In a divorce, the higher-earning spouse will often have to make support payments to the other spouse. These payments may be alimony or child support. In some cases, you may have to pay both. Courts typically favor child support over alimony because child support is a responsibility whereas alimony is not. You do not have a responsibility to take care of your former spouse financially but you always have the responsibility to take care of your children.
Forbes explains that the court will look over your income carefully before making any decisions. Incomes may include everything from the wages you earn normally to special perks, such as stock options.
The court will also look at your family’s needs. If it feels that your children will need more money due to attending private schools or having expensive hobbies, then it will award more child support. This could reduce the amount of alimony or even prevent the court from awarding it.
The court will also carefully look at your former spouse’s income or income potential. When it comes to alimony, the court is interested in what will happen in the future and how your former spouse will be able to eventually support his or herself without your alimony payments. The goal is often to limit payments to only a period where your former spouse really needs them. This is not true of child support.
If the court awards both types of support, then you have a legal obligation to pay them both. However, if you find yourself struggling, it is best to always pay child support first. You should, however, go back to court if you have substantial financial changes to see if the court will modify your payment obligations. Often, the court will first change alimony before making changes to child support.