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When Can a Support or Maintenance Obligation be Modified?

A child support obligation usually continues until the child in question reaches the age of majority—18 in Texas.  A maintenance obligation continues for the duration of the court order—up to ten years for marriages of 30 years or more.  For maintenance obligations, the paying spouse may petition a court to terminate the obligation once the other spouse remarries or begins to cohabitate with a romantic partner.  Either spouse may also petition the court to modify an existing maintenance order following a material and substantial change in circumstances affecting either a spouse or child of the marriage.  Such changes in circumstances can include substantial changes in income or employment.

Similarly, a court may modify a child support order following a request by either party, or a showing of a material and substantial change in circumstances.  The right to child support is personal to the child and does not terminate if the custodial parent remarries or cohabitates.  However, it may be reduced or increased, based on the changing needs of the child, the ability of the obligor parent to pay, or to reflect changes in child support guidelines.

Courts have a number of tools at their disposal in enforcing child support and maintenance orders.  These include wage garnishment and even arrest and imprisonment for contempt.  An inability to pay these obligations—due to the loss of a job or other major reduction in income—does not excuse the obligor spouse or parent from making payments, unless he or she first obtains a modification order from the Texas court that issued the initial support or maintenance order.

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Robert Reid McInvale
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Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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