What the Heck is the Difference Between Alimony and Child Support, Anyway?!

Going through divorce might make you feel like it’s just the two of you going to battle, but if you have kids then there is so much more on the line. You’re not the only ones impacted by this battle or it’s conclusion. You need to know what your options are for supporting your kids post-divorce so you can get the best possible deal for them.

For starters, yes, there is a difference between alimony and child support. Simply, alimony you have to pay tax on (and the person making the payment, presumably your ex, gets a write-off) while with child support you don’t.

The best way for you to get payments from your ex for your kids is as child support, because you don’t have to pay income tax on it. Keep in mind that child support is always subject to adjustment, even ten years after your di­vorce. So if your ex-husband gets a new job with a higher salary, take him back to court, because your child support check just got bigger. Alimony, on the other hand, does not change no matter how long it’s been since the divorce or how his financial situation may have changed.

If there is a court order for child support and your ex misses a payment, file a complaint at your local Domestic Relations Office or Child Support Enforcement Agency immediately. This is the first step before getting any lawyers or courts involved. It “starts the clock” so that you can be reimbursed for back child support from the day you filed. If you let your ex get away without paying child support for six months and then you file…guess what? You are SOL. No money back for those six months you let slide and you’ll only have yourself to blame.

And BTW: If you have primary custody of the kids, you automatically get the dependency exemptions on your tax return. Don’t think, “Oh big whoop who cares?” These are valuable! (They change every year, but they were $3,950 in 2014). Your ex doesn’t get it unless you sign off on this and let him get the tax breaks. So don’t give them up unless he makes it worth your while by paying more child support, etc. Use this as a bargaining chip if you want, but don’t just give it up for nothing. If you do give your ex this exemption, do it only for one year. Negotiate it every year; this should not be a standing agreement and you should be the one in charge.


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