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After a divorce, the court may make you pay various forms of support or payments to your former spouse. The most common payments are for child and spousal support.

While the court may make decisions about these two payments together during the divorce, they are separate matters. Child support is for the care of your children, while spousal support is for the maintenance of your spouse.

Legal obligations

Both forms of support are legal obligations you must pay because they are part of a court order. You can get into legal trouble for not paying them. However, nonpayment of child support is often taken more seriously because it is your obligation as a parent to take care of your children.

End dates

Both forms of support often have an end date. Spousal support could be for life but often will end once your spouse is capable of self-supporting. Child support generally runs until the child turns 18 years old. However, there are special circumstances where you may have to pay until they complete college or for longer if they have a disability.

Award considerations

The court awards spousal support based on need. If your spouse is unable to work or needs to gain skills to find employment, then this need often leads to a support award. Child support is not need-based. It is an obligation you have as a parent.

Both types of support depend on your and your former spouse’s incomes. But child support also considers parenting time and how many children you have.

Child and spousal support are important orders from the court. You cannot avoid paying either one, or you could face legal trouble.