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Marital standard of living and spousal support

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2023 | Family Law

It’s not uncommon for a married couple to rely more heavily on one spouse’s income than the other’s. One spouse might have a high-paying occupation that can fund a very comfortable lifestyle. Meanwhile, the other may contribute to the family by caring for the children and home or helping their spouse manage their life and career. When one spouse earns a considerable amount, the other may opt to embrace the freedom to work in a lesser-earning but more fulfilling career or even devote their time to volunteer work.

If you’re the lesser-earning spouse in any of these scenarios, you may be concerned that your divorce will have a serious impact on your lifestyle – even if you’re still able to support yourself solely on your income. Even in a community property state like California, a lesser-earning spouse can risk a financially insecure future after a divorce.

As a result of this reality, you may be wondering whether you can seek a spousal support agreement that will take into consideration the standard of living you had prior to the divorce? The good news is that it is very likely that you can.

What does California law say?

Under California law, one of the considerations for determining spousal support is the “extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage.”

Other factors that can be considered include how much the spouse’s earning capacity has been hindered because they “devote[d] time to domestic duties” and/or “contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license.” Of course, other factors like the length of the marriage, the health and age of both spouses and any dependent children are also considered.

Unless it’s determined during the financial disclosure process that a couple’s standard of living was “artificial” (for example, built on a mountain of loans, credit card debt or fraud), a spouse has the opportunity to make the case that they have a right to continue living in a style to which they’ve become accustomed. Having sound legal guidance can help you make that case, if doing so is appropriate under the circumstances.