What Are Alimony and Child Support?

CoinsWhen parents get divorced, there are many things that have to be divided between them.  Things like family pictures, checking accounts, vehicles and much more is divided.  Sometimes parents agree how to split these items up, and other times a judge tells people who are divorcing how their stuff will be divided up.

The same things happens for time spent with you.  Before the divorce, you probably spent time with both parents, but after the divorce there will be some sort of visitation schedule that determines who you will spend time with and how much time you will spend with each parent.

One of the other things that gets split up in a divorce is the family’s income (how much money your parents’ earn).  The judge, or your parents if they can agree on an amount, will determine who gets what portion of the family’s income.  The goal is to make sure both parents, and houses, have enough money to live on, but this doesn’t always happen because now the same income has to support two homes instead of just one.

Sometimes one parent earns more than the other parent – maybe your dad worked prior to the marriage and your mom stayed at home or vice versa.  In that case, one parent will earn more money.  In order to make things more fair, the judge may decide that one party has to pay support to the other.  There are two types of support a judge might order – alimony and child support.

Alimony is money that one party has to pay to the other after the divorce in order to make their income more fair.  So, if the goal is to make sure that both parties get one-half of the income, and dad is the only one who works outside the home, he would be ordered to pay an amount equal to one-half of what he earns to your mother.

Child Support is money paid by one party to the other in order to provide for the needs of the child(ren).  This is usually based on how much money each party earns and how much time the kids spend with each parent.

Some kids believe that child support should all be spent directly on them for things that they want or need like new clothes, a trip to the fast-food restaurant or a new bike or maybe a car (if you’re older).  While these things may be items that child support is used for, there are a lot of other expenses of having kids that might not be as obvious.  Things like paying rent or a mortgage so you have a place to sleep, the electric bill so you have lights and outlets to plug all those iPods into and gas for the car to run you to and from all those after school practices.  All of these things can be paid out of child support.