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How Are Alimony and Child Support Different?

A divorce often involves resolving numerous financial issues, such as taking ownership of the marital home and paying off debts accrued during the marriage. One of the biggest questions is whether one spouse will be entitled to alimony and/or child support. If you are receiving or paying support, you should understand the difference between alimony and child support. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you avoid costly mistakes. 


New Jersey Courts are authorized to make decisions regarding child support and alimony (among other issues) as part of a divorce.  


What is alimony? 


Alimony is an amount paid by one spouse to another following a divorce. Alimony payments are generally ordered for a specific period or until the spouse receiving support remarries or one of the spouses dies. Generally, alimony is intended to help the spouse receiving it maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to during the marriage. 


Who pays alimony? 


Either spouse can request alimony. An important reminder is that alimony is gender neutral.  Meaning the wife is not automatically entitled to it and the husband is not automatically required to pay.  You may be surprised to know that some women believe they can’t or shouldn’t be required to pay alimony because they are the wife, and some men believe they won’t or can’t receive alimony because they are the husband.


How can I get alimony? 


It is not an automatic right to receive alimony.  It must be requested by the spouse who needs it, and the Court considers the 14 statutory factors to determine if it is appropriate, and if so, how much and for how long.   


What is child support?


Child support is the non-custodial parent’s legal financial obligation to the child(ren).  


Who pays child support? 


Child support is usually paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent.  Child support pays for food, clothing, medical care, housing, and other necessities for the child.


How child support payments are determined


New Jersey child support is calculated according to the New Jersey child support guidelines.  It is a computer program that, after certain information is put into the system, calculates what New Jersey laws say is an appropriate financial obligation for the child.  The two things that impact child support the most are 1) the income of the parties (the more that the non-custodial parent earns compared to the custodial parent, the higher the non-custodial parent’s child support, and vice versa); and 2) the number of overnights each party has with the child  (the more overnights that the non-custodial parent has, the lower the non-custodial parent’s child support, and vice versa).  There are also several credits and deductions the parties are entitled to.


Are there tax implications of alimony and/or child support?


As of January 2019, alimony is no longer deductible for federal tax purposes by the paying spouse (or required to be reported as income for the receiving spouse).  However, it is still taxable to the receiving spouse and deductible by the paying spouse for NJ tax purposes. Child support is not deductible or taxable to either spouse for state or federal tax purposes. 


The importance of seeking legal advice


New Jersey's child support and alimony laws can be difficult to understand.  As a result, you should have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side, who can provide advice on how to request and pay alimony as well as child support.


Since these situations may be stressful for my clients, I strive to provide them with the best service and guidance possible. If you are reading this and have questions about divorce, don't go it alone. Call my office to schedule a free 20-minute call with me to discuss your divorce case.


The contents of this blog entry are provided for informational purposes only.  You should consult with an attorney to determine how the law applies to the facts of your particular case.  Reading this blog entry does not create an attorney-client relationship with Kelly McGriff.


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