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San Jose Divorce Attorney > Blog > Divorce > The Court Cannot Order Your In-Laws to Continue to Bankroll Your Lavish Lifestyle After Your Divorce

The Court Cannot Order Your In-Laws to Continue to Bankroll Your Lavish Lifestyle After Your Divorce


If a married couple lives beyond their means, it is no one’s business but their own.  If they file for divorce, though, all their unsustainable spending habits come out in the wash.  California law requires former spouses with a large disparity to pay spousal support to the disadvantaged spouse in an amount that would maintain them at a standard of living similar to what they enjoyed during the marriage, but what if that standard of living was all an illusion?  If you see pictures on social media of a couple living a flashy lifestyle, chances are that they can’t afford it.  In divorce court, the couple must divide their marital debts as well as their marital assets.  The court can only base spousal support on reliable sources of income, not on the money your ex-spouse used to get from their parents just by fluttering their eyelashes and asking nicely.  If you and your spouse relied on support from your in-laws during your marriage, the gravy train may be over for both of you when you divorce, but a San Jose divorce lawyer can ensure that you get a fair spousal support arrangement.

Trust Income Counts When Calculating Spousal Support, but Gifts from Parents Do Not

Fred and Kate lived well beyond their means for the 20 years they were married.  Kate worked in retail before she married Fred, but during their marriage, she was a stay-at-home parent to their three children, the youngest of whom reached adulthood shortly after their divorce became final.  Fred’s great-grandfather had been a successful entrepreneur, and Fred worked for a newspaper, earning a middle-class salary.  Meanwhile, Fred’s wealthy parents funded a luxurious lifestyle for Fred, Kate, and their children.  They gave each family member cash gifts in the greatest amounts the annual gift tax exclusion would allow, but beyond that, they paid the children’s private school tuition and gave Fred money whenever he asked for it.

When Fred and Kate divorced, the court awarded Kate long term Spousal Support because of the length of the parties’ marriage and the disparity in their separate property.  The parties disagreed on how to calculate Fred’s income, on which amount they would base the amount of the spousal support award.  Kate claimed that the large sums of money her ex-in-laws gave Fred were income, but Fred claimed that they were loans which would be deducted from his inheritance if he did not repay them.  The court ruled that it did not matter whether these cash transfers were gifts or loans; it would not include them in the calculation of Fred’s income for spousal support purposes.  It was not possible for the court to order Fred’s parents to give him more money, so the parental cash transfers did not count as income.  The court only counted employment income, plus the monthly distributions Fred got from trust funds belonging to his grandmothers’ estates. (Marriage of Alter (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 718) However, there may be some limited circumstances in which the Court may consider consistent and regular gifts of money as income, the gifts from Fred’s parents were not consistent enough to qualify for this very limited exception.

Let Us Help You Today

A San Jose divorce lawyer can help you rebuild your life after the dissolution of a marital lifestyle no one can afford.  Contact Foster Hsu for help.



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