Marital Standard of Living (MSOL)
MSOL, or “marital standard of living” is one of thirteen (13) factors set forth in California Family Code � 4320 to determine spousal support.
MSOL describes the parties’ lifestyle during the marriage. Were they extragavant or frugal? Generous or frugal? In general, the courts calculate this using the expenses of both parties during marriage – of significance, the final years prior to separation.
In general, any spousal support (alimony) ordered must be sufficient to keep both spouses in the “standard of living established during the marriage.”
HOWEVER, divorce effectively DOUBLES expenses (go from 1 to 2 households). So the idea that both spouses are able to live at MSOL post-marriage is ambitious, unless one or BOTH are earning more after the marriage. Thus, MSOL is probably the most relevant in modification.
Must Be Reasonable
Keep in mind that spousal support must be reasonable. If the parties spent more than they earned during the marriage, the marital standard of living was unreasonable. In that case, the payor should argue that support be set at actual income rather than standard of living.
Cap to Post-Separation Spousal Support Modification
MSOL should provide a cap for post-separation modifications of spousal support. As stated above, in a divorce, it is common that NEITHER party will be able to live at marital standard. This is true both for the payor of support, as well as the recipient. There isn’t enough money to go around unless one or both parties make more money.
However, if the payor earns more post-marriage, the recipient may be able to request a modification to meet the marital standard.
NOT a Cap to Post-Separation Child Support Modification
Your children are always entitled to live at your current standard. They are never capped to the “marital” standard.
Thus, the MSOL will have NO effect on child support modifications.
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