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Alimony vs. Child Support: Understanding the Differences

Fri 25th Oct, 2019 Family Law

Divorces can be difficult, which is why having the lawyers of McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, LLP on your side is so important. Our family law offices in Stockton and Central Valley, CA can offer practical advice and guidance during the dissolution of a marriage.

Many of our clients have questions about alimony (spousal support/maintenance) payments and child support payments. They differ in important ways regarding what they cover and whether or not they are taxable or tax-deductible. Let’s cover some of the basics below.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is intended to provide for the rearing of a child. These payments are typically made to the custodial parent to cover the child or children’s living expenses. This includes housing, clothing, food, medical and dental care, school, and so forth.

Child support payments are made until the child becomes an adult or if the income of the custodial parent changes substantially, such as in a major promotion or getting remarried.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony payments are intended to provide for your spouse They help your former spouse maintain a similar lifestyle to the one they had during the marriage. This is particularly important if the spouse was a stay-at-home parent who must now re-enter the workforce.

Alimony is not automatically awarded in a divorce. It must be asked for and negotiated during the divorce proceeding. The payments will last for a specified amount of time, if the spouse’s financial situation chances, or until former spouse remarries.

Can a Spouse Pay Both Alimony and Child Support?


In some cases, a spouse may be responsible for both alimony payments and child support. Courts may adjust the amounts accordingly based on income fluctuations and the needs of a child.

Taxes and Child Support

In addition to who gets supported with alimony and child support, the IRS views these two kinds of payments/income differently.

Since child support is intended to help raise a child, the custodial parent is not taxed for child support income. The parent paying child support cannot deduct the amount of child support paid from their income.

In other words, child support is neither taxable nor tax-deductible.

Taxes and Alimony

Taxes for alimony get a bit complicated given a new federal law that went into effect this year.

For divorces finalized before January 1, 2019, the person paying alimony can deduct the amount of their alimony payments from their income, and the person receiving alimony must pay taxes on the alimony they have received. In other words, before the new law took effect, alimony was taxable and tax-deductible.

For divorces finalized starting in January 2019, alimony payments are no longer taxable or tax-deductible.

Making Adjustments to Alimony and Child Support

If you or your spouse’s financial situation changes, it is possible to adjust the amount of alimony or child support received. This can be negotiated or mediated outside of court, or it could be presented in court if an agreement cannot be reached. The adjustments could be for either higher or lower payment amounts.

Collecting Unpaid Alimony and Child Support Payments

When alimony or child support is delinquent, it’s important to go to court to help recover the back payments. The delinquent alimony or child support can then be taken from the deadbeat spouse’s wages, property, and so forth.

Contact Skilled Divorce Attorneys

To learn more about alimony, child support, and other matters related to a divorce, be sure to contact our law firm. The offices of McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, LLP in Stockton and Central Valley can be reached by phone at 209-477-8171.

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