By Ron J. Anfuso, CPA, ABV, CFF, CDFA, FABFA*
In California, the marital standard of living is usually determined by the actual income and expenditures of both parties. However, in some cases, calculations may turn out exceptionally high because both parties lived beyond their means or one of the individuals continually worked excessive hours. When it is clear that the couple lived above its means, the Court will likely establish the spousal award on the income of the parties, as opposed to basing the amount on their spending.
But, how about when the Court considers one of the party’s working hours extreme? In such cases, expect the Court to establish the standard of living based on what would be considered reasonable human pace.
The Court may also consider that the parties lived modestly, perhaps focusing more than “normal” on investing and saving. In these instances, the Court may choose a standard that takes these habits into account.
So, what does the court consider to be evidence of standard of living? Courts take numerous circumstances into consideration. Some factors which the Courts commonly use include the following:
• Stocks, bonds and investments
• Special needs of parents and children
• Value of personal property
• Debts and outstanding loans
• Vehicles owned
• Whether children attend private school
• Profit sharing, pensions and retirement accounts
• Social memberships (country clubs, etc.)
• Types of vacations taken
• Ownership of vacation homes
• Donations and contributions
• Sources of unearned income (i.e., rental properties)
• Valuable items and collectibles
This is not an exhaustive list. If you have questions concerning determining marital standard of living, no matter how complex, call me or take a moment to post your query below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.