Spousal support and child support are both payments from one former spouse to another, but that is where the similarities end. The law and the court treat them very differently.
U.S. News and World Report explains spousal support is a payment to a former spouse that helps him or her to be financially independent after a divorce. Child support is an obligated form of financial support for your children when you and the other parent do not live together.
Spousal support is something you get through a divorce. It usually has a set end date, but in some cases, it can last until one party dies or the person receiving the money remarries. The court decided the amount and the details of support without much guidance from the law. The court will consider need and the ability of each spouse to support his or herself.
Child support is not optional. It is also not always related to divorce. Child support comes about for any parents who are not together in a relationship. The state sets guidelines as to how much support a person will pay. Support usually ends when a child turns 18 years old, but it may go beyond that depending on the situation. Child support is a legal obligation because parents must provide for their children.
It is important to understand in a divorce, the court will award child support first. If the party paying cannot afford spousal support due to the child support, then there will not be an award of spousal support. Child support is always the priority.