Alimony and Child Support

Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is the legal obligation of one spouse to support the other following a divorce. Alimony is typically only offered if the marriage lasted for more than a few years — short marriages do not usually qualify. The purpose of alimony is to maintain the standard of living that the lesser income-earning spouse had become accustomed to during the marriage, which typically takes years to develop. The amount of income each spouse earns and the ability of each to earn income is also considered in these cases. Alimony is not indefinite. The alimony-paying spouse may expect to continue payment until one of these events occurs:

  • The receiving spouse remarries
  • The judge sets a cut-off date
  • The judge rules that, after a certain amount of time, the receiving spouse has not made a real effort to earn his or her own income
  • One party passes away

Although alimony payments are enforced less frequently than they had been in the past, they are still common in The United States. Child support, however, is more commonly enforced. Child support is the sum that the non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent to support the needs of the child or children. The amount of child support to be paid involves many considerations. Among these are:

  • The needs of the child, including education costs, day care, health insurance, and special needs
  • Ability of the parent to pay
  • The number of children to support
  • Custody terms (joint custody may make the process more complicated than sole custody cases)
  • Other parties the payer is supporting
  • Amount of alimony already being paid
  • Amount of support needed to maintain the child’s previous standard of living

Like most laws concerning terms of divorce, child support and alimony laws vary by state. When certain factors change, child support payments may be subject to change as well. For example, if the parent paying the child support increases the amount of time the child is in his or her custody, the child support payments may decrease at the behest of a judge to reflect such a change. If the paying parent is laid off, payment may decrease until the payer finds new employment. However, if the parent quits his or her job, payments may remain unchanged. There is a lot to know about alimony and child support. Follow our blog and research the laws in your state for more precise information.