What Is the Difference Between Alimony and Child Support?

Divorce often involves resolving numerous financial issues, including taking ownership of the marital home and paying off debts acquired during the marriage. Whether one spouse will be entitled to alimony and/or child support may be one of the biggest questions. You should understand the differences between alimony and child support if you are receiving or paying support. Contacting a Prescott divorce attorney is a smart option to avoid making costly mistakes.

A few key points to remember

  • In the event of a divorce, payments for alimony and child support have to be finalized according to family law in Prescott, AZ.
  • The main difference between the two is that alimony pays for the expenses of your estranged spouse, while child support pays for the expenses of your children.
  • Only divorces finalized before Dec. 21, 2018, are eligible for alimony to be tax deductible for the recipient. There is no tax deduction for child support, nor is it taxable income.
  • State laws determine how much child support or alimony needs to be paid. Not sure what that means for you? Contact a family law attorney in Prescott, AZ to learn more.

Child Support vs. Alimony
Alimony and child support differ primarily in their intended use. The purpose of alimony is to benefit a spouse. Among other things, child support pays for food, clothing, medical care, housing, and other necessities for the child.

Who pays alimony?
Alimony can be requested by either spouse. State laws establish how much and who pays alimony based on several factors, including income and expenses.

Who pays child support?
In most cases, the noncustodial parent is responsible for paying child support to the custodial parent.

Child Support and Alimony: Who Benefits?
Often called spousal support, alimony is an amount paid by one spouse to another following a divorce. Generally, alimony payments are ordered for a period of time or until the spouse receiving support remarries. In general, alimony is intended to help the spouse receiving it maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to during the marriage. Alimony is not automatically granted. The spouse in need of it must ask for it. To avoid missing out on the alimony you deserve to receive, contact a family law attorney in Prescott for help. The purpose of child support payments is to meet your child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, medical expenses, and other general expenses.

How alimony and child support are taxed?
Alimony is treated differently for tax purposes depending on whether you pay it or receive it and when your divorce was finalized. Generally, alimony payments made to your ex-spouse before December 31, 2018, are tax-deductible. This means you can deduct the alimony you pay from your taxable income. You must, however, claim alimony as taxable income if you receive it. Once again, this is only applicable if you finalized your divorce agreement before December 31, 2018.

Take note
In divorces finalized after December 31, 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the deduction for alimony payments and the requirement to claim alimony as taxable income. Child support is not considered taxable income for the person who receives it because it benefits the children. The parent who pays child support is also not taxed on the payments.

Alimony and child support rules under the IRS
When it comes to alimony and child support payments, the IRS has several requirements. The rules in this case concern how alimony income is deducted or reported. For child support, IRS rules define who is the custodial parent and who can claim the child as a dependent. A non-custodial parent usually pays child support, and that’s important to know.

Rules For Alimony
For divorce agreements finalized before December 31, 2018, spousal support payments must meet several IRS requirements to be considered alimony and therefore deductible. A seasoned divorce lawyer in Prescott can help guide you through this process.

An ex-spouse must meet the following criteria to qualify for alimony:

  • They cannot file a joint tax return.
  • They must make payments in cash, by check, or money order.
  • Divorce or separation agreements must stipulate that payments are due.
  • Divorce or separation agreements don’t categorize payments as alimony.
  • To receive payments, spouses cannot live in the same household.
  • Should the receiving spouse die, the payments won’t continue.
  • Neither child support nor property settlements apply to payments.

You can deduct alimony payments you made on Schedule 1 of your Form 1040 if you qualify. The form requires your former spouse’s Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number. If you don’t have that information, the IRS may disallow the deduction.

Amounts you receive from alimony are also taxable income, so you need to report them on Schedule 1 of Form 1040. A taxpayer identification number or the Social Security number of your former spouse must also be included.

Child Support Guidelines
Payments of child support are neither tax deductible nor taxable income, so there are no reporting requirements. It is, however, important for parents to take care when claiming their children as dependents on their tax returns.

Take note
For tax purposes, the parent with whom the child lives most of the year is the custodial parent. If the rules for claiming dependents are met, this parent may claim the child as a dependent. It is possible, however, for the non-custodial parent to claim the child as a dependent if the separation agreement or divorce decree specifically allows it. To release their right to claim the child as a dependent, a custodial parent must sign Form 8332.

How are alimony and child support payments determined?
Alimony and child support payments cannot be determined in a one-size-fits-all manner. Both are governed by factors that are taken into account by state laws.

Paying alimony: Factors to consider
Alimony payments can be shaped by many factors, including:

  • Earnings and employment of each spouse
  • Individual living expenses
  • The division of assets during the divorce
  • The marriage’s duration
  • The ages of each spouse

The court can modify alimony payments after a divorce in certain circumstances. For example, if the paying spouse loses their job, they can request a reduction in the amount. In the same way, if the spouse receiving alimony sees their living costs rise, they can request a higher support payment from the court.

What factors determine child support payments?
According to the finalized custody agreement and state law, child support may be ordered, and in what amount. Some states, for example, might not award support if both parents earn similar incomes and share custody equally, while others may determine support based on the number of children in the household and the income of the non-custodial parent.

Based on Arizona child support guidelines, the total support approximates what the parents would have spent on the child if they lived together. This shared income approach requires parents to contribute a proportionate share of their income.

Getting legal advice is key
A divorce attorney in Prescott, AZ can be a valuable source of information if you have questions about alimony and child support. Even if you haven’t initiated divorce proceedings, they can advise you on how to request and pay spousal or child support.

Child support laws in Arizona are designed to ensure that children receive financial support from both parents. With years of experience, our divorce lawyers in Prescott, AZ guide clients through the Arizona court system to get the best results for their child support cases. We work hard to give our clients the best possible service and guidance because we recognize how stressful a situation like this may be. Please get in touch with us right away if you need help with any questions or concerns regarding Arizona’s child support regulations. For more information, click to call or fill out our online contact form.

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