HomeChild SupportDivorce Advice: Child Support And Alimony (Part 3 Of 4)
Posted in Child Support on 15th January 2011

Divorce Advice: Child Support And Alimony (Part 3 Of 4)

Alimony and child support are important aspects of a divorce case that involve ensuring the financial stability of both spouses and the children. Alimony is designed to limit the unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing continuing income to the non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse. A court sets the amount of alimony it concludes is fair and reasonable to be paid for a period of time. The amount of alimony that must be paid is usually based on the standard of living established and expected during the marriage, the age and health of the spouses, the obligations and assets of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and a number of other factors that may vary by state. Unlike child support, which is determined according to rigid guidelines, courts have considerable discretion in determining if they will award alimony and, if they do, the amount and time period for which it lasts.

Child support is the ongoing obligation for a periodic payment made directly or indirectly by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent, caregiver or guardian, or the government, for the care and support of children of a relationship or marriage that has been terminated. Child support may be awarded in joint custody cases when there is a significant discrepancy between the parents’ incomes. Exact conditions for eligibility of child support and guidelines for the calculation of child support vary from state to state, but generally take into consideration the needs of the child, the needs of the custodial parent, the paying parent’s ability to pay, and the standard of living the child was accustomed to before the divorce. If alimony has been awarded, that amount is deducted from the payer’s income and added to the payee’s income when child support is being calculated.

Tip #1: There is no formula for determining alimony. According to divorce lawyer Peter Paras, “Alimony is really more art than science and it, it results from a consideration of a variety of statutory factors. Courts and lawyers have to consider the duration of the marriage, the age of the parties, their incomes, their assets, their liabilities, their lifestyles, their health, [and] whether or not any of their assets generate income. These are all factors that have to be considered in determining whether alimony is to be paid and, if so, whether it’s going to be permanent, rehabilitative, or limited duration alimony and in what amount.”

Tip #2: Child support may continue after the child has reached the age of 18 under certain circumstances. Technically, the non-custodial parent’s obligation continues until the child is emancipated. “Children are emancipated at different times,” explains divorce lawyer Peter Paras. “Typically they’re emancipated when they reach the age of 18 and have graduated from high school, but emancipation is often delayed while a child finishes a higher education, such as four years of college, tradeschool, or something of that nature. That’s when the obligation technically ends.” Child support may also be extended beyond the age of 18 if the child has special needs. If the child has been declared emancipated by a court prior to reaching the age of 18, is on active military duty, or the parents’ rights and responsibilities have been terminated for any other reason, child support payments may be discontinued.

Tip #3: Understand that there are different types of alimony. Limited duration alimony usually applies to cases in which the marriage is too short to justify permanent alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to provide financial assistance to the more economically dependent spouse while he or she becomes more financially independent by getting job training, building up work history, or furthering education. Permanent alimony is typically paid when there is a long term marriage, but it is important to note that permanent alimony is not always permanent. Divorce attorney Peter Paras explains, “Permanent alimony is somewhat of a misnomer in that it probably would be better termed indefinite alimony. It can end or be modified is circumstances change in the future.” Examples of changes in circumstances that could be grounds for the cessation of permanent alimony include the remarriage of the recipient, the death of the payer, or cohabitation of the recipient with someone of the opposite sex.

Divorce law involves many different types of issues, including preparing for your divorce, child custody and visitation, and assets and property, all of which will be addressed in this series.

For more divorce advice, refer back to Parts 1 and 2 of this series and look for the upcoming final installment:

Part 1: Divorce Advice: Preparing for Your Divorce
Part 2: Divorce Advice: Child Custody and Child Visitation
Part 4: Divorce Advice: Assets and Property Division

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