The court’s decision in awarding permanent spousal support is based on the standard of living established during the marriage. The marital standard of living refers to the general station in life the parties enjoyed during their marriage. The law does not provide a formula for determining the marital standard of living. It may be determined from the parties’ average income over a period of time or from their expenditures.
The court weighs the marital standard together with the other factors previously discussed here. It is a reference point against which the court weighs the other statutory conditions. The duration and amount of spousal support are within the court’s discretion, based on what is required to maintain the marital standard of living.
The income of a high-earning spouse can be considered with respect to the ability of that spouse to pay support. However, the mere fact that a spouse earns a high amount does not entitle the supported spouse automatically to a higher amount in the support order.
If a family’s standard of living was low compared to the available income during the marriage, the court can set spousal support at a level above the parties’ actual standard of living during the marriage.
Findings: Mandatory and Discretionary
The court is mandated to make specific factual findings with respect to the parties’ standard of living during the marriage. The court will also make a specific finding and state if the amount ordered for support is sufficient or not sufficient to meet the reasonable needs of the supported spouse.
As a rule, the court’s findings should be specific enough to be helpful in subsequent modification or appellate proceedings. When the parties are represented by counsel, courts are encouraged to make specific findings.
However, if the parties represent themselves and are unfamiliar with legal terminologies, it would be sufficient to refer to the standard of living as upper, middle, or lower income.
If one of the parties requests it, factual findings on all other circumstances used as basis for the support order can be included.
Statement of Decision
A party may request the court to include a statement of decision in an order modifying, terminating, or setting aside a support order.