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How Does Spousal Support Differ From Child Support?

After a divorce, it is common for one spouse to make payments to the other as part of the terms of the divorce. These payments can be spousal support, child support, or both. While a spouse may receive both, it is important to understand that spousal support and child support are very different. Before discussing both concepts, we must first define them.


What is “Spousal Support?”

Spousal support refers to payments made by one spouse to another for the support and maintenance of the person receiving the support. Either spouse can be required to pay spousal support; it is not based on gender, but instead is based on the incomes and resources of the parties. Typically, the terms of the divorce will involve the spouse with the higher income paying spousal support, with the party paying spousal support able to claim the support as a tax deduction.

What is “Child Support?”

In Ohio, both parents are required to support their child, including the parent with whom the child primarily resides. The law typically presumes that the parent with whom the child primarily resides is spending an appropriate amount directly on the child.

Differences Between Spousal and Child Support in Ohio

There are many differences between spousal support and child support.

The purpose of spousal support is to provide for the maintenance and support of the party entitled to receive support. This is typically the party who has less income and a lesser ability to support himself or herself at the standard of living the parties became accustomed to during the marriage.

The amount and duration of spousal support ultimately lies within the discretion of the court. Ohio law sets forth fourteen factors that courts are to look at when one party seeks spousal support. These include the incomes of the parties, the earning abilities of the parties, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living of the parties during the marriage, whether one party has not worked outside the home due to raising a family, and the education level of each party. However, the court may also consider any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant. Typically, although not always, the longer the parties have been married, the longer the duration of spousal support.

While there is no predetermined formula for spousal support, the amount of child support to be paid is governed by statute in Ohio pursuant to child support guidelines. A guideline child support worksheet must be computed, wherein certain factors are taken into consideration, including both parties’ incomes from all sources, the amount of childcare paid for the child and the cost of health insurance premiums for the child.

Ohio law presumes that the amount of child support given by the guidelines is appropriate. However, each party is permitted to request that the court modify the child support order based on the child’s best interest. The court will decide whether to deviate from the guidelines based on a number of factors, including the child’s special needs, other court-ordered payments, extraordinary costs associated with parenting time, the disparity in income between the households, benefits that either parents receives based on remarriage or living expenses shared with another person, and the financial resources of either parent. The decision of whether to deviate child support either upward or downward and in what amount lies with the discretion of the court, guided by what the court deems to be in the child’s best interest.

Unlike spousal support, where only one party may have a duty to support the other, both parents have a duty to provide for their child until the child reaches 18, or longer if the child is still in high school after reaching the age of 18, has a physical or mental disability, or the parents agree to support the child for an extended period of time. A court can order a party to pay both spousal support and child support, but will take the amount of spousal support to be paid into consideration when determining child support. Any amount of spousal support paid will be included as income to the person receiving the spousal support for child support purposes.

Financial concerns such as spousal support and child support are important aspects of divorce cases, and should be entrusted to an experienced domestic relations attorney.