What Does Marital Standard of Living Mean?

A gold wedding band sits on top of the definition of divorce in a dictionary

In any case involving alimony, the term standard of living, will come up before the court or during the negotiation process. Therefore, it is important to flesh out this critical element of an alimony award and properly understand its definition in order to apply it to your specific case. Discuss with your attorney your need for alimony, and the standard of living established during your marriage.

Florida Statute 61.08 governs all alimony awards. As prescribed, the court must first determine if there is an actual need for financial support as well as a respective ability to pay. After this initial determination, in order to fix a proper alimony award, the court looks to a number of different factors. However, the first factor considered by many courts is the standard of living established during the marriage. This element may encompass numerous different elements of the financial habits of the spouses during their marriage and therefore, should be an element significantly discussed between you and your attorney.

Generally, marital standard of living is considered to be the lifestyle history of the parties; including their purchases and expenditures on luxuries and basic necessities, during the course of their marriage. This may include the number of vacations the parties would go on, the type of houses they lived in, the number of times they indulged in lavish purchases, the type of clothing bought, the location of the marital residence, the education choices of the children, or any other expenditures the couple would regularly engage in during the course of their marriage. This is the average and baseline regular spending habits of the parties. Most likely, the courts can find evidence of the standard of living enjoyed by the parties through the bank account statements and regular purchases made.

When the standard of living is taken into consideration for an alimony award, the goal of the court is to allow the parties to maintain the same standard of living previously enjoyed, if financially feasible. However, this is usually unlikely as they will now be split into two separate households rather than one. Therefore, the standard is required to be viewed in relation to the current financial resources of the parties. Laz v. Laz, 727 So.2d 966,966 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998). But if the court finds that one party is capable of providing the standard of living established during the marriage for both parties, it is required that it be afforded not just to a single spouse, but rather both. Atkins v. Atkins, 611 So. 2d 570, 573 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992). However, if the standard of living established during the marriage was obtained at the expense of incurring significant debts, this standard will likely not be considered by the court in their evaluation of alimony. Demont v. Demont, 67 So. 3d 1096 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011). Rather, the court will look to the actual income of the parties in respect to the amount spent. Finally, the standard of living element does have different weight depending upon the length of the marriage. With a long-term marriage, the court has more deference to consider the standard of living established than in a short term marriage, where the court will consider it even less of a factor. Pollock v. Pollock, 722 So. 2d 283, 285 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998) and Green v. Green, 672 So. 2d 49, 51 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996).

Alimony is a large factor in many divorce cases, and can be the foundation for an individual to build their financial stability on when entering their single life. Therefore, the elements considered by the court in an alimony award are critical to understand and the standard of living is just one of those. Therefore, it is important to employ the aid of an experienced lawyer to assist you in your case and protect your rights and financial security moving into this new life.

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