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Alimony vs Child Support: What are the Differences?

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Alimony vs Child Support: do they sound the same? Or maybe you’re worried about the financial settlements of your divorce.

Alimony and child support are the two important elements spouses must deal with. There are many more details that you need to know about.

Go through this entire blog for Alimony vs Child Support to understand how these two elements of divorce work.

Alimony vs Child Support: Overview of the Differences

Basically, alimony and child support help an ex-partner financially to cover necessary expenses after a marriage ends. Besides, the spouses will have to bear the expense depending on various factors.

The table below will give you a general idea of the disparities between alimony and child support.

Where does it differ Alimony Child Support
Purpose Helps an unemployed ex-spouse Helps with the child care in a separation or divorce


Proved one can’t support themselves

Must have children
Non-custodial parents must help

Payor Self-sufficient pays dependent ex-spouse Both parents pay
Taxation Applies as it’s a form of income Doesn’t apply
Penalties for not paying

Might get arrested
Face court to show cause

Driver license suspension
Passport revokes
Additional fees

Want to know more? The following discussion contains more details on alimony and child support.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, or spousal support/ maintenance, is the amount of money one pays to an ex-partner once the marriage ends.

Spousal Support is provided for specific purposes. For instance—

  • Helps an ex-spouse to be financially stable
  • Prevents an ex-spouse from facing any serious financial difficulty
  • Provides the childcare
  • Compensates an ex-spouse if they stop earning for the marriage

Generally, people pay it based on an agreement and court order. If you don’t apply for a spousal in time, you might not get it. However, you ask for it anytime you want, as Canadian legislation doesn’t put any time limit on this.

Who is Eligible for an Alimony?

One doesn’t receive alimony just because their marriage has ended. That means they need to be eligible for this particular financial support.

Also, the court will decide who pays the alimony based on different factors. That includes preparing an agreement with the help of a family lawyer.

In the agreement, the duration and other important details will be specified.

One has the right to alimony if their circumstances cover any of the following–

  • Married & specified in the marriage contract that would receive the support
  • Was in a common-law relationship and lived together for at least 3 years
  • Stopped career advancement for the marriage
  • Have children together

How is Alimony Decided in Canada: Amount and Duration

While deciding the duration and amount of spousal support, the court won’t consider facts like why the marriage ended.

Note that, nothing like modern alimony laws, yet some people think so. Also, know that deciding on the amount and duration of spousal support is difficult.

Therefore, Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines exist, which the court and lawyers follow to calculate the amount and duration of spousal support.

And the factors that will be considered to find out the amount and duration are:

  • Financial profile of both spouses
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Roles of each spouse in the marriage
  • Funding is needed for the recipient’s training and education to help them become self-sufficient
  • Age of the partner
  • Length of the marriage
  • Retirement

Depending on these specifics, the court will decide if spousal support is needed.

Also, with these details, the court determines if the amount should be paid in a lump sum or sparsely (monthly or yearly).

After all, that court decides how long you pay alimony in Canada. Once again, it will depend on the factors mentioned above.

What Happens When You Don’t Pay Spousal Support?

Spousal support applies once the court approves it. Since it’s the court’s order, violating it will have consequences. So, one might be arrested or face court if they fail to continue the financial support.

If you want to make any changes to spousal support, you must talk to your ex-partner, notify the court, and show valid reasons.

What is Child Support?

If you have a minor child during the divorce, your child is entitled to child support. That’s how child support works.

Actually, both custodial and non-custodial parents are supposed to pay for their children. However, the non-custodial parent will specifically be obliged to pay to help the custodial parent with the childcare.

This is the same for married couples, common law couples, or couples with biological, adopted, or estranged children.

What Expenses are Covered by Child Support?

In most states in Canada, child care covers a child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. However, some states have rules for paying many more expenses.

Overall, you can expect to pay for the following in the child support agreement:

  • Basic needs (Food, Sheltering, Clothing)
  • Medical expenses
  • Education cost
  • Entertainment
  • Transportation
  • Extracurricular activities 

How Child Support is Decided: Amount & Duration

Just like spousal support, the duration and amount of the child support are decided following  Federal Child Support Guidelines.

A couple of factors will be considered by the court to decide on the amount, as follows:

  • Ability of parent who pays
  • Number of children
  • Parenting plan
  • Daycare cost
  • Uninsured health care cost

Now, how long do you have to pay child support in Canada? Generally, one has to pay child support until the children turn 19.

In case the child stays dependent on factors like disability and fails to finish college, child support continues.

What Happens When You Don’t Pay Child Support?

There are various penalties like driving license suspension, passport revokes, additional fees, etc.

Usually, the Family Responsibility Office will look for different ways to make you pay.

For instance, they can take it from your:

  • Paycheck
  • Bank account
  • & Tax refunds

And just like spousal support, if you want to stop child support, you must discuss it with your ex-partner, request court, and show valid grounds for the change.

Final Remarks

This general discussion indicates that family law is complicated. That’s why people take the help of a lawyer. Like most people going through a divorce, you must have more questions.

If you need any sort of help regarding paying spousal or child support, you must contact an expert family lawyer.


In case you need information on alimony and child support, look at the following questions.

How can you stop paying alimony?

You can’t stop paying suddenly if it doesn’t specify any date in your marriage contract. So, talk to your ex-partner, assess the current circumstances with the help of a lawyer, and prepare a ‘Motion to Change’ including valid reasons.

How can I stop paying child support?

You can’t stop paying child support outside what the agreement specifies. If you think the agreement should change now–discuss it with your ex-partner, talk to a lawyer, assess the circumstance, and file an application for Discontinue Enforcement of Ongoing Support.

When do you stop paying spousal support?

You can stop paying if you have a lower income now, prove the ex-spouse's adultery, prove the spouse doesn’t need it, and the ex-spouse dies.

When do you stop paying child support?

You stop paying according to the agreement until your child is 19 or 18. If it is about before 19 or 18, the children must be self-employed or get married. However, if they leave home for legal reasons, the child support continues based on the agreement.

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