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When a couple enters into a divorce agreement, they need to decide on the division of their combined assets and responsibilities. This includes custody of the children and whether any spouse is entitled to alimony and child support.

Many think these two terms are interchangeable, but they are very different. On the one hand, child support depends on several factors, such as whether the couple has children, the financial capability of both spouses, and the proper environment and circumstances which will give their child or children the best quality of life both parents can afford.

On the other hand, alimony is financial support based on the length of time the couple stayed together, their shared assets, their ability to live independently, and their access to economic resources. When married couples separate, the court can grant either or both of these payments.

Get a Divorce Agreement

Understanding Child Support

The court grants child support to divorced or separated couples who have children who are still minors or require financial support. These funds are obligatory and are solely for the maintenance and care of their children. It covers their education, healthcare, food, clothing, and other necessities.

Child support is often given from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. Even if they have joint custody, parents are still required to make these payments. This ensures that the child will have the same standard of living in both households.

The amount of these payments will depend on the gross income of the parents and the total cost of raising the children. In many cases, parents who earn less or have limited economic means will pay less.

In cases where the custodial parent has no means at all, the non-custodial parent can be required by the courts to provide funds for child maintenance until the children reach adulthood or as legally required.

Either spouse can receive alimony. Even if one party initiated the divorce proceedings, they can still receive spousal support if they have limited resources or there is a history of misconduct or domestic abuse.

How to Determine Child Support Payments

Each state is required by federal law to have guidelines for calculating child support payments. These guidelines affect the total amount of the monthly payment, so the amount depends on where the non-custodial parent resides. However, the specific circumstances of the child and the parent providing the payments also matter.

Some official pages have child support calculators that can assist in this process and give an idea of how much the court may assign to be contributed.

Since both parents are required to provide financial support, state guidelines dictate how much child support payment each parent needs to allot for their children. Child support payments are determined based on factors that affect a child’s quality of life. They often include the following:

  • The children’s needs (education, healthcare, food, clothing, shelter, entertainment)
  • The non-custodial parent’s income and ability to pay
  • The custodial parent’s income
  • The children’s standard of living before the divorce
  • The custodial parent’s standard of living after the divorce

Each parent must provide the court with a detailed report on their financial situation. These include their income, expenses, and other assets and liabilities that contribute to their economic standing.

The court will also consider the standard of living the family was accustomed to before separation or divorce. The court’s goal is to ensure that the children will still have the same quality of life with their custodial parent.

However, parents can also present the court with their own child support agreement. This often requires a judge’s approval to ensure it meets the state’s guidelines and is focused on the children’s best interests.

Understanding Alimony

Alimony is a payment made by an individual to a former spouse after a divorce. It is different from separate maintenance, another form of spousal financial support that is granted when a couple is legally separated but still legally married.

Alimony is meant to ensure that both parties have the resources to meet their needs. It isn’t obligatory, and it can be imposed temporarily or permanently depending on the former partner’s financial circumstances, health, and available resources.

These days, alimony isn’t just for ex-wives. Ex-husbands can also apply for alimony or spousal support or partner support, especially if their ex-wives substantially earn more than they do. Spousal support also works the same for same-sex couples.

Most states have three forms of alimony payments:

  • Temporary alimony (paid until the divorce is finalized)
  • Rehabilitative support alimony (paid until the ex-spouse improves their financial prospects and can support themselves)
  • Permanent support (in cases where the ex-spouse cannot work anymore due to health or age)

Permanent alimony is often granted when couples divorce after a lengthy marriage and one partner has no means to support themselves. They might have been out of the job market for a long time or have reached an age where they can no longer be gainfully employed.

In cases where married couples divorce after a year or a few months, courts often do not award alimony. The courts also consider the standard of living the couple maintained throughout their marriage and whether spouses can still enjoy the same quality of life after the divorce.

What Is Alimony Based On?

State laws determine whether courts grant alimony, the amount of the payments, and the duration of these payments. These guidelines vary in length and amount during and after the divorce proceedings.

However, they all depend on whether one spouse needs support and whether the other party can provide it. Most courts base alimony payments on the following factors:

  • The couple’s standard of living during the marriage
  • The ability of each spouse to maintain a similar lifestyle after divorce
  • The couple’s income, assets, and debts
  • The share of each spouse after the division of their shared assets
  • The earning potential of each spouse or lack thereof
  • The health and age of the parties involved
  • The length of the marriage
  • Contributions each spouse made in the training, education, or career of the other
  • History of domestic abuse or misconduct
  • Other factors the court deems fair for both parties

Courts will often check a person’s claim for spousal support through a vocational evaluator. These evaluators will assess if a person has the capacity to support themselves, or if a spouse is underemployed and has the ability to find work that provides sufficient funds.

