When it comes to spousal support after a divorce, there’s a little known factor that California law supports. Courts are required to set spousal support awards that are based on the standard of living that was established during the time of the marriage. But the problem is – how does a court decide what the marital standard of living was?
Defining “Standard of Living”
The “marital standard of living” is meant to be a general description of the status in financial living that the spouses had achieved prior to filing for divorce or legal separation. This determination of this can be tricky due to the fact that sometimes couples live beyond their means. In those cases, it’s easy for a trial court to base its spousal support award on the parties’ income rather than expenditures. This can also be hard to judge if one party worked excessive hours to achieve the amount of money to sustain that standard of living. But a focus on expenditures can also lead to low measure of standard of living if a couple decides to live modestly.
What a Court Looks At
Since there are so many ways to “break down” the numbers in terms of income versus expenditures, a court must take many different things into account when they are looking for a true marital standard of living. Here are a few examples of those factors:
- Family, vacation homes, residences acquired during marriage
- Any sources of unearned income
- Automobiles, boats, airplanes, and other vehicles purchased during marriage
- Did/do the children attend public or private school?
- Pension, profit sharing, retirement, bonuses, stock plans, and other employment benefits as well as stocks, bonds, and investment accounts
- Social activities
- Personal property such as furniture, collectibles, antiques, jewelry, and other valuable items
- Charitable donations and contributions
- Inheritances or gifts received before, during, and after marriage
- Debts and outstanding loans
Once a court is able to weigh all thee variables, they will be able to render a truer judgement regarding spousal support.
Source: CEB, Keeping to the Style in Which They Have Become Accustomed, December 12, 2011
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