As part of your financial disclosures, the court requires you to provide your monthly living expenses/budget to show whether you make more or less than you spend each month.
How do my expenses affect my case?
This shows the court and your spouse what your need for support is. Child support is based on a mathematical calculation that takes into account how many children you have, how much time you and your spouse have with your children, and both you and your spouse’s income and tax deductions (more on that here). Permanent spousal support (which is support, or “alimony”, paid after your Judgment is entered), on the other hand, is based on a number of subjective factors, including, among other things, your (or your spouse’s) need for support (these factors are laid out in Family Code Section 4320; more on that here).
What are these expenses compared to?
One phrase that comes up often is the “marital standard of living”. This refers to the costs of your living expenses and your spending trends during marriage, like your mortgage or rent payments, as well as vacations, cars, education/tuition, etc. One of the difficulties with this concept is that it’s financially impossible to support two households at the same standard as one without increasing your expenses. Suddenly, you’re each paying your own mortgages or rent and utilities; even food costs tend to be more than 50% of your costs living together.
In your financial disclosures, you’ll be asked to provide information about your living expenses – either your current expenses, or “proposed” expenses. If you or your spouse has moved out, but you don’t have enough income to support yourself at (or close to) the marital standard of living, you may choose to use proposed expenses rather than your actual expenses – this would allow your spouse and/or the court to compare how much money you have and how much money you need. In either case, your income will be compared to your living expenses to evaluate a) you or your spouse’s need for spousal support (i.e., how much less your earnings are than your living expenses), and/or b) you or your spouse’s ability to pay spousal support (i.e., how much greater your earnings are than your living expenses).
What if we’ve already agreed on support?
Even if you and your spouse have agreed to a spousal support amount (or to “terminate”, or end, spousal support), this step is legally required by the court in every divorce. Again, you’re signing these forms under penalty of perjury, so it’s very important to be as accurate and honest in this section as you can.
If you have questions about reporting your living expenses, or what effect they might have on your case, contact us and we can connect you with an attorney to discuss this further.