Differentiating Spousal Support and Child Support

Spousal support is usually awarded in marriages that are over, while child support may be ordered in spousal support cases in accordance with a federal or local family law. Spouses who are not working sometimes receive spousal support, and spousal support may be deducted from a person’s income before calculating child support. Additionally, spousal support may last for years or decades, while the family court generally expects parents to become self-supporting within 12 to 18 months of their divorce. There are many differences between spousal and child support orders. The following list highlights five key distinctions:

1. Amount of Support

Child support is calculated using a mathematical formula that takes into account the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to provide financial security. Spousal support is almost always awarded in one lump sum, but spousal support payments may be subject to modification if there are significant changes in circumstances.

2. Possession Schedules

Couples who receive spousal support often retain joint physical possession while children may only have access during scheduled visitation periods. A spousal support order generally does not determine which parent has physical custody of the children, but spousal support is frequently awarded to one spouse on a temporary basis while child custody proceedings are pending.

3. Division of Expenses

Spouses receiving spousal support must report all spousal-support payments as income; thus, spousal-support recipients have the same tax deductions as spousal-support payers. However, children who receive child support cannot deduct child support from their taxable income because child-rearing expenses are typically a deduction from taxable income.

4. Duration of Court Actions

Spousal support orders are designed to be permanent because spousal support is intended to prevent the recipient spouse from becoming a public charge. Child support orders generally terminate when the child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.

5. Cooperation Requirement

Spouses who receive spousal support are expected to become self-supporting by the time spousal support payments end, and spousal-support recipients may be required to participate in vocational training and job searches. Child-support recipients must cooperate with child-support agencies; however, the family court typically does not require parents receiving child support to begin working or enrolling in education or job training programs unless there is a change in circumstances such as an increase of 20 percent in the paying parent’s income.

There are only five of the major differences between spousal support and child support orders. Spousal support impacts spousal relationships while child support impacts familial relationships. If you are going through a spousal support or child support case, speak to Monarch Family Law today at (714) 492-1989. They may be able to help you determine which type of spousal support your case requires and what steps you can take now to ensure that spousal or child support is awarded in your spousal support or child support case.