The Court has a statutory list of 14 factors to consider in making orders for spousal support. Three of those factors directly refer to the marital standard of living. Specifically, the Court needs to consider (1) the earning ability or each party, (2) the ability of each party to pay support and (3) the needs of each party through the lens of the marital standard of living.
Marital Standard of Living Defined
The marital standard of living is a measure in place to ensure that the “Out-Spouse” (lower-earning spouse) who engaged in domestic duties and childcare (and putting his/her career on hold) during the marriage, is not negatively affected following dissolution.
The Court is therefore forced to consider whether the parties were lower-income, or middle-class, or wealthy in general terms, and—while not the only factor—use that characterization of the marital standard or living to guide how much support will be needed to keep both parties at that lifestyle.
The California Family Code considers that financial circumstances are not set in stone, and fluctuate over time. The Marital Standard of living in calculated by considering the couple’s lifestyle just before the divorce. However, as stated the Marital Standard of Living is only a factor that is considered, and in the Marriage of Rising (1999) 76 Cal. App. 4th 472 the Court ruled that the Marital Standard of living is less relevant with passing time.
Effect of Living Frugally or Extravagantly
The Court in Marriage of Drapeau (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 1086 made an interesting ruling about the definition of the term “marital standard of living.” The family in question spent very frugally, and actually lived considerably below their means, while investing a significant portion of their income. The Court ruled that “Savings & Investments” were a valid category of expenses to consider as part of the marital standard of living, and support for the supported spouse should be sufficient for her to continue making investments as well as paying her living expenses.
The family in Marriage of Smith (1990) 225 Cal.App3d 469 was quite the opposite. The couple went to lavish parties and lived considerably beyond their means. Their extravagant lifestyle was financed by credit they did not have. The supported party wanted the marital standard of living to be maintained and reflected in a high spousal support figure. The Court in that case gave nearly no weight to the marital standard of living, seeing through it as a façade and decided that it would be inequitable to force the supporting party to maintain.
Both Spouses’ Needs Must Be Considered
The big complication that generally arises with support is that there are now two households that need to be supported. This leads to adjustments that can take many forms, whether that means downsizing, or that means a spouse that was not working or was working part-time finds full-time employment to fill the gap. Regardless of what shape that adjustment takes, the Court in the Marriage of Andreen (1978) 76 Cal.App. 3d 667 made it clear that both spouses’ needs and ability to maintain the marital standard of living must be considered. If one spouse is going broke trying to keep the supported party living the high life, that is a sure sign that the marital standard of living was not considered for both spouses. If you find yourself on the wrong side of this equation, it would behoove you to reach out to a Family Law expert for a downward modification of spousal support.
© Alphonse F. Provinziano, Esq.
Get Started with a Free Case Evaluation
Taking action with the right team by your side is critical to the success of your case. Get started with a free case evaluation by calling us at 877-529-7101 or set up a time to speak with us by clicking on the button below.
The unfortunate passing of one parent of a minor child is always an occasion for deep sadness and profound loss. As a parent is the main support for a child both emotionally and financially, it can be devastating to the child to lose such a significant person in their life. Here are the 3 main things that you need to know:read more
A new development in family law this last year is the introduction of Family Code section 3040, signed into law by SB 274. This new law states that a child in California can legally have three parents. Child custody cases may now have to include orders for three parents making the process of defining custody even more complicated.read more
We have had a number of clients come to the firm when something happens with their child’s other parent is not playing by the rules. They realize that they need to enforce a custody order that was made before they moved to California. Although these situations sometimes have a great deal of urgency to them, the good news is that a California court can enforce an out-of-state custody order provided that you “register” the out-of-state order here in California.read more
Regarding the discussion of past case results and client reviews, the same result may not be available depending on the facts of a different case, such as cases of future prospective clients. Past case results and client reviews are atypical. The information on this website does not constitutes a guarantee as to a result. The information on this website does not constitute legal advice and is for informational purposes only. This website does not create an attorney client relationship. Expressions of opinion regarding the quality of representation does not constitute a guarantee and consists solely of the opinion of the author. This website is attorney advertisement.