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Child Support vs. Maintenance

By Alisse C. Camazine

The payment of maintenance (also known to others as alimony) is for the payment of the ongoing expenses for the spouse.   The payments received by a spouse for alimony are income to the recipient and deductible by the spouse paying it.  Therefore, when you receive $3000 a month in maintenance, you need to pay taxes on that, just as you would income from a job.  Your spouse gets to deduct this amount and does not pay taxes on the maintenance.

A spouse receives maintenance if the Court finds that the spouse seeking maintenance (1) lacks sufficient property, including marital properly awarded, to meet her or his reasonable needs, and (2) the spouse is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment OR is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.  Unlike child support, there is no set formula for the calculation of maintenance.  Maintenance is based on the reasonable needs of the spouse.  Reasonable needs are not necessarily the expenses that you incurred during the marriage.  For instance, a court may not think it is reasonable for a wife and child to remain in a 10,000 square foot home, with a $5000 mortgage payment, even if this is the house you have lived in your whole marriage.

Unless the court can determine an exact date when the receiving spouse will become self supporting, court-ordered maintenance will have no termination date.  The parties can agree between themselves to set maintenance for a specific number of years.  This award will generally be non-modifiable, whereas an order from the court will be modifiable upon a showing of changed circumstances.

Child support, on the other hand, is not taxable.  Child support is calculated by the Missouri child support guidelines, which considers the incomes of the parties, as well as the needs of the child, including costs of health insurance, child care, extraordinary medical expenses and other special needs.  The courts generally stick very closely to the guidelines unless there are extraordinary needs of the children.  Child support terminates at age 21 unless the child does not attend college.

Child support does not replace maintenance.  You need to carefully consider whether you should accept maintenance in lieu of child support.


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