What Is the Difference Between Alimony and Child Support?

When a couple makes the difficult and painful decision to get a divorce, there are a number of financial issues that must be resolved, from the division of marital assets to alimony and child support. If there are children involved, determining child support payments and alimony will be a top priority. While both are support payments and are often made by the same spouse, there are significant differences between the two. If you are going through a divorce, it is highly recommended that you consult with a skilled and experienced divorce lawyer who can help you navigate any and all support obligation agreements.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is a type of support payment that is made from one spouse to another. The purpose of alimony is to provide financial assistance to the spouse who earns less money, allowing that person to maintain the same lifestyle as before the divorce. It is important to understand that alimony is not granted automatically. If you are the spouse who makes less money than your ex, or you did not earn an income because you were a stay-at-home parent, you must request alimony. Oftentimes, the terms alimony and spousal support are used interchangeably, but they are quite different from a legal perspective. Alimony is a series of court-ordered payments that are made for a specified period of time. In New Jersey, alimony payments generally do not last longer than the number of years that the couple was married.    

In order to determine alimony payment amounts, the courts will consider the following factors and more:

  • Both spouses’ income and employment status
  • Both spouses’ living expenses
  • How the marital assets were divided in the divorce
  • The length of the marriage
  • Both spouses’ ages

What Is Child Support?

Child support is also court ordered payments that are meant to support the basic needs of the children, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care. Child support payments are made by the non-custodial parent to help the custodial parent with the costs associated with raising the children. Unlike alimony, child support is generally granted automatically to the parent who earns less money and who spends more time with the children. Child support payment amounts are determined by the following factors, among others:

  • The gross income of both parents
  • The amount of time and the children spend with each parent
  • Tax deductions that both parents can claim
  • The amount of money that each parent pays towards health insurance, union dues and pensions
  • Childcare costs paid by each parent

The main difference between alimony and child support is the intended purpose of the support payments. Whereas alimony is intended to help a spouse maintain their standard of living, child support benefits the children and ensures that their needs are met.

Another key difference between the two is how the payments are taxed. If you are responsible for making alimony payments to your ex-spouse, those payments are tax-deductible, which means that you can deduct the amount you paid in alimony from your taxable income. However, if you receive alimony payments, you must claim them as taxable income. Child support payments are also not considered taxable income for the parent who receives those payments, since it is intended to benefit the children.

Somerville Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Represent Clients Who Are Going Through a Divorce

If you have made the difficult decision to end your marriage, our experienced Somerville divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. will assist you with every step of the divorce process, ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the divorce process. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.