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What is Alimony vs. Child Support?

When a couple divorces, the court often has to make decisions about how to split up the couple's assets and liabilities. One of the most important considerations is child support and alimony. Many people are confused about the difference between these two concepts. We will explore the differences between child support and alimony and explain which one is more likely to be awarded in a particular situation.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, also called spousal support, is payments made from one ex-spouse to another after a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to help the weaker financial spouse maintain their standard of living after the divorce. Alimony is generally only awarded in cases with significant earnings disparity between the two spouses.

How Are Alimony Amounts Determined?

There is no set formula for calculating alimony payments. The court will consider a variety of factors when making its decision, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The earnings and earning potential of each spouse
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The custody arrangement for any minor children
  • The standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage
  • Each spouse's financial needs and resources
  • Whether either spouse contributed to the education or training of the other

What is Child Support?

Child support is payments made from one parent to the other for the care and support of any minor children. The purpose of child support is to ensure that the children have the financial resources they need in order to maintain their standard of living. Child support can be based on a number of factors, including the income of both parents, the number of children involved, and the custody arrangement. In most cases, child support is awarded to the custodial parent (the parent with whom the child primarily lives).

How Are Child Support Amounts Determined?

In most states, child support is calculated using a set formula. Child support is generally calculated using a formula that considers both parents' incomes and the number of children involved. However, the court may deviate from the formula in cases where it finds that doing so would be in the child's best interests.

Which One is More Likely to Be Awarded?

There is no hard and fast rule about which type of support is more likely to be awarded. The court will consider all of the relevant factors in each case and decide based on what it believes is in the child's best interests. If there is a significant disparity in earnings between the two spouses, alimony is more likely to be awarded. If the custodial parent has primary custody of the child, child support is more likely to be awarded. Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide what is best for the particular situation.


If you are going through a divorce and have questions about child support or alimony, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney. Chung & Ignacio, LLP can help you understand the laws in your state and advise you of your rights and options.

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