Understanding the Difference Between Child Support and “Maintenance” or “Alimony”

October 11, 2010 by Maricopa County Court  
Filed under Child Support, Family Court

By Dennis Gac -

When you think of offering money to your ex-wife to help support her in raising your child (or children, dependent on your situation), most people instantly think of the term coined “child support.” Child support is typically paid out-of-pocket by the non-custodial parent out of their after-tax take-home pay. However, many forget to put a different spin on their child support term that can make or break their financial future.

When preparing for court against your ex-wife and her attorney, it’s important to point out that what you are willing to provide to your ex is not exactly child support, but maintenance or alimony. Child support is typically paid to the ex-spouse until the child reaches the age of 18 in most states. Alimony, otherwise known as “maintenance,” is only paid for a certain period of time. Alimony is typically for a short-term period that is defined by the length of the marriage, the employment and educational status of the other party, and the ability for the ex-wife to keep, maintain and hold a well-paying job in the future. Also, another benefit of paying alimony over child support is that it is paid with pre-tax dollars instead of being paid from your take-home pay.

The idea of alimony is to provide financial support for a certain period of time, determined by the courts on various factors, to help the ex-wife figure out financial issues and get back on her feet and back into the work force. It is not intended to be income to the spouse out of spite, or a payment for “emotional damage” done during the marriage–if any.

By understanding the true difference between child support and alimony, you may greatly reduce the amount of monetary support you will be owing to your ex-wife over time, in addition to making your payments pre-tax instead of after you receive your paycheck two weeks later.

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