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Determining the marital standard of living for alimony

California couples maintain a vast array of marital living situations. Some choose to live in large, expensive homes while others find peace in a reasonable rent apartment. In some marriages one spouse works while the other stays home to take care of the children. In others, both spouses may work high demand jobs with substantial salaries. Regardless of living arrangements, in the event of a divorce, a Judge will take it all into consideration when the topic of alimony arises.

For example, consider a couple who have been married 20 years, with four children. They live in a large home in a gated community, for which they pay a hefty monthly mortgage payment. This lifestyle is all the children have ever known. The husband is a successful real estate agent who works constantly. When his work hours increased, both spouses agreed that it would be best if the wife did not work in order to allow her more time to attentively take care of the children and manage the home. This decision left the family solely dependent upon the husband’s income. Three years later, the couple have grown apart and decide to divorce and go their separate ways. However, the wife has no income of her own, and no way to support herself. This is where alimony comes in and the marital standard of living matters. One spouse cannot simply be “tossed out” without means of support. In addition, the standard of living for children should be maintained as closely as possible so as to avoid disruption.

A judge will use several methods to determine the amount of spousal support. Considerations will include the dominant earner’s monthly salary minus normal household expenses. The size and cost of the marital home will be analyzed, along with the number of parties who still reside there. Unnecessary expenses, otherwise considered luxuries, will be removed from expense calculations. Some examples of these are family vacation expenses, new vehicle purchases or home upgrades.

Judges can order alimony to be paid until a spouse remarries, or only for a set period of time to allow the lesser means spouse to get on his or her feet. A family law attorney can assist couples in alimony negotiations. Settling these matters outside of a courtroom can prevent an expensive and emotionally draining divorce proceeding.

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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law
520 Warren Street
Redwood City, CA 94063

Phone: 650-381-9591
Fax: 650-261-9650
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