When a court is determining child maintenance and spousal maintenance at a trial the judge will usually defer to the Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines to determine the appropriate amounts.
If there is an interim application to obtain an order which will be in place until the trial is heard the judge will consider the guidelines but also the “needs” and “means” of the parties. How much child maintenance or spousal maintenance is needed and how much can the payor spouse afford to pay?
The needs and means test is also employed if the payor spouse has an income over $150,000 for child maintenance and over $350,000 for spousal maintenance.
In order to assess the needs and means of the parties they are required to list their monthly living expenses and the expenses of the children. This exercise can be difficult as many expenses are quite arbitrary especially in high income families. A judge is required to assess what are reasonable living expenses given a particular family’s needs and ability to pay these expenses.
An extreme example of how unreasonable expenses can be appeared in a decision in the U.K. where the wife claimed a $20,000/year wine allowance. The judge estimated that at $75.00 a bottle she would have to consume 1,500 glasses per year. The judge reduced the wine allowance and noted in his judgement that the wife also claimed $10,000/year for an Uber allowance.
Deborah A. Todd