Alimony vs. Child Support – the Unresolved Debate

Alimony vs. Child Support - the Unresolved Debate

Many people understand that after a divorce, one spouse might have to make payments to the other spouse. This is especially true if they have children or were married for a long time. They struggle to come to a mutual understanding while debating on the topic; alimony vs. child support.

That said, people often just see payment and fail to recognize the difference between alimony and child support.

Fading traditions behind alimony

American law has evolved from the Common Law of England, as best described by Sir William Blackstone in the 1700s.

He said that a husband and wife are “one person in the law” and that the husband must provide his wife with everything she needs to survive unless she leaves for another man.

Likewise, parents must provide for the care for their children, and if they refused, the local church government could take the parents’ money and property to pay for the child’s care.

These ideas still show up in the law today.

Alimony or child support

Alimony, also called spousal support, is regular payments paid by one ex-spouse to the other. Typically, even today, alimony is paid by a husband to his ex-wife.

The ex-wife is often a homemaker who supported her husband’s career but did not build a career for herself. So the law assumes that she should not have to suffer a huge drop in lifestyle because of a divorce.

The ex-husband would usually have to pay alimony until his ex-wife died or remarried.

Today, alimony is becoming a thing of the past. People are looking around, and asking “is alimony the same as child support?” The answer is clearly “no.” The law used to assume that a divorced housewife would fall into poverty without support.

Today, women are generally expected to be self-sustaining individuals that carry on their own lives after a divorce in most situations instead of relying on their ex-husband until they die or remarry.

Some states are abolishing alimony.

Others are saying that only marriages over 20 years can lead to alimony. In some states, alimony is only temporary payments to allow a spouse to get back on their feet and maybe get some job training.

Most commonly, judges are left with lots of room to make a decision but are discouraged from making hefty, long-term alimony awards.

Child support obligations remain strong

When we debate on alimony vs. child support, we see both are trending in different directions. Even though alimony if falling out of style, the law still firmly imposes child support obligations.

In fact, child support is easier to collect now in the electronic age and with stronger federal support and cooperation between the states. It is much harder for a parent to run out on their child when they can easily be located online.

Child support vs. alimony

Child support vs. alimony

The biggest difference between child support and alimony is that child support has a clear end date.

Usually, child support is terminated when a child turns 18Some states will impose obligations until the child finishes college. People often ask, “does alimony include child support? The answer is usually “no.”

These are entirely different obligations based on different responsibilities when it comes down to alimony vs. child support.

How much child support and alimony will I get?

Most people going through a divorce just want to know the bottom line.

The answer is usually going to be a lot easier for child support. Virtually every state has enacted a specific formula for calculating child support. Do not forget that whether you are receiving alimony or child support, it has to come from the same place, your ex-spouse.

They can only pay so much before they cannot pay their bills.

You may be wondering, “is alimony included in gross income for tax purposes?” According to the IRS, the law of alimony is changing and while it used to be shifted to the gross income of the spouse receiving it, the alimony deduction has now been repealed and is being phased out.

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