Child Support vs. Alimony

An important point to start with is that Montana does not have alimony. Instead, we call in maintenance. Other than the terminology, the concept stays the same. It is a payment from one spouse to another after the end of a marriage. Sometimes for a set length of time, sometimes for an indefinite amount of time. The rationale varies, but often involves compensating a spouse for opportunities he or she gave up for the benefit of a marriage. A typical example is a mother who did not finish college to care for a child while the husband continued on to law school. The husband now has a higher earning potential after the marriage, but he was able to do so because the wife stayed home and sacrificed her own future earning potential. In order to help balance that, the Court could award the wife a monthly payment to make up for that difference and allow her to finish school.

Montana Courts appear to dislike tying a divorced couple together with these kind of payments. Once a marriage is done, it should be as clean of a break as possible. That’s the theory at least.

The glaring exception to this is child support. If you have a child with someone, even if you get divorced, you’re probably going to be tied to that person for the foreseeable future. 18 years is just the start. Unlike maintenance, child support is very much favored by Montana courts. In fact, if you have a child under the age of 18 and get divorced from the other parent in Montana, the law requires that a child support calculation be part of the divorce before it can be finalized. So much for a clean break.

But child support is important. It allows a single parent, on a vastly reduced budget, to continue caring for the kids. There is no set formula for maintenance, but there is for child support. It’s not simple, but it is mathematic. At the risk of over-simplifying the issue, we start by adding all the income of each parent individually and then subtracting all the allowable expenses. What’s left gets put through a lot of fancy arithmetic to calculate how much one parent owes to the other for each kid. If you’re interested in doing the math yourself, Montana’s Child Support Enforcement Division has forms online that will walk you through the process.

Or, you can use our Child Support Calculator to automatically figure child support. You can create unlimited calculations too, to see what the results look like with different amounts for income and expenses. Whether you’re involved in a court case or just curious, this is powerful information available for less than you’d expect. And if you are involved in a Court case, our online software will print the Court forms you need with the information already filled out.