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In family law and tax law, child support is prioritized over spousal support. That means in situations where the obligor parent (the paying parent) owes child support and alimony, the child support comes first.

For example, if a divorce agreement or court order specifies that an obligor parent should pay $400 in spousal support and $900 in child support, the $900 must be paid before any amount can be counted as spousal support for tax purposes. This is important to understand for payers and recipients of support because alimony and child support are treated differently by the IRS.

Child support is not considered to be taxable income for the recipient, nor is child support tax deductible for the payer.

However, the IRS does count spousal support as taxable income, and a payer of alimony may claim an income deduction for the amount of spousal support paid.

Another important thing to know is that a payer of alimony may claim, for tax purposes, only the amount of alimony that was specified in the court order or divorce agreement. Any amount of support paid in addition to the agreed-upon alimony amount will be considered by the IRS to be a voluntary payment that is not tax deductible.

Child support and spousal support can be two of the most contentious aspects of divorce and separation. Whether you are a payer or recipient of support, it is a good idea to work with an experienced family law attorney to reach a fair agreement with your spouse. A family lawyer can help ensure that your interests and those of your family are protected.