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What does “standard of living” mean for you?

When individuals pursue a divorce, there are many terms they might not be familiar with, including “equitable distribution” or “collaborative divorce.” Another common term spouses hear is the “established standard of living.”

Why is this term important, and how does it impact a divorce?

What is the standard of living?”

Put simply, the “marital standard of living” includes:

  • The lifestyle that spouses enjoy during their marriage
  • The comfort the spouses have in their life together
  • The financial resources and living costs for the family

Essentially, the standard of living measures the material aspects of the spouses’ shared life together. For example, when calculating the standard of living, family courts will generally consider the quality of the home, the disposable income available to spouses or even the amount of savings the spouses saved up during the marriage.

Why is it important to establish this standard?

Depending on the length of the marriage, individuals likely grow accustomed to a certain lifestyle – or standard of living. And the goal of a divorce is to maintain that standard as much as possible when spouses legally dissolve their marriage.

That is why, under Virginia law, “the standard of living established during the marriage” is the second factor listed in the elements that determine alimony or spousal support.

Of course, there are several other factors that influence the amount of support an individual might pay after divorce. However, the standard of living is important to ensure:

  1. The change in financial circumstances is not too stark after divorce.
  2. Spouses can become economically independent from each other.

One’s financial circumstances can always change. Therefore, spousal support is subject to change as time goes on as well. However, that standard of living established during the marriage will still apply in these situations – especially if spouses have a considerable disparity in income or financial resources.

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