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Alimony and child support are two common legal requirements during and after divorce proceedings. Both involve payments from one spouse to another to provide financial support. However, there are some key differences between alimony and child support that you need to understand. This article will examine the difference between alimony and child support, how each is determined, and other important factors to be aware of.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, refers to payments made from one spouse to another during and/or after divorce proceedings. Alimony is intended to help provide financial support for the lower-earning spouse and allow them to maintain their previous standard of living.

Alimony can be ordered on a temporary basis during divorce proceedings and/or on a longer-term basis as part of the final divorce agreement. There are different types of alimony, including:

  • Temporary alimony – Short-term support ordered during the divorce process.
  • Rehabilitative support – Alimony for a limited time to help a spouse become self-sufficient.
  • Permanent alimony – Ongoing spousal support with no set end date.

The amount and duration of alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis. Factors considered include length of marriage, income of both spouses, education, assets, and more. The person receiving alimony reports it as taxable income.

What is Child Support?

Child support refers to payments made from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to help cover the costs of raising the child. Child support is meant to help ensure the child’s needs are met, such as food, clothing, education, healthcare, etc.

Child support is determined based on the needs of the child and the income of both parents. There are child support calculators and guidelines that courts utilize to determine appropriate amounts. In contrast to alimony, child support payments are not tax-deductible for the payer and are not regarded as taxable income for the recipient.

Child support generally ends once the child turns 18, though arrangements can be extended in some cases, such as for college expenses. The amount of child support may be modified if there are significant changes in either parent’s financial circumstances.

Key Differences Between Alimony and Child Support

Although both alimony and child support entail payments from one spouse to another following a divorce, there are some significant distinctions:

  • Purpose – Alimony is meant to support the spouse, while child support is specifically for the child’s needs.
  • Duration – Alimony may be short-term or indefinite. Child support typically ends when the child turns 18.
  • Taxes – Alimony is deductible for the payer and taxable income for the recipient. Child support has no tax implications.
  • Modifications – Alimony can be modified if there are substantial changes in circumstances. Child support can be modified if needs or income changes.
  • Termination – Alimony generally ends when the receiving spouse dies or remarries. Child support ends at 18 or when the child becomes fully self-supporting.
  • Voluntary – Spouses can agree to alimony terms. Child support is mandated by the court.
  • State Laws – State laws regarding alimony vary. Child support laws are more standardized nationwide.

How Minnesota Courts Determine Alimony

So, how do Minnesota courts calculate alimony payments? What factors determine the amount and duration of alimony?

Minnesota statutes allow courts to grant alimony if one spouse lacks sufficient property or income and is unable to maintain their previous standard of living. The alimony can continue as long as the court finds it just, depending on each spouse’s earning capacity and financial conditions.

Some of the factors Minnesota courts may consider when determining alimony include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s income, assets, and liabilities
  • The couple’s standard of living during marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s ability to meet minimum reasonable needs
  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • How property is divided, including retirement assets
  • Whether a spouse lost income potential due to family responsibilities
  • Contributions each spouse made to the other’s education or career
  • History of domestic abuse

The amount and length of alimony payments aim to allow each spouse to have a standard of living comparable to during the marriage. Courts recognize that after many years of marriage, spouses grow accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Alimony helps provide financial stability as the lower-earning spouse transitions to independent living.

In determining alimony, Minnesota courts may also consider a vocational evaluation to assess a spouse’s ability to earn income. An expert can determine if a spouse is underemployed based on their skills, experience, and qualifications. The evaluation helps courts establish a fair alimony amount and duration.

How Child Support is Determined in Minnesota

Child support is handled very differently from alimony in Minnesota divorce cases.

In Minnesota, both parents have a duty to financially support their children until they turn 18 or graduate high school, whichever comes later. Parents may also need to continue providing support for disabled adult children.

Child support payments are meant to cover the child’s basic needs and reasonable expenses. This includes costs for food, clothing, transportation, health insurance, school fees, entertainment, and other necessities.

Child support payments are calculated based on factors that impact a child’s standard of living. These factors typically encompass:

  • The child’s needs (food, clothing, education, healthcare, etc.)
  • Each parent’s gross income and ability to pay
  • The standard of living the child had pre-divorce

To determine child support amounts, Minnesota follows statewide guidelines and worksheets based on each parent’s gross monthly income. The court aims to have children maintain a similar standard of living in both households.

Higher-income parents typically pay more in child support. But even if one parent has limited income, they will likely need to pay something, based on their available resources.

In addition to monthly child support payments, courts may order either parent to pay for certain childcare expenses like daycare, education costs, medical bills, and health insurance premiums.

Child support can be ordered until the child turns 18 years old. But if still in high school, payments usually continue until graduation or age 20. Support also extends past 18 for a disabled child who cannot provide self-support.

Can Alimony and Child Support Be Modified?

The courts can modify alimony and child support orders if certain conditions are met. For alimony, this usually requires a substantial change in circumstances, such as job loss, major health issues, retirement, or changes in assets. Child support can be modified if the child’s needs or the parent’s income change significantly.

It is best to have an experienced family law attorney assist with modification petitions. They can ensure proper procedures are followed and help represent your interests in court. Modification requests should be filed as soon as relevant changes occur to get payments adjusted promptly.

Work With a Minnesota Divorce Attorney

Navigating alimony and child support can be complicated, especially when negotiating divorce settlement agreements. Work with an experienced Minnesota family law attorney to understand your rights and responsibilities.

At Martine Law, our divorce attorneys have successfully represented clients with alimony and child support matters across the Twin Cities metro area. Whether you’re paying or receiving spousal or child support, we’re here to help guide you through the process.

From reviewing your financial records to advocating your position in court, our lawyers help you work toward the best possible outcome. Contact us today to discuss your specific situation. With offices across the metro, we’re ready to start protecting your rights through this difficult transition.