Are you entitled to keep your standard of living after divorce?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2024 | Divorce

In a divorce, a court often orders one spouse to pay alimony to the other if that other spouse can’t support themselves on their own income. In many of these cases, that support is paid until the receiving spouse has had sufficient time to get the skills, experience and/or education they need to become self-supporting. 

This is the case when one spouse has been out of the workforce for some time or maybe put their career on the back burner while they raised the children or even helped their spouse build their career. There are other factors, like age and health, that may prevent that spouse from ever becoming self-supporting.

In some cases, one spouse is largely, if not solely, responsible for the standard of living the couple achieved. If that standard was far above anything the other spouse could maintain on their own, it can also be a factor in determining the amount of support the spouse with the greater earning capacity has to pay.

What does California law say about “standard of living?”

California law states that a judge can consider the “extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage.” Of course, that standard of living must be real.

That means it can’t be masking hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in debt. It also can’t have been achieved through fraud or other criminality. Some spouses learn only when they divorce and their spouse is required to make full and accurate financial disclosures that there are far more debts than assets.

Even though California is a community property state, that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll walk away with half of your and your spouse’s accumulated wealth. That’s why if you’re the lesser-earning spouse, it’s crucial to focus on your property division agreement as well as potential spousal support when mapping out a sound and comfortable financial future. Having experienced legal guidance is crucial to getting a fair settlement.