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When is a marital standard of living factored into alimony?

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2023 | Family Law

If you’re considering or preparing for divorce in the new year, you may be doing some research on what kind of spousal support you can seek – or be expected to pay. Spousal support (alimony) isn’t awarded, or even sought, in all divorces. However, if one spouse has a considerably lower income than the other, or perhaps doesn’t have their own income, it can be critical to their financial stability after divorce – at least until they can become self-supporting.

You may have noted that one of the many factors that judges can consider in awarding support (or approving a support agreement a divorcing couple has worked out) is the “standard of living.” That refers to the quality of life or lifestyle a person had during the marriage. 

This doesn’t mean that everyone should expect to maintain their marital standard of living after divorce. Unless one or both spouses have considerable wealth, divorce usually requires some downscaling. It’s simply more expensive to live on your own than as a couple. 

What kinds of things do judges consider?

However, there are circumstances where the paying spouse may be expected to provide for their ex so that they can maintain the standard of living they’ve had. For example, if a couple has been married for decades and one spouse left the workforce to raise the children while the other built a lucrative career, the “stay-at-home” spouse may never be able to support themselves for a time — or possibly ever – without their ex’s help.

That’s why judges also consider things like the length of the marriage, the ages and health of both spouses and each one’s earning capacity and assets. They’ll also factor in things like whether the spouse who’s seeking support is the primary caregiver for the couple’s children and how much they contributed to the other’s success.

If divorcing spouses need to rely on a judge to make this decision, it’s crucial to provide a strong case. That’s true whether you’re the one seeking support or the one who believes what your spouse is asking for is unreasonable. This, along with so many other aspects of divorce, requires having sound legal guidance.

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