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Is my standard of living going to change if I get divorced?

If you're considering a divorce, one thing that may deeply concern you is the thought of spousal or partner support-what was previously called alimony. Whether you'll potentially have to pay your ex-spouse or receive support from him or her, you probably have a lot of trepidation about going forward with your divorce before you know what those future dollar figures could be.

You've lived your lives together a certain way. Will you have to give that up? How many sacrifices will you have to make? Will you need a second job? Will you have to give up your stay-at-home parent role and find work outside the home if the support order doesn't go in your favor? 

There's only so much money to go around

When your divorce case gets underway in the courts, judges will by and large use a formula to calculate a temporary amount based on local court rules. After that, judges in California will consider a number of things to come up with a final figure, such as:

  • How long the marriage or domestic partnership lasted
  • The standard of living each spouse or partner was accustomed to and what amount they will need to have in the future to continue it, if possible
  • How much each person can contribute to maintaining this standard of living, factoring in salary, property, debts, etc.
  • Did one spouse support the other while he or she earned an education or additional career training?
  • Did a stay-at-home parent (if there are children in the marriage) give up professional career goals, income or potential advancement?

Plan ahead for what you will need and want

The list is longer than this, of course, but this should give you a good idea of what type of distribution may occur and what to expect. The process is complicated, and questions about how a divorce will affect your finances add to the anxiety surrounding an already difficult, emotional process.

When the divorce dust has settled, you may find that you need more support, or are able to pay less support than was ordered. You may lose sleep, wondering how you'll afford this new lifestyle as an ex, whether you're the one paying support or receiving it. That often happens, and while it's stressful, it can be worked out. When circumstances change, you can seek to change the existing support order. It's your right. 

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