What you need to know about your taxes if you pay or receive child support.
For federal income tax purposes, child support is tax-free to the recipient, meaning neither the ex-spouse nor the child owes taxes on it. However, child support payments are not tax-deductible by the parent who makes the payments — unlike spousal support payments. (Spousal support is tax-deductible for the person who makes the payments and taxable to the recipient.)
Be careful how support is characterized in your marital settlement agreement, as it may have significant tax consequences.
What Qualifies as Child Support?
In order to qualify as child support, the payments received by an ex-spouse must be designated as child support in the divorce or separation agreement. If the agreement lumps the payments together as "family support" or "alimony," or doesn’t otherwise designate a specific portion of each payment as child support, none of the payment will be considered child support for tax purposes.
This can have adverse tax consequences for the recipient of child support payments, because family support or alimony is taxable to the recipient. So instead of receiving nontaxable child support, the ex-spouse will be receiving alimony, which is taxable to the payee, regardless of what the payee actually uses the money for.