Maryland/DC High Net Worth Divorces: What is “Standard of Living?”

expensive mansion with pool and dock

When considering an award of alimony – or spousal support – Maryland and DC courts will evaluate and consider many factors including the “standard of living” of the spouses in question. See, for example, See Md. Fam. Law Code, § 11-106(b).

In that statutory provision, there are about eleven other factors that courts are to consider when determining the amount of alimony. For the standard of living factor, the general idea is that, post-divorce, the spouses should continue to have a living standard to which they have been accustomed while being married. Particularly in high net worth divorces, this factor may lead to a higher award of alimony because, often, one spouse either has no earnings or has substantially less earnings than the other. Through an award of alimony, the court will try and allow both spouses to continue living an “affluent lifestyle.” Note that this factor is just as applicable to same-sex divorces as for opposite-sex divorces.

So, how is “living standard” shown for the court? Essentially, the standard of living for the couple is shown by providing admissible evidence to the court. This is done by the experienced Maryland/DC divorce attorneys retained by the respective spouses. Evidence may be presented to a divorce/family law court through live-witness testimony, through documents with the proper foundation and/or through the testimony and reports of expert witnesses. One or all of these may be used to provide evidence to the court of the couples’ standard of living.

Of course, both spouses will be permitted to provide evidence. Typically, the spouse that is likely to be the “alimony-paying” spouse will attempt to show a modestly affluent lifestyle while the “alimony-receiving” spouse will want to show as high a standard of living as possible. Ultimately, the judge makes a determination of what the evidence shows.

Evidence of a high standard of living can be shown by many different facts and circumstances. For each, it may be useful to provide evidence of the thing or happening and also evidence of the cost associated with it. Examples include:

  • The size and opulence of the marital home
  • Existence, use and opulence of vacation and other homes
  • Vacations – the frequency and costs of
  • Furnishing of homes
  • Types and expense of automobiles and other vehicles including boats and yachts
  • The quantity, quality and cost of luxuries like jewelry, furs and clothing
  • Memberships in country clubs, high-end fitness centers, sports clubs, polo clubs and the like
  • Quality and frequency of dining experiences
  • Quality and cost of food and beverage consumable such as food, wines, fine liquor and more
  • Evidence of purchase and use of other luxuries such as high-end tobacco
  • Existences of staff like house cleaners, chefs, drivers and whether they live in-house or not
  • Quality and quantity of luxuries provided for children including schooling
  • Quality and quantity of luxuries provided for pets including the existence of unusual pets like horses
  • Shopping habits and expenses related thereto
  • Entertainment habits and expenses – including expenses related to hobbies
  • Entertainment (like parties) provided to friends, family, business associates and others – including details with respect to what was part of the party and costs – for example, were their fireworks?
  • Gifts given by the spouses to each other, to family members and to others
  • And more

Maryland and D.C. Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

For more information, contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and D.C. divorce, family law and estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. We have the experience and expertise you need. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280.

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