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What is the Difference Between Alimony and Child Support in Florida?

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Divorce and separation can be challenging on various levels, especially when it comes to financial matters. Understanding the difference between alimony and child support is crucial for anyone going through a separation or divorce. They are two distinct legal terms that refer to different types of financial support. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences, including what they are, how they are calculated, and which factors can affect them.

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Understanding Alimony and Child Support

Alimony, also known as spousal support, refers to the financial assistance provided by one spouse to the other after a divorce or separation. Alimony is often provided to the spouse who earns less or has no income to support themselves. The amount and duration of alimony are determined by the court and depend on several factors, such as:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the earning capacity of both spouses
  • and the lifestyle they had during the marriage.

Child support, on the other hand, is a payment by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to help cover the expenses of raising a child. Factors for its calculation are:

  • the needs of the child
  • the income and earning capacity of both parents
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the parents had not divorced
  • the age and needs of the child
  • the financial resources and obligations of both parents

Payments for child support are typically due until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school (whichever is later). However, there is a possibility of extension if the child has special needs or is still in school.

The Purpose of Alimony

Alimony serves several purposes in a divorce or separation: 

  1. It helps the receiving spouse maintain the same standard of living they had during the marriage, especially if they were financially dependent on their spouse.
  2. It recognizes the contributions of the receiving spouse to the marriage, such as caring for the children or supporting their spouse’s career. 
  3. It helps balance any inequalities in earning capacity between the spouses, ensuring that both parties can move forward after the divorce with a similar financial footing.

There are different types of alimony: 

Bridge-the-gap alimony: The purpose of this alimony type is to help a spouse transition from being married to being single. The court typically awards it for a short period of time without a modification option regarding the amount or duration.

Rehabilitative alimony: The purpose of this alimony type is to help a spouse become self-supporting by obtaining

  • education
  • training
  • or work experience.

It is paid for a specific period of time and can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances.

Durational alimony: This type of alimony is awarded for a set period of time. It’s typical in marriages of shorter duration. There is an option for modification if there is a substantial change in circumstances.

Permanent alimony: An alimony type that is awarded in case of longer-term marriages. The purpose is to provide ongoing support to a spouse who is unable to become self-supporting. In cases of a substantial change in circumstances, a modification option may be available.

The Purpose of Child Support

Child support serves the primary purpose of providing for the needs of the child(ren) involved in a divorce or separation. It helps cover the costs of: 

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Education
  • and Healthcare

The purpose is to ensure that the child can maintain a similar standard of living to what they had during the marriage. The non-custodial parent is typically paying child support to the custodial parent. The custodial parent is responsible for providing the child’s day-to-day care.

Tax Implications of Alimony and Child Support

Alimony and child support have different tax implications: 

Alimony payments are tax-deductible for the paying spouse and taxable income for the receiving spouse. This means that the paying spouse can deduct the amount of alimony paid from their taxable income. The receiving spouse must report the alimony as income on their tax return.

Child support payments are not tax-deductible for the paying spouse and are not taxable income for the receiving spouse. This means that neither parent can deduct or report child support payments on their tax return.

Modifying Alimony and Child Support Orders

Alimony and child support orders can be modified under certain circumstances. An example is a significant change in the financial situation of either spouse, such as due to job loss or illness. In such a case, that spouse may be able to request a modification of the alimony or child support order. The court will consider several factors when deciding whether to modify the order, such as:

  • the reason for the change
  • the financial situation of both spouses
  • the needs of any children involved.

Enforcing Alimony and Child Support Orders

If a spouse fails to pay alimony or child support as ordered by the court, the other spouse may take legal action to enforce the order. This may involve filing a motion for contempt. Such a motion can result in penalties such as fines or even jail time for the non-paying spouse. Additionally, the non-paying spouse may be ordered to pay the other spouse’s attorneys fees.

The Experts of the Butash Law Group in Tampa Bay, Florida

Going through a divorce or legal separation is stressful enough as it is. It’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney. They will take care of the legal aspects, including the determination of alimony and child support. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney!

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