Alimony and Child Support; Five Basic Facts

  • 1. Who? Child Support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the benefit of the children. Alimony is paid to a former spouse, typically of a long term marriage (ten years or more) where a disparity of income exists;
  • 2. What? Child Support is not taxable to the recipient nor tax deductible for the paying party. It is intended to be applied toward the care, support and maintenance costs incurred with respect to the minor children born of the marriage. Alimony is considered income for the recipient, therefore taxable for the recipient and tax deductible for the payer. Alimony is paid so to allow the receiving spouse to maintain a lifestyle similar to that enjoyed during the marriage;
  • 3. Why? Child Support is based on the premise that both parties continue to be responsible for the children post divorce; thus a portion of the non-custodial parent’s income is transferred from his or her household to that of the children’s primary residence, by way of payments made to the custodial parent. Alimony recognizes that during the course of a long term marriage, parties often make different but equal contributions to the marital enterprise. Perhaps one party was the primary breadwinner while the other maintained a home and raised the children. The idea behind alimony is that one party should not exit the marriage with the capacity to maintain the same lifestyle while the other is designated to substantially downsize;
  • 4. How Much? Child Support is figured with a formula applied to both parties’ income, with consideration given to such things as the cost of health insurance, day care costs, or prior support orders already in effect. Alimony is determined by taking a percentage of the difference between the two parties’ income. When there is a substantial change to one or both of the parties’ earnings, support orders can be adjusted by the Court accordingly;
  • 5. How Long? The obligation for child support ceases when a child becomes emancipated, which means that he has reached the age of majority and  is no longer principally dependent on either party. Typically, a child becomes emancipated either upon reaching his 18th birthday and graduating high school or upon graduation from college or post high school work, but no later than his 23rd birthday. The cessation of alimony cannot be linked to any child related event as its intention is to support the former spouse, not the children. Alimony can end upon the death of either party, the remarriage of the recipient, or as otherwise designated by the parties per their divorce agreement.