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Divorce is an expensive process. There are legal fees, splitting assets, retirement funds, alimony payments, child support and more. Divorce isn’t always fair, either.

The spouse that makes more money should be prepared for a huge financial loss.

Which parent pays child support?

When it comes to child support, the non-custodial parent pays the parent that has custody of the child. Child support is meant to provide your child with proper care, through payments made to your ex-spouse. With the child support payments your ex receives, they should make sure your children are cared for, loved and financially supported.

If you and your ex-spouse have joint custody of your child, you may not have child support payments. This is a rare occurrence. Neither of you will have to pay child support only if you both spend an equal amount of time with your child—which is nearly impossible. Even with joint custody, one parent may have to pay child support.

Who pays alimony?

The spouse that makes the most money is required to pay alimony to their ex-spouse. Alimony payments are different than child support. Even if you are paying child support, you may have to pay alimony too.

The purpose of alimony payments is to ensure that the receiving spouse can keep the standard of living they are accustomed to. This is where the spouse with the higher salary takes the hit. These monthly payments go straight from your pocket to your ex-spouses.

Major differences between the two

Alimony payments are intended to benefit your ex-spouse—not your children. Your children’s needs should be taken care of through your child support payments.

Another differentiation between child support and alimony is that child support payments must be made until your child turns 18 years old. The length of time for alimony payments is at the court’s discretion, meaning they could be life-long.

One divorced Dad in California is trying to limit alimony payments to five years after the marriage ended. The father claims that he never would’ve gotten married if he had known he’d be paying his ex-wife alimony for the rest of his life.

If you and your spouse are headed for divorce, you may want to get a full understanding of child support and alimony laws. You may be headed for an emotional and financial strain.