and continues after the dissolution of marriage to meet the receiving ex-spouse’s “minimum reasonable needs.” Depending on the case specifics, agreed alimony or spousal maintenance may be awarded as a lump-sum payment, long-term assistance, or short-term support.

Although alimony and spousal maintenance are technically different concepts in Texas, the terms will be used interchangeably for purposes of this article.

However, alimony orders are not cast in stone, and either party can request modification based on several legal factors. If you’re seeking alimony modification, lawyers from a family law firm in San Antonio can provide legal support to enhance the chances of a favorable outcome.

Proving Material and Substantial Changes

Before the court can grant your request to modify the alimony order, you must present compelling reasons and supportive evidence that establishes a good cause for the changes. San Antonio alimony and spousal support lawyers explain that courts are often not interested in re-litigating alimony cases, so you must have a strong case.

Since a modification is not an appeal, you must present new evidence that proves a change in circumstances that warrants a change in the order. Keep in mind that if the support is in the form of spousal maintenance ordered by the court at divorce, the modification can only reduce or terminate the support, never increase it. Further, if no alimony was ordered at the time of divorce, it cannot be added later after divorce. Therefore, a modification of spousal maintenance or alimony in Texas is only going to benefit the paying spouse, not the receiving spouse.

Some solid examples of material and substantial changes that may support your modification request are:

  • Income-related changes: A significant reduction in income or a considerable increase in expenses for the spouse paying alimony can warrant modifying the alimony payments. An increase in the receiving spouse’s income can also be a reason to modify the order.
  • Health issues: Changes in the paying spouse’s health, such as a physical or mental disability, may impact alimony payments. For example, if the paying spouse develops health issues that inhibit their working ability, they may no longer be able to remit the agreed alimony amount. That could justify an alimony modification. Conversely, if the receiving spouse’s maintenance was based on a disability that has since been resolved so that the receiving spouse can now earn an income, that may eliminate the need for support.
  • A new relationship: The paying spouse’s responsibility continues even if they enter a new relationship or remarry. However, the obligation ends if the receiving party moves in with another person in a romantic relationship. You can request reimbursement for any payments you made without knowing your ex was already in another romantic relationship.
  • In cases of contractual alimony, were the changes ones that could be anticipated at the time the contract was made? Is the language of the contractual alimony ambiguous?

Family courts evaluate each alimony modification case individually, as multiple factors could affect the outcome. Working with skilled alimony and spousal support attorneys in San Antonio is an effective strategy to fight for and protect your rights.

What Is the Process of Requesting Alimony Modification?

Requesting support modification is a legal procedure that requires you to observe various requirements. San Antonio alimony and spousal maintenance attorneys provide a highlight of the steps involved:

Filing a Motion or Petition

A motion or petition is a legal document outlining the modification request based on the existing spousal support order. Ensure you specify the reasons for the request and provide preliminary evidence or arguments supporting the petition. The outcome of your case largely depends on how well you write the details of your motion, as it officially brings the issue to the court’s attention. You will not be able to bring up issues in a court hearing that were not properly included in the motion or petition.

Skilled alimony and spousal support lawyers in San Antonio can review your application to ensure it’s free of mistakes that could have your case dismissed. They can also help you gather crucial documentation that proves your claims and justifies the modification request.

Examples are recent tax returns, employment contracts, pay stubs, or medical bills. Even social media posts may be relevant to the receiving spouse’s ability to meet their own financial needs or their romantic relationship status.

Legal Negotiations and Hearings

Based on the specifics, your case may involve negotiations between you and your ex-spouse. Family attorneys often facilitate the process, aiming to reach an amicable agreement on the new terms of the spousal maintenance or alimony. If negotiations fail, the case proceeds to court for a hearing.

The court will evaluate the evidence and arguments presented by both sides before deciding whether to grant the modification. Experienced alimony and spousal support lawyers in San Antonio can aggressively fight for an outcome that best favors you to protect your rights and future.

What Happens If My Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Cooperate with the Modification Process?

You can petition to modify the spousal maintenance support order even if your ex-spouse refuses to cooperate. The court will evaluate your evidence and determine if a modification is justified. If it rules in your favor, it may issue a modified order legally binding you and your ex-spouse.
Note that the existing support order remains in effect until the court approves the modification petition. Not abiding by a court order can cause you to be held in contempt of court if you’re the paying spouse, creating the risk of being arrested. Once the court grants the new order, you also must comply to avoid possible criminal and civil penalties.

Do I Need Legal Representation for Spousal Modification?

Spousal maintenance modification can have multiple intricacies that can be challenging to navigate without the help of skilled legal experts. Interpreting financial documents and circumstances can be subjective, and the input of experienced alimony and spousal support attorneys can go a long way in making the outcome more favorable.

They can provide the necessary guidance on specific legal standards and procedures in your jurisdiction., help you with the paperwork, and fight to protect your interests in court. Legal representation is especially crucial if the case involves contentious or complex issues.

An Experienced Family Lawyer Providing Legal Counsel on Alimony Modification

If you wish to modify your spousal maintenance or alimony support order, it’s crucial to understand the triggers that may justify the changes.

Before filing a petition, consult experienced family lawyers to help you determine if your request is valid and gather precise documentation to support your case. The process can be lengthy, but having a legal team by your side can improve your chances of success.

Laura D. Heard Law Firm Inc. is a reputable firm with skilled alimony and spousal maintenance and support attorneys in San Antonio. Our focus is your peace of mind in your family law case. Let us guide you in your alimony modification case for an outcome that best favors you. Call us at (210) 775-0353 for a case consultation.