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How does spousal support differ from child support?

How does spousal support differ from child support?

When a couple in Plymouth decides to end their marriage, money will be a concern for both parties. Specifically, parties will want to know if they will pay or receive spousal support — also known as spousal maintenance or alimony — and if they have children, whether and how much they will be ordered to pay in child support. It is important to understand the difference between spousal support and child support, as they are meant to accomplish very different goals.

Spousal support is an amount of money one spouse pays the other party post-divorce. These payments usually last for a specific period or until the receiving party remarries. It is meant to help the receiving party keep up the lifestyle they had while married or to help them meet their financial needs until they can become financially self-supporting. To that end, it is paid for the benefit of the spouse receiving it. However, there is no guarantee that spousal support will be granted — a party must request it. There generally is not a statutory formula for determining how much spousal support will be owed. It is based on a variety of factors found in that couple’s specific situation.

Child support, on the other hand, is meant to help provide for the child’s basic needs. This may include essentials, such as food, clothing, health care and a place to live. In general, whether child support is awarded, and if awarded, how much is to be paid, is set by statutory formulas. Such formulas may consider each parent’s income and how many children are being supported. Generally, child support lasts until the child is age 18 or graduates high school, whichever happens later. Sometimes, it will be extended to include college tuition assistance.

It is important that a party does not pay spousal support and child support all in a single payment. Doing so may mean that the spousal support payment will not count as spousal support for tax purposes. Moreover, many states allow child support to be automatically withheld from a parent’s paycheck while spousal support should be paid in cash, by check or money order.

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