Q: On a CIS is the Joint Life Style the average of how we lived or the way we lived at the end of the marriage?
I'm getting divorced. In the final 5 months of the marriage we had moved to an upscale apartment after living in a cheaper one for the other 6 years of marriage.
A: Unfortunately, there is no clean answer to your question. The left column of the expenses section of your CIS is meant to accurately reflect the marital lifestyle. It does not specify what period of time during the marriage should be used to calculate the numbers. That said, the answer should be dictated by your litigation strategy.
If you are the spouse seeking support, you should likely incorporate average monthly expenditures based on the latter five months of the marriage after you moved into an upscale apartment. You might choose this route because you hope to convince the Court to establish your spouse's alimony obligation based on this upward trajectory during the course of the marital relationship.
In fact, there is case law to support such a claim. For example, in the 2011 Chancery Division case of Dudas v. Dudas, the Court held that "New Jersey case law establishes and recognizes the concept of 'momentum of the marriage' as an appropriate legal principle for consideration in an alimony analysis. 'Momentum of the marriage' recognizes the reality that in many instances, one's occupational efforts often start off by yielding small and modest level earnings. However, these efforts may serve as a strong springboard into higher future earnings." Indeed, the momentum of the marriage might continue beyond the final year of the marital relationship. As stated under the 1992 Appellate Division case of Guglielmo v. Guglielmo, "Where a family's expenditures and income had been consistently expanding, the dependent spouse should not be confined to the precise lifestyle enjoyed during the parties' last year together."
If you are the spouse paying support, then you should likely choose to include a longer period of time in the average to decrease the marital lifestyle reflected in your CIS. You might argue that, under the 2000 New Jersey Supreme Court case of Crews v. Crews, "the goal of a proper alimony award is to assist the supported spouse in achieving a lifestyle that is reasonably comparable to the one enjoyed while living with the supporting spouse during the marriage." Thus, a supported spouse should not be permitted to dramatically amend the marital lifestyle based on a mere six months toward the conclusion of the relationship.
Regardless of your strategy, I strongly recommend that you take the matter seriously and retain an attorney. Strategic and aggressive counsel will help to maximize your odds of success in Court. Many of the attorneys here on Justia, including me, would be willing to sit down with you free of charge to explore the facts, explain the law, and address the likely timeline, costs, and range of possible outcomes. Please reach out to one of us.
A: Thanks for a great question. The answer, as with most questions pertaining to family law, is it depends. The joint budget section is supposed to reflect the marital lifestyle as it is or was during the most recent time frame the parties resided together. That being said, the way you present that to the court varies depending on your individual situation.
There are mechanisms outside of the actual CIS to communicate your position to the court, whether that be that the marriage was on an upward trend or that the most recent lifestyle does not reflect the majority of the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.
In either event you should consult with a qualified family law attorney. The lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage, and therefore alimony awarded as result, can be a complicated issue and you want to get it right. The way to get the best possible outcome for your individual circumstances is to retain counsel.
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