In Waldrop v. Waldrop, the trial court signed a divorce decree that found that the husband needed to pay the wife maintenance of $3,000 per month under Texas Family Code Chapter 8.001 et seq. The parties had stipulated that their agreement was enforceable as a contract.
Six years after their divorce, the ex-husband filed a petition claiming a material and substantial change in circumstances and asked that maintenance payments to the wife be modified or terminated. The trial court considered the contractual language in the maintenance clause of their agreement and heard testimony about their intent and the ex-husband’s financial situation.
The trial court determined that the decree required contractual alimony and that the modification provisions of chapter 8 didn’t apply. It also concluded that language related to “further orders of the court” was ambiguous but referred to three instances of termination stated within the decree.
The appellate court explained that under Family Code section 8.057, the maintenance described in a court order can be lowered by showing a material, substantial change in circumstances. Following an abuse of discretion standard, the court explained that it would only set aside a finding for insufficiency of evidence if it determined that credible evidence was so weak or contrary to the weight of the evidence that the answer should be put aside with a new trial ordered.
The husband testified he’d developed medical problems in the seven years since the time of divorce, and these affected his ability to travel. He testified that he filed a motion to modify after becoming unemployed when his long-term consulting contract expired and that he couldn’t earn the same kind of income because he’d spent about eight years on one client, and his work was highly specialized. He started receiving unemployment benefits, but this wasn’t enough to meet his living expenses, and he’d used his savings to keep bills current.
He’d worked with recruiters but only received a couple of short contracts. Accordingly, he claimed he couldn’t keep paying $3,000 per month to his ex-wife. However, he also admitted that their adult children had special needs and that he had property with his current wife. His current wife was a social worker who earned $40,000 each year.
The ex-wife testified that since her ex-husband’s business was failing during the marriage, she got a job and supported them. She had been a stay-at-home mother. At the end of the hearing, the court stated that the ex-husband hadn’t met the requirement that he show that a material, substantial change had occurred and found he hadn’t been diligent enough in looking for employment.
The appellate court explained that the trial court could have determined that the husband hadn’t used enough diligence to find a job that would allow him to keep up with maintenance. While his financial circumstances weren’t great because of his health problems, they’d improved since the divorce. Meanwhile, the ex-wife’s financial circumstances had only slightly improved. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s judgment.
If you are considering divorce or want to modify a divorce decree, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.
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