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A Divorce Court May Choose to Calculate Marital Standard of Living Based on the Combined Marriage Income Versus Community’s Expenditures

The parties elected to divorce after their 22-year marriage. The couple had two children, the oldest son was 19 and lived with father and the younger son was about to turn 18 and lived with mother. Husband was an obstetrician and had an annual salary of between $322,841 and $444,723. Wife testified that they lived a very comfortable life style. Taking trips, vacations, utilizing first class, and having a housemaid five days a week. Husband agreed to pay wife a temporary amount of $2,000 per month during the term of the proceeding. Wife’s position was that, $2,000 was insufficient to cover the expenses and that she had borrowed $35,000 to pay her expenses. The divorce court ordered husband to pay wife $8,500 per month in spousal support. Wife’s divorce lawyer appealed the decision.

On appeal, wife’s divorce attorney argued that the divorce court erred in calculating the marital standard of living based on the parties’ income during the marriage and not their actual expenditures. The divorce court found that the parties had lived beyond their means and chose to determine the marital standard of living based on the actual income and not the expenditures. The Court stated that it was not an abuse of discretion for the divorce court had ordered a permanent support payment of $102,000 per year with no requirement that wife make efforts to become self-sufficient. Further, the Court explained that if a supported spouse is given sufficient income to maintain the marital standard of living it is permissible that the supporting spouse has a higher marital standard of living than the supported spouse. However, the divorce court made a calculation error in ordering the support award. Wife had claimed expenses of $14,298, however the divorce court re-calculated wife’s expenses finding her claimed expenses to be extravagant and stated that with an award of $8,500 she would have a cushion of $1,500 after meeting her expenses. The wife’s divorce lawyer contended that subtracting the invalid expenses she declared from the $14,298 she initially declared would produce expenses of $9,787, which would not leave $1,500 as a “cushion.” Thus, the Court remanded the case back to the divorce court so they could provide clarification of the intended spousal support order.

In re Marriage of Weinstein (1991) 4 Cal.App.4th 555