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What is the Difference Between Alimony and Child Support? (GUEST BLOG)

On Behalf of | May 8, 2017 | Guest Blog

What is the Difference Between Alimony and Child Support?

If you had children during your marriage, both child support and alimony might be included in your divorce settlement. There is a difference between the two, especially because you can be receiving both at the same time depending on the circumstances.

What is Alimony?

As family attorneys Arizona relies on can explain, alimony is also known as “spousal support,” and is a financial obligation that can be court ordered during a divorce.

  • It can be in a lump sum, or made in payments over time, and is meant to support the lower earning spouse during this stage.
  • It can also be ordered in the case of a separation and does not require you to have had children during your marriage to receive it.
  • The payments end typically when the spouse begins cohabitation with someone, gets remarried, or in some cases the alimony is ordered to be indefinite.
  • These rules change according to what state you live in and what the court orders.

What is Child Support?

Child support is money paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent.

  • This is because the custodial parent will be paying for the majority of their food, clothing, and daycare.
  • The payments usually end when the child reaches either 18, or 21 depending on the state, and the court ordered.

Key Differences Between Alimony and Child Support


There are several things that differ between alimony and child support besides the reasons for receiving it. Some of these things include:

  • The purpose of child support is to help the child, whereas alimony is meant to help the spouse.
  • Child support requires there be children from the marriage, and alimony does not.
  • Child support can be paid by the lower earning person to the higher earning person, because it depends on custody, unlike alimony.
  • Alimony is considered a type of income and is taxable. Child support is not taxable.
  • If you are late on child support payments, there can be serious repercussions as missing a payment is seen as a crime in some states. Missing an alimony payment is not considered a crime.

Determination to Receive Alimony Compared to Child Support


There is also a difference in how the two amounts are determined. Alimony determinations rely on the laws of the state where the couple lived at the time of marriage. The idea is to support the spouse so that they can maintain that standard of living while the two are separated.

  • In some cases, where one of the spouses stayed home to take care of the children, it’s likely that they will receive money so they can take care of themselves and the children in a similar way.
  • For alimony to be awarded, most states require that the marriage lasted at least ten years or more.
  • With child support, the only thing necessary to establish is that the couple had children together. This can be before their marriage, during the marriage, or after the marriage, as long as the spouses are both the biological or adoptive parents.

The court is expected to consider what is best for the child, including being taken care of financially so that the child doesn’t suffer as a result of the parent’s divorce. The spouse that primarily takes care of the child will receive support so that both parents are supporting the child and some of the weight is taken off of their shoulders as the primary parent.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hildebrand Law for their insight into family law practice.