What’s the Difference Between Child Support and Alimony?

child support and alimony

What’s the Difference Between Child Support and Alimony?/Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

What’s the Difference Between Child Support and Alimony?

Child support is support of your minor children.

Alimony, or spousal support, is support of your spouse.

Child Support

The law regarding child support is found in California Family Code 3900, which states, “Subject to this division, the father and mother of a minor child have an equal responsibility to support their child in the manner suitable to the child’s circumstances.”

Read it again.

The Father AND Mother of a minor child have an equal responsibility to support their child.

How Long Does Child Support Last?

California Family Code section 3901  makes child support last until the child is, “18 years of age, is a full-time high school student, and who is not self-supporting, until the time the child completes the 12th grade or attains 19 years of age, whichever occurs first.”

So, basically, you pay child support until the child is 18, or if they are still in high school, 19.

Note there is also a provision for disabled children who are not able to self-support.

Spousal Support

The law regarding spousal support (or alimony) is found in California Family Code section 4300, which states, “Subject to this division, a person shall support the person’s spouse.”

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Not so clear.

The goal of the Legislature is such that all spouses become self-supporting.

In a short-term marriage (less than 10 years), if one spouse is not working, California Family Code section 4320(l) sets the goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a “reasonable period of time”.

Then it goes on to say, “Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage.

Thus, if you are in a short-term marriage, and you are not working, you are expected to become self-supporting in a reasonable period of time.  Reasonable is 1/2 the length of the marriage.

Do I get alimony forever if I have been married for over 10 years?

Everyone asks this question! The answer is, generally NO.

Read more here: 10 Year Marriages and Divorce

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