What is the Difference Between Alimony and Child Support?

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Alimony and Child Support

If during your marriage you and your partner had children, both alimony and child support may be included in your divorce settlement. Alimony, known as a type of spousal support is a financial court-ordered obligation that is doled out to the partner who earns less in income. It can be paid out in payments, like monthly or annual ones, or can be a one-time lump sum. Alimony is given to ensure that the lesser earning partner can maintain the same standard of living and the type of lifestyle they would had they not divorced.

Alimony can be court-ordered during a separation as well, and never requires that you have children during your marriage to receive it. The payments usually end when one spouse remarries, has another child, begins cohabiting with a new partner, or in some rare cases the alimony is actually ordered to be indefinite. These rules vary depending on what state you live in and what the court orders. 

Child support is money paid to the custodial parent by the noncustodial parent. This is because the custodial parent will be paying for the majority of their food, clothing, and day to daycare. The payments usually end when the child reaches either 18 or 21. If the child has special needs, payments may be indefinite. There are several things that differ between alimony and child support besides the different reasons for receiving both. The sole purpose of child support is to help the child and provide for their needs, whereas alimony is meant to help the spouse and provide for their lifestyle.

Child support requires that the children be a result of the marriage, and alimony does not require any children to have been born. Child support can be paid by the lower-earning person to the higher-earning person because it depends on custody and not income. However, alimony is considered a type of income and is taxable and is paid to the lower-earning partner from the higher. If you are late on child support payments, there can be serious penalties like jail time. Missing an alimony payment is not considered to be a crime.

There is also a big difference in how the two amounts are calculated. Alimony determinations rely on the laws of the specific state where the couple lived at the time of marriage.  For alimony to be awarded, most states require that the marriage lasted at least ten years or more. In some cases, where one of the spouses stayed home to take care of the children, it is very likely that they will receive money so they can take care of themselves and the children in a similar way and that they will become the custodial parent. With child support, the only thing necessary to establish is that the couple had children together. If you have questions about a specific case, call an attorney, like a child custody lawyer in Arlington, TX, today for an appointment.

Thank you to the experts at Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, for their contributions to family law.

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