What Does “Standard of Living” Mean for Alimony?

What Does “Standard of Living” Mean for Alimony?Getting a divorce isn’t easy or enjoyable, and it often means a huge change in your life. No longer do you share bedrooms, houses, cars, or income; and that can pose a problem. If your partner brought in a great amount of the income, then you may find yourself suddenly worrying about paying bills and buying food. For this reason, it is important that you seek the advice of an alimony attorney. They can ensure that you receive alimony – or compensation for your lost income. It is only fair for you to receive help when everything is pulled from underneath you.

What does standard of living mean for alimony?

The marital standard of living includes the type of lifestyle that you became accustomed to while married, including the comfort enjoyed together while married, and the financial assets and costs of living for the family. Alimony is designed to help you maintain this standard, or a close approximation to it.

When determining your standard of living, courts will look at the quality of the home you were living in while married, how much disposable income was available to you and your spouse, and even the amount of savings the two of you had accrued during your marriage. It will look at your combined income (assuming you both worked) as well as the area in which you live, the taxes you pay, your ability to support yourself without a secondary income, and other socio-economic factors.

How is the standard of living determined?

In the end, you will be assigned a monthly standard of living amount, based on how much you make each month after taxes. So if you and your spouse make $200,000 a year, and you pay about $40,000 a year in taxes, you’ll end up with $160,000 net. Divide that by two, and you have $80,000 per person. Divide that by 12, and your monthly standard of living is – no kidding – $6,666.67. (Please feel free to insert whatever “my ex is the devil” joke you’d like, here.)

Now, if you stayed home and took care of the family and home while your spouse worked, a court may award you this amount in alimony per month, but there are a number of factors that go into such a determination, so you may end up with far less.

Will alimony cover a luxury lifestyle?

It is important to note that if you enjoyed luxury items as a standard of living such as extravagant vacations, expensive vehicles, or unnecessary opulent purchases, you are not typically entitled to receive alimony that would continue to support this lifestyle. This is known as an artificial standard of living.

How do Tennessee courts determine alimony?

Alimony does not necessarily have to be decided in court, as you and your partner can choose to agree to a certain amount yourselves. With no set guidelines, the judge has a lot of say in determining alimony. There are certain factors the judge takes into account when determining an alimony award. These factors include:

  • The age of each spouse
  • Marriage length
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage
  • Each spouse’s expected income
  • What your standard of living was like before the divorce
  • Any health conditions
  • Types of assets
  • Types of debts
  • The reason for your divorce

If a spouse has committed adultery, and it was one of the factors in your divorce, that can affect alimony. So can any prenuptial and postnuptial agreements in effect.

Can I modify alimony after my divorce?

If you have had a significant change in your situation, you may seek to modify your alimony  amount. There are two types of alimony that may allow for modification:

  • Alimony in futuro is payments made to the receiving party throughout the course of their life.
  • Rehabilitative alimony is payments made to the recipient until they are able to support themselves.

According to T.C 36-5-121, to be rehabilitated means:

To achieve, with reasonable effort, an earning capacity that will permit the economically disadvantaged spouse’s standard of living after the divorce to be reasonably comparable to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, or to the post-divorce standard of living expected to be available to the other spouse, considering the relevant statutory factors and the equities between the parties.

However, if you accepted a lump sum alimony (alimony in solido), then the award has likely already been paid, and therefore cannot be modified. Transitional alimony – where the financially disadvantaged recipient may receive payments in order to assist them in adjusting to the consequences of the divorce– may be modified, but only under very specific circumstances. It should be noted that someone can receive alimony in futuro on top of their rehabilitative alimony

When your whole life is flipped upside down because of a divorce it can feel like there is no way forward. Alimony is there to help you get back on your feet, to keep you stable, and to help you live a comfortable life. Talking to an alimony lawyer can ensure that you receive the payments you need so that you can continue living in the way to which you have grown accustomed. At Shepherd & Long, our attorneys will give you the individual and personalized attention you need. To schedule a consultation, call our number at 865-982-8060, or use our contact page. We serve Blount County and East Tennessee.