In California, the standard of living that you and your divorcing spouse enjoyed during your marriage is a significant factor in the determination of any post-divorce spousal support. Status quo is important – It's the standing of living the spouses in the divorce enjoyed and became used to during the period of their marriage. Normally, family law courts will seek to maintain the marital standard of living when attempting to determine spousal support.
For couples with substantial resources or overall high net-worth – the standard of living can be a become a hotly contested factor of the divorce. If you are the spouse who is making a request for temporary or permanent spousal support – you have the burden of proof.
In other words, you will be responsible for demonstrating exactly what type of standard of living you enjoyed if you want spousal support that reflects it.
It should be noted that standard of living is not only the total value of household income. It also should reflect the type of home and neighborhood where you were living, typical spending habits, forms of entertainment, etc.
If you can't come to an agreement with your spouse over what standard of living they need to maintain for you – then you will be in a situation where you will have to show your standard of living to the family law court during divorce litigation.
You will have to submit an income and expense declaration – which is an overview of your monthly household income and expenses. You need to accurately fill out the form to demonstrate your standard of living.
In summary – California courts base spousal support on maintaining the household's status quo. For couples with high assets or complicated financials, demonstrating one's standard of living can become a highly contested issue.
If you have concerns related to demonstrating your standard of living, an experienced Los Angeles divorce attorney can help. Let's take a detailed look below on demonstrating your standard of living to help determine spousal support.
The Burden of Proof
If you are going through a divorce and are requesting either temporary or permanent spousal support (alimony), the burden of proof regarding your need is on you.
Temporary spousal support is intended to help you make it through the interim from filing for divorce to finalization, and the amount received is usually generated with a standard calculation process. For temporary spousal support, therefore, you'll only be required to demonstrate your financial need and your spouse's ability to pay.
For permanent spousal support – which is determined when your divorce is finalized and which is rarely permanent but generally lasts longer than temporary support – the amount you receive will be based on maintaining the status quo regarding your standard of living. For permanent spousal support, therefore, you will need to demonstrate your standard of living to the court.
Income and Expense
Demonstrating your standard of living can be less straightforward than you might imagine, and a wide variety of factors can play a role in the process.
You will fill out an Income and Expense Declaration that delineates your household's income and expenses each month. If you are thorough with this form, it will set the groundwork for establishing your standard of living. Often, however, there is more to it than simply your income and expenses.
If your financials are complicated or you have high assets, your standard of living is unlikely to be accurately encapsulated by your Income and Expense Declaration alone. Standard of living encompasses more than monthly finances, including:
- The house and neighborhood that you live in
- The kinds of restaurants and entertainment you enjoyed throughout your marriage
- Your travel practices as a married couple
Your task is to show the court the lifestyle you lived while you were married, and the more details you can provide, the more accurate your demonstration will be.
Your married lifestyle, however, is more than just the sum of its physical parts. There are often intangibles that it is important to take into consideration, such as:
- Have you experienced upward mobility (have you risen from a middle-income household to an upper-income household, for example)?
- Did you and your spouse live within your means throughout your marriage?
- Do either of you have nonmonetary employment perks and/or benefits that should be factored in?
- Did you contribute to your spouse's career advancement and/or professional development (did you support your spouse while he or she was in graduate school, for example)?
Every divorce is as unique as the couple involved, and your standard of living is unique to you. By sharing all the mitigating factors with the court, you'll provide the judge with a more informed view of the standard of living you enjoyed throughout your marriage.
Your Spousal Support
While your spousal support is predicated on maintaining your standard of living, the court takes other factors into consideration in determining the amount of support and its duration, including:
- You and your spouse's relative abilities to earn
- You and your spouse's relative professional skills
- You and your spouse's relative sacrifices to the marriage (did you, for example, give up a career to stay home with the children)
- The length of your marriage
- You and your spouse's ages and health histories
- You and your spouse's relative debt loads
- Any incidents of domestic violence or any criminal convictions during the course of your marriage
Spousal support is a complicated issue, but it can be critical to you and your children's future. Work closely with a skilled divorce attorney to help ensure your spousal support accurately reflects your needs. If entitled, you may be able to get spousal support while the divorce is pending.
Consult with an Experienced Los Angeles Divorce Attorney
If you're facing a divorce and have concerns about your spousal support, our dedicated legal team serves clients throughout Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles County area.
Our experienced divorce lawyers have the skill, commitment, and knowledge to aggressively advocate for the spousal support to which you are entitled. To schedule a free consultation, contact or call our law firm.
Furman & Zavatsky
15821 Ventura Blvd #690
Encino, CA 91436