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Alimony vs Child Support: What is the Difference?

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Divorces come with numerous financial issues. You and your ex-spouse will have to figure out the ownership of properties, paying debts, and many other things. One of the most concerning matters is child support and spousal support.

Child support and spousal support are part of the financial entitlement that comes with separation. Another name of spousal support can be alimony. We’re sure you must have heard of both in different movies and shows.

In real life, the process and decisions are complex. Yet, knowing about alimony vs child support can help you out immensely.

So, without further ado, let’s learn about the differences between the two.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is another name for spousal support. It is a fixed amount one spouse pays to the other. The amount helps the spouse to lead a decent life after divorce.

The alimony decision comes from a judge. A spouse can receive alimony payments for as long as the judge decides. Or the spouse can receive the money till they remarry.

Life after marriage becomes completely different. And divorce can shake your whole world. Alimony is a kind of support that enables a spouse to lead the same life you have been leading before the divorce.

However, if you want alimony payments from your ex-spouse, you will have to file a request for it.

What is Child Support?

The concept of child support is easily understandable from the term itself. Child support is payment made for the child’s upbringing involved in the marriage.

After a divorce, any one of the parents gets custody of the child. And the non-custodial parent is determined to pay child support to the custodian parent.

The child support amount helps fulfill the basic needs of the child. That is until the child is mature or off age. The amount covers food, medical, educational, clothing, housing, and other expenses.

Alimony vs Child Support: The Key Differences

The fundamental difference between the two is their payment purpose. Alimony is paid to one spouse by the other for the spouse’s benefits. On the other hand, child support payment benefits any child involved in the marriage.

But there are more technical differences between the two. Let’s dive deep.

Differences in Tax Treatments

Alimony in Alberta taxes depends on which end you are in. By that, we mean that it is different when you receive or give it.

If you receive alimony before 31st December 2018, the alimony payments can be tax-deductible. But any alimony payments after the mentioned date must be included as taxable income.

But child support is never included as a taxable income. The intent of the payment is the benefit of the child. As a result, the payment is non-deductible for payee parents as well.

IRS Rules

IRS has several rules for spousal support in Canada. You will need to fulfill these requirements to ensure that the alimony payments are tax-deductible. They will also determine your alimony eligibility.

The requirements are:

  • Not filing a joint tax return
  • Making the alimony payments via check, money order, or cash
  • There must be a divorce agreement
  • The payments must be categorized as alimony payments
  • The spouses must live separately after divorce

On the other hand, child support has no requirements by IRS. That is because this payment is non-taxable.

But the custodian parent needs to ensure that the child has needs that require monetary support. This means that the custodian parent needs to prove the child’s dependency to receive child support.

The Determinants

There can be numerous factors for the court to decide on alimony. This can include the following:

  • Income of the spouses
  • The employment situation of the spouses
  • Living expenses of each spouse
  • Asset division during the divorce
  • The marriage length
  • The age of the spouses

In some cases, alimony can be changed after the divorce. If the spouse paying for alimony becomes jobless, they can seek the court to lower the amount. Similarly, if the cost of living for the alimony-receiving spouse rises, the court can mandate a greater amount.

Child support depends largely on the specific law of the state. At first, there needs to be a custody agreement between the two parties. After that, the court will look into the child support law of that particular state.

For instance, you may not receive any child support amount if your spouse’s income is equal. Equally, shared custody will also disallow you from receiving child support.

In some states, child support comes from the total number of children in the house. It also determines the length of which the child support is applicable.

For instance, you may be eligible to receive child support even after your child turns 18. All these largely vary from one state to another.


It is absolutely understandable to be in doubt about alimony vs child support. The differences can still be confusing. In such a situation, the best thing to do is seek the support of a divorce attorney.

Even if you haven’t started divorce procedures yet, an attorney can help you figure out the best way to request or pay child and spousal support.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between child support and alimony?

The basic difference between child support and alimony is quite straightforward. Alimony is a payment made for the benefits of the divorced ex-spouse. And child support payments benefit any child involved in the divorce.

Can a wife get alimony and child support?

Yes, a wife can get both alimony and child support. It is quite common for the husband to pay a support amount to the wife after a divorce. This payment can be child support, alimony, or a mixture of both.

How much alimony does a wife get?

The alimony amount for a wife depends on several factors. They can include the income amount, asset division, pre-divorce lifestyle, length of the marriage, and other things.

How can I avoid paying alimony?

The best way to avoid paying alimony is to negotiate smartly. You can also consider changing your lifestyle and keeping a tab on your spouse’s unhealthy habits. But in the end, it is always best to work it out with your spouse directly.

What is the average child support payment?

The average child support payment can vary from state to state. The divorce condition and agreements can also determine the final child support. Yet, the average monthly child support amount can be around $430.