Alimony and the Marital Standard of Living


Manycouples seeking a Pasadena divorce have questions about how the marital standard of living will affect alimony awards. This is a reasonable concern since monthly living expenses obviously vary from household to household.

California law states that judges may consider the marital standard of living when making awards for spousal support. This means that the judge may consider previous levels of spending on things like clothing, restaurant meals, vacations, and household help when determining the level of spousal support that is appropriate.

Standard of living, as defined In re Marriage of Smith, is “reasonable needs commensurate with the parties’ general station in life.” The important thing to remember is that the expenses must be in line with your actual household income. If you were regularly charging designer clothes and refinancing your house to afford lavish vacations, the court is not going to order the higher earning spouse to borrow money to continue to finance this type of behavior.

Unfortunately, the law does not actually guarantee that you'll be able to maintain the same standard of living you had before your divorce. It only requires that spousal support be set at a level that maintains the marital standard of living if the higher earning spouse can reasonably afford the extra expense. If the higher earner’s income is only slightly above average for the state of California, there may be no feasible way for you to maintain two separate households at the same standard of living post-divorce.

If you have children with your former spouse, you should also keep in mind that child support payments do not follow the same marital standard of living rule. The marital standard of living serves as a sort of “glass ceiling” that prevents support payments from rising if the paying spouse’s income grows post-divorce. Child support payments do not use this standard because the law is written so that children may benefit from the financial success of their parents regardless of whether or not their parents choose to remain married.

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If you are in need of legal representation during your divorce, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at Our Pasadena divorce attorneys are eager to advocate for your needs throughout the settlement process.