Alimony vs Child Support
The primary fact behinds the difference between alimony and child support is the purpose of the payment made to the ex-partner on the order of the court following a divorce or legal separation. Given the rise in family related issues such as divorce and custody battles, the terms Alimony and Child Support are not unfamiliar to most of us. We hear of these terms quite often. For those of us not familiar with the terms, identifying the distinction between them can be slightly complex. However, the difference becomes evident by a simple understanding of both terms. The concepts of Alimony and Child Support arise when a married couple files for divorce or legal separation. They represent two forms of monetary compensation. Perhaps a very basic initial distinction might help. Think of Alimony as a form of monetary compensation provided to an ex-spouse and Child Support as compensation provided for the support of the children from the marriage.
What is Alimony?
Legally, the term Alimony is defined as a court-ordered payment made by one spouse to the other spouse in the event the couple files for divorce. It is also referred to as ‘spousal support‘ in certain jurisdictions. In most cases, it is the primary provider during the marriage, often the husband, who pays the wife a sum ordered by the court upon divorce, although this may differ from case to case. Think of it as a type of allowance provided by a person to his/her former spouse for the purpose of supporting the basic needs of such a spouse and providing for his/her maintenance. Given that such a payment is ordered by court, Alimony is thus a legal obligation. The court order will stipulate the terms of the payment such as the structure and duration.
Alimony is an important concept in family law because it ensures fairness and alleviates unfair economic consequences that would arise as a result of the divorce. Courts have the discretion to determine what is fair and just based on the circumstances surrounding each case. Thus, there are certain factors that the court takes into consideration when awarding Alimony. Some examples for these factors are contributions and sacrifices made by both parties during the marriage, age of the parties, length of the marriage, their physical and emotional health, earning capacities, education level and skills, employability and many others. The court may award Alimony that is either permanent, temporary or both. Further, such payments may be either periodic payments (monthly payments) or it may be one total payment. The duration of Alimony typically depends on the length of the marriage. Thus, the general principle is that the duration of Alimony is longer for marriages that have lasted a lengthy duration. Alimony is flexible in that it can be changed, modified, or terminated at a later date. Thus, factors such as a rise or decrease in the payer’s income, retirement of the payer, illness, loss of income, or death can be grounds for modification or termination of the payment. As mentioned before, Alimony constitutes a legal obligation and failure to fulfill such obligation may result in legal consequences.
What is Child Support?
As mentioned above, Child Support is a form of monetary compensation given in order to provide support for the child. Traditionally, it is defined as a court-ordered payment made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent of a child born from the marriage upon divorce or separation. It is a financial contribution made by the non-custodial parent to the costs of raising his/her child or children. The concept of Child Support arises when one parent does not have physical custody of his/her child and, therefore, has no part in the daily raising of the child. Like Alimony, Child Support is also a legal obligation. The parent who does not have custody is obligated to contribute to the child’s basic expenses and needs. Child Support is typically provided for day-to-day expenses such as food, clothing, shelter, transportation, utilities, health care, education, and in some instances it may also include future expenses such as medical and/or higher education expenses. Generally, Child Support is provided until the child attains the age of majority (18 years), is emancipated or completes his/her secondary education. The payment ordered by court is typically periodic in nature indicating that it may be a monthly payment or other such similar payment. The amount of the payment made as child support is determined by several factors. For example, the income of both parents, the number of children and their age, amount of expenses, health and educational needs of the child and any other special needs of the child. Given that Child Support is a legal obligation, as with Alimony, failure to provide such support will result in legal consequences.
What is the difference between Alimony and Child Support?
The difference between Alimony and Child Support is thus clear. While both constitute court-ordered payments following a divorce or legal separation they differ in their purpose and nature.
• Thus, Alimony is a form of payment or monetary compensation made by one spouse to the other spouse in the event they file for divorce or separation.
• The objective of Alimony is to ensure that there are no unfair or unjust economic consequences that may arise as a result of the divorce, particularly to one spouse.
• When determining an amount, the court will take into account factors such as the earning capacity of both parties, education level, age and physical health, and length of the marriage.
• In contrast, Child Support is a form of payment or monetary compensation made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the purpose of contributing to the raising of his/her child. This payment is typically periodic and will be determined by the court based on factors such as the amount of expenses, income of both parents, number of children and their age, and their educational/health needs.