In many cases, courts will grant temporary alimony to individuals who are unemployed and need time to find jobs with regular income. Those with part-time jobs may also receive alimony until they find regular work that will make them completely independent.

However, all of this depends on the state where the couple resides. Not all states grant alimony unless the spouse requesting support has proven that they have done enough to meet their minimum needs.

Tax Deduction for Alimony Payments

According to the IRS, alimony payments for divorces finalized on or after January 1, 2019 are no longer tax deductible and cannot be included in tax returns. However, divorces that were finalized prior to 2019 can still file their alimonies as tax deductions provided that they:

  • Do not file a joint income tax return
  • Send payments as cash, checks, or money orders
  • Remit payments in accordance with a divorce settlement
  • Do not share the same household
  • Do not incur liability after the death of the party that receives payment
  • Don’t use their payments for child support or to pay for property

If the receiving spouse sends payments to maintain their property or sends money that wasn’t agreed on in the divorce settlement, it cannot be considered alimony. Non-cash property settlements, child support, and payments that are part of the community income are not considered spousal support.

In these cases, any payments made are not tax deductible and are not considered income for the recipient.

Difference Between Child Support and Alimony

The following table contains a summary of the differences between child support and alimony discussed previously:

Child Support Alimony
Purpose Support and maintenance for the children's essential needs Supports a spouse with limited financial resources
Duration As long as children need financial support

Until legally specified by the court

Until the divorce is finalized

Until the other party finds a stable source of income

Until the other party remarries

Permanent if due to health and age of the other party

Amount Depends on state guidelines and the financial capabilities of each parent Depends on state guidelines and capabilities of each spouse to meet minimum reasonable needs
Taxation Not tax deductible Only tax deductible if the divorce was finalized on or after January 1, 2019

Though both are forms of support, the basis on which these payments are granted are completely different in each state. These guidelines also depend on each partner’s financial capabilities, their shared assets, and how much an ex-spouse needs to raise their children and maintain their quality of life.

Make sure you do research to know how these processes work in your state and follow your local guidelines.

Helpful Resources:

Code of Federal Regulations - 45 CFR 302.56

California Child Support Services - Calculate Child Support

Pride Legal - California Child Support

IRS - Changes To Deduction For Certain Alimony Payments Effective In 2019

When a couple enters into a divorce agreement, they need to decide on the division of their combined assets and responsibilities. This includes custody of the children and whether any spouse is entitled to alimony and child support.

Many think these two terms are interchangeable, but they are very different. On the one hand, child support depends on several factors, such as whether the couple has children, the financial capability of both spouses, and the proper environment and circumstances which will give their child or children the best quality of life both parents can afford.

On the other hand, alimony is financial support based on the length of time the couple stayed together, their shared assets, their ability to live independently, and their access to economic resources. When married couples separate, the court can grant either or both of these payments.

Get a Divorce Agreement

Understanding Child Support

The court grants child support to divorced or separated couples who have children who are still minors or require financial support. These funds are obligatory and are solely for the maintenance and care of their children. It covers their education, healthcare, food, clothing, and other necessities.

Child support is often given from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. Even if they have joint custody, parents are still required to make these payments. This ensures that the child will have the same standard of living in both households.

The amount of these payments will depend on the gross income of the parents and the total cost of raising the children. In many cases, parents who earn less or have limited economic means will pay less.

In cases where the custodial parent has no means at all, the non-custodial parent can be required by the courts to provide funds for child maintenance until the children reach adulthood or as legally required.

Either spouse can receive alimony. Even if one party initiated the divorce proceedings, they can still receive spousal support if they have limited resources or there is a history of misconduct or domestic abuse.

How to Determine Child Support Payments

Each state is required by federal law to have guidelines for calculating child support payments. These guidelines affect the total amount of the monthly payment, so the amount depends on where the non-custodial parent resides. However, the specific circumstances of the child and the parent providing the payments also matter.

Some official pages have child support calculators that can assist in this process and give an idea of how much the court may assign to be contributed.

Since both parents are required to provide financial support, state guidelines dictate how much child support payment each parent needs to allot for their children. Child support payments are determined based on factors that affect a child’s quality of life. They often include the following:

  • The children’s needs (education, healthcare, food, clothing, shelter, entertainment)
  • The non-custodial parent’s income and ability to pay
  • The custodial parent’s income
  • The children’s standard of living before the divorce
  • The custodial parent’s standard of living after the divorce

Each parent must provide the court with a detailed report on their financial situation. These include their income, expenses, and other assets and liabilities that contribute to their economic standing.

