Similarities and Differences Between Child Support and Maintenance
A parent has a legal obligation to support his or her children. This is true even in the midst of a divorce. Depending on any the situation, a person may have an obligation to help support his or her (soon-to-be) ex-spouse as well. However, many people confuse the two obligations, when in reality child support and maintenance (also called alimony or spousal support) are very different, not least of all because the right to collect belongs to different parties.
Child support is a right that belongs to a child, not their parents, though the actual payments may be received and administered by the child’s parent. It is defined as court-ordered payments usually made by the parent with fewer parental responsibilities or less parenting time to help support his or her children. In Illinois, the obligation to pay support exists, if ordered, until that child turns 18 years old. If the child is still attending high school at that age, however, the support obligation is extended until they either graduate or turn 19, whichever comes first.
The State of Illinois has statutes that specifically govern how child support payment amounts are to be calculated, and any agreement that completely ignores the law will probably be set aside by the court. When the court is left to determine the amount of support to be paid, it will take into account the income of both parents and the number of children to be supported. Shared parenting time may also be considered when the child spends a significant amount of time with each parent.
Be advised that child support payments are tax-free income for the recipient parent, but for the paying parent, they are a nondeductible expense. There are also guidelines that must be followed if you seek a modification of the support order.
Maintenance or Alimony
In Illinois, there are also formulas for calculating the amount one spouse must pay another when maintenance is found to be appropriate. Many divorcing couples, however, actually work out their own maintenance payments without resorting to a judge. If they cannot agree, the court can help the parties work out a plan or the court may set an amount. It is important to keep in mind that even if you were cheated on or otherwise mistreated by your spouse, “marital misconduct” does not enter into alimony calculations. The formula is strictly based on the spouses’ income and the length of the marriage. There are some equitable considerations (in other words, the judge will take into account what is fair to both parties), but the numbers are the primary determinant.
Alimony is also tax deductible for the payer and taxable income for the payee. Your attorney and/or your tax professional should be able to assist in ensuring that all taxes are appropriately paid.
An Attorney Can Help
The rules surrounding child support and alimony are very complex, and a qualified lawyer can help make the process much easier. Contact an experienced Geneva family law attorney to discuss your situation today. Call 630-232-9700 for a confidential consultation.