What’s the Difference Between Alimony and Child Support?

Alimony and child support are essential elements of family law that come into play when couples with children decide to end their marriages. Alimony and child support serve different purposes. It’s important to know the differences and interplay between them to understand your rights and obligations regarding each. In this blog post, we will explore the unique aspects of alimony and child support under New York law and clear up any misconceptions about their purpose and application. It is important to note that rules regarding alimony and child support differ from state to state, and that this blog applies to New York only.

If you reside in Rochester, NY, and require legal assistance with divorce or child custody matters, contact Thomas A. Corletta, Attorney at Law. With well over 40 years of experience in family law, Mr. Corletta has the expertise and knowledge to help you navigate this complex legal terrain.

Definition & Purpose of Alimony

Alimony, known in New York as maintenance or spousal support, refers to financial support provided by one spouse to the other during or after divorce proceedings. It only applies to married couples. The purpose of alimony or maintenance is to address disparities in income and provide economic support to a spouse either permanently, which is rare, or durationally until they become financially independent. It seeks to ensure that the payee spouse can maintain a standard of living similar to what they had during the marriage, while they become self-supporting.

Factors Considered for Alimony

When determining the amount and duration of alimony or maintenance, New York utilizes a formula, depending upon whether the “payor” spouse is paying or not paying child support. The formula can be deviated from based on a variety of statutory factors, some of which are as follows:
Length of the marriage: The duration of the marriage influences the length of alimony/maintenance payments. Once again, guidelines determine a range of duration, which the Court can exercise discretion in setting.
Income and earning capacity: The income and future earning potential of both spouses are relevant and taken into account by the formula and by the Court.
Standard of living: The standard of living established during the marriage is relevant to maintain a similar level for the payee spouse.
Age and health: The age and health of the parties can impact their ability to become financially independent.

The Court has broad discretion in this area. The formula acts only as a guideline.

Duration & Termination of Alimony

The duration of alimony or maintenance payments can vary based upon the circumstances of the case and the statutory guideline ranges. It can be rehabilitative in nature (to help the recipient spouse become self-supporting), or in some cases, permanent or long-term (in cases of long-term marriages or when other factors warrant ongoing support, such as disabilities or health problems).

In general, the longer the duration of the marriage, and the greater the disparity in income, the greater the alimony payments and the longer they are in duration.

Under changes to the Internal Revenue Code in 2017, alimony is no longer tax deductible by the payor spouse.

Alimony payments can terminate under certain conditions, such as the death of either spouse, remarriage of the recipient spouse, or in some cases, cohabitating with another person and sharing expenses with them. Agreements usually outline when this occurs and should be carefully drafted.

Finally, if child support and alimony are being paid at the same time, if alimony terminates child support will increase according to the formula.

Definition & Purpose of Child Support

Child support is a legal obligation for non-custodial parents to provide financial support for dependent children. It does not depend, like alimony, on whether the parties are married. It is intended to ensure that children receive the necessary support for expenses such as housing, education, healthcare, and daily living expenses. Child support is separate from any alimony or maintenance obligations and is calculated based upon a longstanding formula in New York. The goal is to provide support for children as it would exist in an intact 2 parent household.

Calculation of Child Support

Child support in New York is calculated based upon a formula using the incomes of both parents and taking into account the number of children. The formula amount is rarely, if ever, deviated from, and applies even in “shared” “50/50” custodial arrangements.

Expenses Covered by Child Support

Child support is intended to cover the child’s basic needs, including housing, food, clothing, etc. Additionally, it also includes expenses related to healthcare and childcare. Other states may differ, and usually do. It does not cover private school or college educations unless agreed upon or Court ordered. It does not cover extracurricular activities.

Differences Between Alimony & Child Support

While alimony and child support both involve financial payments, there are obvious differences between the two. Alimony or maintenance is typically paid by one ex-spouse to the other and is intended to help support the dependent spouse or help them become independent. Alimony only applies to married couples.

Child support is another form of support designed to support dependent minor children, whether the parties are married or not.

Alimony generally terminates at some point, except in extreme cases. Child support terminates when the child reaches the age of 21 or become self supporting.

Thomas A. Corletta, Attorney at Law Can Help You Navigate

Understanding maintenance and child support is critical when navigating the legal aspects of divorce in New York, or if unmarried, child support obligations. If you need further guidance, you should seek the assistance of an experienced attorney, such as Thomas A. Corletta, who has 43 years experience in family law matters in Rochester, NY.

With his extensive experience and comprehensive understanding of the legal principles involved in alimony and child support cases, Mr. Corletta can provide the guidance and support you need during this challenging time. Whether you require assistance in negotiating fair alimony/maintenance amounts or resolving child support issues, Thomas A. Corletta will work relentlessly to protect your best interests. Don’t navigate these complex matters alone. Reach out to Thomas A. Corletta, Attorney at Law, and gain the peace of mind that comes with having a dedicated and experienced advocate by your side.