Discover what a judge considers when establishing the suitable amount of alimony one spouse is required to pay to the other.
Comparative to child custody cases—where judges are required to choose which parent a child will reside with—setting an alimony amount is a walk in the park. Each state has a statute mandating what factors need to be considered in setting alimony.
To put it simple, when setting the amount of alimony required to be paid, courts consider:
- how much money each individual could logically earn each month
- what the logical expenses will be for each of one them, and
- if an alimony granted from one to the other would make it feasible for each to move forward with a lifestyle moderately close to what the spouses had prior to them splitting—referred to in divorce law as “the standard of living established during the marriage.”
As is many times the case, when there is not enough money for making it possible for the individuals to restore something close to the marital standard of living, then a lot of judges are going to look for ways to make the divorcing spouses share the financial burden equally.
For instance: The math works out like this in a common alimony case. Perhaps a husband that files for divorce earns $5,000 a month. His wife is a stay-at-home mom with three younger children and receives no income. Using their state’s procedure, she’s entitled to $1,650 child support each month. But she persuades the judge that her total lowest level requirements, including the house payment, are $2,200. When the judge is persuaded her budget is sound and that her husband is able afford it, she would be awarded $650 in spousal maintenance: $2,200 minus $1,650.
Are Savings Part of a Standard of Living?
In a lot of states, the law declares when setting alimony, the judge needs to determine how much support it would take each of the parties “to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage.” This can bring up questions concerning how a court needs to set and assess a certain standard within the “standard of living.”
For instance, think about the married couple that agreed that it was vital to put a generous amount of their income into a savings account. Now that they are getting a divorce, should that routine be determined to be a part of their standard of living? Courts in California, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin have affirmatively answered that question. Courts in Florida and Hawaii have discovered it to be the opposite.
In one of the California outcomes, the court noted that: “We fail to see why Wife should be deprived of her accustomed lifestyle just because it involved the purchase of stocks and bonds rather than fur coats.” (In re Marriage of Winter, 7 Cal. App. 4th 1926 (1992).) Addressing the case of the supported spouse, the Hawaii court considered that “the ability to continue to save and build up one’s net worth is not a valid standard of living consideration justifying the award of increased alimony/spousal support.” (Kuroda v. Kuroda, 87 Haw. 419 (1998).)
The Outcome: The courts in your state might or might not have taken a position on this and many comparable questions. There’s plenty of room for disputes. Discover your state’s stand, either through an attorney or by yourself. Subject to what you find, it may be wise to retain an experienced family law professional for representing you.
The 40 Percent Rule
The Underemployed Spouse
Alimony is typically based on each spouse’s reasonable earnings. If someone intentionally earns less, the court may impute income for support.
In such cases, the individual must provide evidence justifying the job change. A therapist may testify to support the need for the switch. The recipient may argue that reduced support impacts their lifestyle. Court decisions depend on state alimony laws and the court’s assessment of the supporting spouse’s sincerity.
Roderic Duncan, J. (2018, September 19). How a judge decides the alimony amount. www.divorcenet.com. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/divorce-judge/how-judge-decides-alimony-amount.htm.