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Differences between alimony and child support

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2021 | Divorce |

When couples with children decide to divorce, they may have questions about alimony and child support. Both provide financial help, but they are awarded for different purposes.


Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is intended to provide a spouse with income. The court will not provide it automatically, but either spouse can request it.

Alimony can help the receiving spouse maintain a reasonable lifestyle similar to the one he or she had during the marriage, provide support while the receiving spouse seeks employment or completes education so he or she can rejoin the workforce. Depending on the circumstances, the court may award it permanently or for a limited period of time.

In determining how much to award, the court may consider several factors. These include each spouse’s income, living expenses, their ages and the length of the marriage, among others. The court may modify the alimony if the paying spouse can demonstrate a material change in circumstances. Usually, this means that the spouse’s income has decreased or increased substantially.

Child support

While alimony is intended for the receiving spouse’s benefit, child support is paid to benefit the couple’s child. The support payments are used to meet the child’s needs, such as food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

The court uses guidelines to calculate child support. Generally, it is calculated by adding the basic child support obligation together with work-related child care costs and health insurance, dividing the total between the parents and then multiplying the total child support by each parent’s share of their combined income.

The calculations and factors for child support and alimony can be complex. It’s important that these are completed correctly and an experienced attorney can help.