Even after your divorce is final, you can be connected to your former spouse for years because of ongoing orders in a divorce decree. One order in your decree that could last for several years is a spousal support order.
But what happens when you struggle to continue making spousal support payments? Is there a way to terminate spousal support? Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to terminate your spousal support obligations earlier than anticipated. Please read on for more information.
When Does an Obligation to Pay Spousal Support Begin?
When figuring out how to stop spousal support payments, please understand that your support obligations can start while your divorce is still pending. While your divorce is pending, your spouse or the court can move for a temporary order that requires you to pay spousal support.
You have to receive notice and have a chance to go to a hearing on this matter, but be prepared for the possibility of paying support before your divorce is final. And of course, the court might also order you to pay spousal support after your divorce is final.
How Does the Court Determine My Spousal Support Obligation?
Let’s start with a brief review of some common factors that might affect your obligation to pay spousal support.
Factors Determining Your Obligation to Pay Spousal Support
Neither you nor your former spouse have an automatic right to spousal support after you file for divorce. In general, your spouse isn’t eligible for support unless they lack sufficient property and income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs.
The family court looks at the unique facts of your case to decide if this lack exists and how much support is needed. Some of the facts the court looks at before deciding whether to award your spouse support include:
- Your spouse’s ability to be independent;
- Your spouse’s education and employment skills and needs;
- The length of your marriage;
- Your spouse’s age;
- Your spouse’s physical and emotional health;
- Actions by you or your spouse to diminish the value of your community property;
- Your ability to provide for yourself while making support payments;
- The assets you and your spouse brought to the marriage;
- The contributions you or your spouse made to help the other increase their earning power;
- The contributions you or your spouse made as a homemaker;
- Marital misconduct; and
- Histories of family violence.
Understanding how these factors could affect your case can go a long way in helping you reduce or terminate your spousal support obligation.
Factors Limiting the Length of Your Support Obligation
All the above factors can help the court decide on the length of your spousal support obligation, but a particularly important factor is the length of your marriage. In fact, the duration of your spousal support is limited, based on how long you stayed married. The general duration limits on spousal support are as follows:
- For many marriages lasting between 10 and 20 years, spousal support can’t last more than five years after the divorce;
- For many marriages lasting between 20 and 30 years, spousal support can’t last more than seven years; and
- For many marriages lasting longer than 30 years, spousal support can’t last more than 10 years.
Even if the court’s order for spousal support is within the legal time limits, you or your spouse can periodically file motions to have the court review its decision.
Factors Limiting the Amount of Your Support Obligation
Once again, the factors listed above that determine your spouse’s eligibility for support also help the court calculate the amount of your support obligation. But spousal support amounts have their limits. In general, the court can’t order you to pay more than the lesser of:
- $5,000 per month; or
- 20% of your average monthly gross income.
Your former spouse can file a motion to increase your spousal support obligation after the court enters an order. But you can also file a motion to reduce or eliminate spousal support under certain circumstances.
Now that you know the factors that decide what your spousal support obligation is, you have many of the tools to understand how to stop spousal support in Texas.
Termination of Spousal Support
There are a handful of events that automatically end your spousal support responsibility. Your support obligation ends when any of the following occurs:
- Your death,
- Your former spouse’s death, or
- Your former spouse’s remarriage.
You can also terminate your support obligation if you can prove that your former spouse is permanently living with a new romantic partner.
Modification of Spousal Support
If you can’t end your support payments, you might be able to soften the blow by reducing them.
In general, you can get the court to reduce your support payments if you can prove that there has been a material and substantial change in your and/or your spouse’s circumstances since the court entered the original support order. This basically means that you need to prove that the support-determining factors that we listed above have changed.
To prove that circumstances have materially and substantially changed since the court entered the original support order, you need to be clear about the specific circumstances of the original support order. Important information to keep on hand that can help you modify a support order include:
- Documents outlining the arguments made and the evidence presented to the court before it made its support order;
- Your financial information from before the divorce until now;
- Information about your former spouse’s financial circumstances; and
- Copies of all prior support orders in your case.
You start proceedings to modify your support order by filing a motion for modification with the same court that issued your divorce decree and properly serving your former spouse with the citation.
Returning to family court to fight for your rights after a divorce can be difficult, but an experienced spousal support attorney can do this heavy lifting for you.
Our Attorneys Can Protect You from Paying Unreasonable Support
Orders from a divorce proceeding don’t always fairly address your needs and struggles. At The Larson Law Office, our lawyers can give you consistent one-on-one attention to deeply understand your changing needs and fight for them in court.
We are experienced, affordable, and passionate about giving you the best assistance possible during complicated times. You can give us a call at 713-221-9088 or reach out to us online for a free consultation.