The court will also consider the standard of living the family was accustomed to before separation or divorce. The court’s goal is to ensure that the children will still have the same quality of life with their custodial parent.

However, parents can also present the court with their own child support agreement. This often requires a judge’s approval to ensure it meets the state’s guidelines and is focused on the children’s best interests.

Understanding Alimony

Alimony is a payment made by an individual to a former spouse after a divorce. It is different from separate maintenance, another form of spousal financial support that is granted when a couple is legally separated but still legally married.

Alimony is meant to ensure that both parties have the resources to meet their needs. It isn’t obligatory, and it can be imposed temporarily or permanently depending on the former partner’s financial circumstances, health, and available resources.

These days, alimony isn’t just for ex-wives. Ex-husbands can also apply for alimony or spousal support or partner support, especially if their ex-wives substantially earn more than they do. Spousal support also works the same for same-sex couples.

Most states have three forms of alimony payments:

  • Temporary alimony (paid until the divorce is finalized)
  • Rehabilitative support alimony (paid until the ex-spouse improves their financial prospects and can support themselves)
  • Permanent support (in cases where the ex-spouse cannot work anymore due to health or age)

Permanent alimony is often granted when couples divorce after a lengthy marriage and one partner has no means to support themselves. They might have been out of the job market for a long time or have reached an age where they can no longer be gainfully employed.

In cases where married couples divorce after a year or a few months, courts often do not award alimony. The courts also consider the standard of living the couple maintained throughout their marriage and whether spouses can still enjoy the same quality of life after the divorce.

What Is Alimony Based On?

State laws determine whether courts grant alimony, the amount of the payments, and the duration of these payments. These guidelines vary in length and amount during and after the divorce proceedings.

However, they all depend on whether one spouse needs support and whether the other party can provide it. Most courts base alimony payments on the following factors:

  • The couple’s standard of living during the marriage
  • The ability of each spouse to maintain a similar lifestyle after divorce
  • The couple’s income, assets, and debts
  • The share of each spouse after the division of their shared assets
  • The earning potential of each spouse or lack thereof
  • The health and age of the parties involved
  • The length of the marriage
  • Contributions each spouse made in the training, education, or career of the other
  • History of domestic abuse or misconduct
  • Other factors the court deems fair for both parties

Courts will often check a person’s claim for spousal support through a vocational evaluator. These evaluators will assess if a person has the capacity to support themselves, or if a spouse is underemployed and has the ability to find work that provides sufficient funds.

In many cases, courts will grant temporary alimony to individuals who are unemployed and need time to find jobs with regular income. Those with part-time jobs may also receive alimony until they find regular work that will make them completely independent.

However, all of this depends on the state where the couple resides. Not all states grant alimony unless the spouse requesting support has proven that they have done enough to meet their minimum needs.

Tax Deduction for Alimony Payments

According to the IRS, alimony payments for divorces finalized on or after January 1, 2019 are no longer tax deductible and cannot be included in tax returns. However, divorces that were finalized prior to 2019 can still file their alimonies as tax deductions provided that they:

  • Do not file a joint income tax return
  • Send payments as cash, checks, or money orders
  • Remit payments in accordance with a divorce settlement
  • Do not share the same household
  • Do not incur liability after the death of the party that receives payment
  • Don’t use their payments for child support or to pay for property

If the receiving spouse sends payments to maintain their property or sends money that wasn’t agreed on in the divorce settlement, it cannot be considered alimony. Non-cash property settlements, child support, and payments that are part of the community income are not considered spousal support.

In these cases, any payments made are not tax deductible and are not considered income for the recipient.

Difference Between Child Support and Alimony

The following table contains a summary of the differences between child support and alimony discussed previously:

Child Support Alimony
Purpose Support and maintenance for the children's essential needs Supports a spouse with limited financial resources
Duration As long as children need financial support

Until legally specified by the court

Until the divorce is finalized

Until the other party finds a stable source of income

Until the other party remarries

Permanent if due to health and age of the other party

Amount Depends on state guidelines and the financial capabilities of each parent Depends on state guidelines and capabilities of each spouse to meet minimum reasonable needs
Taxation Not tax deductible Only tax deductible if the divorce was finalized on or after January 1, 2019

Though both are forms of support, the basis on which these payments are granted are completely different in each state. These guidelines also depend on each partner’s financial capabilities, their shared assets, and how much an ex-spouse needs to raise their children and maintain their quality of life.

Make sure you do research to know how these processes work in your state and follow your local guidelines.

Helpful Resources:

Code of Federal Regulations - 45 CFR 302.56

California Child Support Services - Calculate Child Support

Pride Legal - California Child Support

IRS - Changes To Deduction For Certain Alimony Payments Effective In 2019