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What is your "standard of living" for divorce purposes?

Divorcing couples and the courts look to the standard of living established during marriage to determine alimony / spousal support and child support. How can you figure out what the standard of living was during your marriage? What documents should you collect in order to show how many assets you and your spouse have and how you used those assets?

A recent Forbes article discussed "lifestyle analysis," or the process by which you can determine your standard of living during marriage. Some things to consider include:

  • Your daily expenses, including food, clothing, entertainment, diapers, etc.
  • Monthly expenses, including house payments, rent, car payments, cable bills, phone bills, etc.
  • Spending habits of both spouses
  • Seasonal expenses, such as holiday gifts and travel

To determine what your expenses and spending habits are, collect and examine your financial account statements, tax returns, monthly bills, brokerage accounts credit reports and other financial documents. Don't only make a record of how much you and your spouse spent each year, but also record what you spent that money on.

By taking the time to thoroughly understand your expenses, you will be prepared to fill out the financial affidavits required by some courts for dividing property and determining support. You may also uncover hidden assets that your spouse intentionally kept from you by concealing them in offshore bank accounts or payments that you didn't know your spouse was making.

It can seem daunting to do a thorough financial analysis, but it is a vital step in any divorce. An experienced divorce lawyer and financial expert can help ensure that you cover all your bases.

Source: Forbes, "Why a lifestyle analysis is critically important for divorcing women," Jeff Landers, Feb. 14, 2012.

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