What is the Difference Between Child Support and Alimony?

Divorce can be difficult, and there are many things to understand. The distinction between child support and alimony is one that many people do not understand.

Although alimony and child support are important financial obligations to consider during a divorce, they differ. You will learn the distinction between alimony and child support in this article.

What is Child Support?

Child support is the amount of money the noncustodial parent must pay the custodial parent for the child’s financial support. Child support represents the noncustodial parent’s contribution to the child’s essential living costs, such as clothing, food, shelter, medical care, and education.

Child support is paid to the custodial parent and typically continues until the child turns 18.

The custodial parent uses child support to cover expenses like clothing, food, healthcare, education, and other essentials. The state determines the amount of child support payments, and child support laws may vary from one state to the next. The amount of child support is determined after taking into consideration several factors. The two main factors are the cost of raising a child and the noncustodial parent’s gross income.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is court-ordered financial support that one spouse must pay a former spouse following a separation or divorce. State alimony rules dictate how judges make decisions regarding the timing, amount, and duration of alimony payments.

Generally speaking, there are three types of alimony:

  • Temporary alimony.

  • Rehabilitative alimony (meant to ease a spouse’s transition to independence).

  • Permanent Alimony.

What is Temporary Alimony?

Temporary alimony is a form of financial support paid while the divorce is pending. Temporary alimony gives additional income to a spouse until they get used to living on one income. Temporary alimony ends when the judge finalizes the divorce.

There are several uses for temporary alimony payments. Nevertheless, they typically assist in supporting the financially dependent partner while they look for work and adjust to their new income level. Temporary alimony payments may cover the following expenses:

  • Mortgage payments

  • Insurance

  • Food

  • Clothing

  • Car payments

  • Educational expenses

  • Medical expenses

  • Divorce cost and legal fees.

What is Rehabilitative Alimony?

Rehabilitative alimony is meant to help a spouse financially until they can sustain themselves financially. To obtain rehabilitative alimony, a person must devise a plan that outlines how the spouse will become financially independent over time.

Rehabilitative alimony plans frequently contemplate a spouse enrolling in college to improve their chances of finding work. Rehabilitative alimony would be paid while the spouse is in school. Before rehabilitative alimony may be awarded, the court must approve the plan.

The approach for rehabilitation alimony may be centered on enhancing prior abilities or certifications. Alternatively, obtaining the instruction, training, or job experience required to establish suitable employment skills may also serve as a foundation. The ultimate objective of the rehabilitation program should be to improve the party’s knowledge or abilities so that they can support themselves financially.

Rehabilitative alimony is intended to assist a spouse who earned less money or stayed home with the children to learn new life skills that will enable them to live independently.

Rehabilitative spousal support can take many forms, such as paying for college or a trade school education or helping the spouse get a license for a particular vocation. You must have a clear strategy and the desire to carry it out if you want to be eligible for this alimony.

What is Permanent Alimony?

After a divorce, one party may continue to provide the other with money through permanent alimony. Permanent alimony, in contrast to other forms of spousal assistance or alimony, is often provided until one spouse passes away, gets remarried, or moves in with someone.

As the name suggests, permanent alimony requires the paying spouse to continue making payments to the receiving spouse even after they retire and begin living off social security.

How Courts Determine If Alimony Should Be Paid

The standards that judges must meet when deciding whether to award alimony in a specific situation and the amount and duration of the payments are laid out in state statutes.

Before awarding alimony payments, judges must determine whether one spouse needs financial assistance and whether the other spouse can afford to pay alimony. Most states include a long list of factors that judges should consider while making that decision. These are frequently the same considerations utilized while calculating the amount of alimony.

How Much Alimony Should be Paid?

After establishing that alimony is warranted, the judge must decide how much alimony to award. Judges are obligated to consider several factors in practically every jurisdiction, including:

  • The income of each spouse.

  • The possessions of each spouse after the divorce.

  • The debts of each spouse after the divorce.

  • The couple’s standard of living before the divorce.

  • Will each spouse be able to afford the same standard of living after the divorce?

  • Each spouse’s health and age.

  • The length of the marriage.

  • How much each spouse contributed to the other’s education, training, or career.

  • Whether one spouse has a diminished earning potential since they spent time away from the workforce caring for the family.

  • In addition, several states allow judges to consider a spouse’s history of domestic violence or other crimes when deciding whether to award alimony.

The court will carefully assess each spouse’s ability to earn enough money to be financially independent.

Naturally, unless a couple is extremely wealthy, it won’t be easy to maintain separate homes at the same standard of living they had while married and living together.

What Are the Differences Between Child Support and Alimony?

Even though both include monetary transfers from one spouse to the other, alimony and child support payments differ significantly in several ways. Several highly significant factors impact the amount of child support and alimony payments.

Child support typically ends when the child turns 18. Alimony payments can last for life, until remarriage or cohabitation, or for a specific number of years.

A spouse who receives alimony can spend the money how the person sees fit. The utilization of alimony payments is not constrained in any way. However, the purpose of child support payments must be to support a child’s upbringing.

Child support payments must be used for the child. If a spouse does not use child support on the child, the court could order a change in the child support amount or hold a parent in contempt of court.

Alimony and child support obligations may need to be modified after the divorce if the financial situation of either spouse changes.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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