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The Relationship between Lifestyle & Alimony

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One of the most common phrases thrown around in a divorce proceeding is the “marital lifestyle” or the “marital standard of living.” It is a phrase that arises often in the context of alimony discussions.

In New Jersey, alimony is governed by a statute N.J.S.A. 2:34-23b that provides 13 points for establishing alimony and the caveat that a judge will also take into account any other issues that are relevant. In these, the standard of living which each spouse is accustomed to is important.

For help understanding these laws, turn to the divorce lawyers at Laterra & Hodge, LLC. We can be reached at (201) 580-2240.

What Defines the “Marital Standard of Living”?

The state does not want a divorce to result in gross inequality or permanent and traumatic changes. Therefore, how you lived during your marriage is taken into account and the court uses this as a factor to decide the support you need to continue living at the standards you are accustomed to.

It is important to establish the marital standard of living in as clear a manner as possible. This can require:

  • The production and filter of bank statements, credit card statements, and receipts
  • The establishment of a spreadsheet, known as a “lifestyle analysis” setting forth how much was spent in various categories, and when
  • The help of forensic accountants to assist in this task

What if My Spouse Cannot Pay the Full Amount?

This is a situation our lawyers see frequently. It is very infrequent that the supporting spouse will have the ability to support the recipient spouse at a level comparable to the marital lifestyle. Simple mathematics dictate that if you take the expenses for a single family unit, and then break that unit into two family units (thereby doubling many of the expenses), but do not double the income to meet those expenses, there will be a shortfall.

In such cases, the supporting spouse’s obligation to support the recipient spouse at a level comparable to the marital lifestyle will be tempered by his or her ability to pay. When the support being paid is not sufficient to meet the marital lifestyle because the supporting spouse’s income insufficient, the door can remain open for a later upward modification should the supporting spouse’s income increase.

The Support to Fit Your Needs

As a corollary to the point above, a recipient spouse is not entitled to be maintained at a lifestyle in excess of the marital lifestyle. If it is determined that a recipient spouse needs $100,000.00 per year to maintain a lifestyle comparable to the marital lifestyle, and a week or month after the Complaint for Divorce is filed the supporting spouse hits the Powerball for an annuity of a million dollars a year, the recipient is not entitled to alimony above the amount necessary to maintain the marital lifestyle just because of the increased ability to pay.

At Laterra & Hodge, LLC, our Hackensack lawyers assist clients throughout Bergen County with the ins and outs of marital lifestyle analysis, its interrelation to terms of alimony and income, and the proofs necessary to establish lifestyle. Schedule your free consultation by calling (201) 580-2240.

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