Preparing a Budget
You will need to prepare a household budget to help you and your spouse figure out appropriate support levels. Some people keep track of monthly expenditures with a computer program. Others have no idea what they spend each month. Those who keep records need only add up a year's worth of grocery bills and divide by twelve to get an average monthly grocery expense. Those with no clue need to start keeping track immediately or get the household check registers for the past year or two to develop a sense of household spending.
Even though you may be accustomed to living the high life, this doesn't mean you'll be able to continue such a lifestyle following the divorce. Nearly all divorcing couples must create budgets and alter their spending habits. This will be especially difficult if you are the custodial parent, but it can be done through careful budgeting.
Budgets are important to establish the family's standard of living during the marriage. If your family has sent the children to private schools, taken several vacations each year, or dined out often, these expenditures should be reflected in check registers and credit card bills. If you need to take the issues of child support and spousal maintenance to court, you'll want to show the court the family's standard of living during the marriage. This will have a greater impact in the area of spousal maintenance, particularly if you have been a homemaker. Since child support is largely determined by specific percentages to be applied, standard of living is assumed within the formula. The more you make, the more you will pay for child support purposes.
Use real numbers when you prepare your budget. This is not the time to put together your dream budget. When your budget exceeds your combined incomes, something is not right. Judges go to the grocery store, too. A judge will not be pleased if you pad your budget. She needs you to provide helpful information, and you will get a better result if you do so. Most people forget to include a variety of expenses in their budgets. Think very carefully about your expenses and list everything. People often forget things like cigarettes, cat litter, dog food, flea prevention products, newspaper, haircuts, car washes, and dry cleaning. Make sure you include all of your expenses because even the little things can add up to hundreds of dollars per year.