LUXURY LIFE-STYLE: The "Marital Standard of Living" Should No Longer Be the Standard Used By the Courts to Determine Spousal Support


Living in the lap of luxury while married doesn’t entitle you to the same standard of living when you divorce
The Marital Standard of Living: What to do When You Have No Money
The Marital Standard of Living

Just because you lived in the lap of luxury during your marriage does not mean you are rich and can afford to keep your ex spouse at the “standard of living” the court deems just and proper. A lot of times, people only appear to have a lot of money. And indeed and in fact, a lot of people have no money. They are just making believe.

How do you get the court to understand that the fact that you live in a $3 million dollar house does not mean you have a dime to your name? That is the question. I am not sure I have the answer to that, quite frankly. The reason being that so many people cry poverty when it is time to divorce and in a large number of cases, it is a bold faced lie. They are just hiding their money.

But not in every case. There are many cases where the parties appear to be rich when in fact they live on arbitrage and are leveraged to the hilt. That is to say the bank owns everything and their apparent wealth is just a mirage – the result of their skill of shuffling money from Peter to pay Paul. There was a case like this in UK not so long ago Assoun v Assoun. The husband owned a pricey condo in Lower Manhattan (it was worth over $3.3 million dollars) but he claimed to be dead broke when his wife sued him in the English courts. The judges did not believe him and denied his application to re-open the case and present new evidence of his poverty. But that is not the point.

The point is, sometimes, even when it looks like people are rich, they could just be rich in appearance. Because even if your apartment is worth $3.3 million dollars, if you owe the bank $3.2 million (let’s say you have paid $100,000 on the place) you really don’t have an asset. All you have is debt.

Ditto for cars, furniture, artwork, jets, jewelry, expensive pets, and even businesses. If you have to make monthly payments on any of these things, chances are you don’t really own any of them and the bank does. And so “keeping your ex at the standard of living they are used to during marriage” can be quite an ordeal.

It could even lead to people committing suicide. In fact, it has happened on occasion that a spouse (usually the husband) commits suicide after being ordered to pay his wife money he just does not have.

The question then becomes whether this notion of keeping the ex living at the same standard they were during marriage should even be the standard, or whether it is like condemning someone to debtors prison just because they married someone they loved at the time.

If two people are married and they choose to live a certain lifestyle together which they pay for however they can, that is their prerogative but if that relationship ceases to exist, neither of the two should be forced to keep the other living the same lifestyle. It is a form of slavery, of involuntary servitude. And sometimes it is unjust because the spouse who is the beneficiary can find work to help themselves financially whereas sometimes the spouse who has to pay genuinely does not have as much money as they appear to have.
Courts need to reconsider this “marital standard of living” standard in divorce cases. Both in America and abroad, in places like the UK whose divorce laws often border on outrageous, in my humble opinion.


NEXT UP: When the New York Millionaire Gets Divorced

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