The coronavirus is affecting virtually everyone’s lives today. But even amid a pandemic, life must go on, including regular family law proceedings. Hearings are still being conducted on divorce proceedings and modification of child support and alimony. However, COVID-19 is making some processes a bit more challenging.
Setting Alimony Rates Amid COVID-19
Alimony is very strictly controlled in Texas. It considers both spouses’ relative income. That income is reviewed with the most recent data possible.
Requiring recent information also means that if one spouse has had a recent job loss due to the coronavirus, that can skew the income numbers that the court will review. The income calculations today may look very different than they would have been just a few months ago.
If that is the case, then your attorney may need to request that the court review income before the pandemic struck, under the assumption that your spouse will get another job with similar pay and benefits to their pre-COVID-19 job.
There may also be some unique challenges regarding determining alimony obligations if one spouse contracts COVID-19, and it significantly affects their health. The assumption is that they will get treatment and get better—but what if COVID-19 has long-term effects? Right now, no one knows whether COVID-19 has long-lasting effects, and it affects everyone who gets it differently.
Changing Alimony or Spousal Support Obligations Due to COVID-19
Alimony or spousal support is sometimes harder to change under Texas law compared to child support. To modify your alimony requirements, you need to show a court that you have had a substantial change in your circumstances. In most cases, modification is requested because of a job loss or change in careers.
For example, there is a maximum rate that you must consider. Specifically, spousal maintenance can be no more than either $5,000 or 20% of the payor’s gross monthly income. If the payor’s job status changes drastically, such as because of a global pandemic, then that can alter the maximum amounts that can be paid.
Showing Substantial Change of Circumstances
Showing a substantial change means more than just showing that you have lost your job for a short time, however. You may need to be able to show that you cannot find employment to support the level of income that you had when the spousal support order was issued. In many cases, that can mean that a modification is not appropriate because you can simply get another job.
If there have been mass layoffs in your field of work or you cannot find sufficient replacement income, you can ask for a modification to be made. In many cases, you can request that the alimony be decreased or stopped altogether.
Unique Challenges in Modification Requests
Keep in mind, however, that if you have stopped working, it is also possible that your spouse stopped working, too. Those two changes can sometimes offset one another. You should talk to an attorney and do some investigation before you simply request a modification.