How Child Support Influences Your Taxes

Updated January 23, 2024
12 min read
How Child Support Influences Your Taxes

Establishing the amount of child support can be one of the more intricate aspects of divorce proceedings. If the court orders you to make child support payments to your ex-spouse, who retains custody of the child or children, this could significantly affect your income. So, it's natural to ask questions like, "How does child support affect taxes?" "Does child support affect taxes?" or "Is child support taxable?" Simply put, the answer is no.

Here's an in-depth exploration of everything you need to understand about child support and its tax implications, how to report child support payments on taxes, and answers to other frequently asked questions.

What Is Child Support?

Parents are still financially responsible for their minor child or children's well-being after a divorce. The noncustodial parent, who does not have primary custody of the child, must make regular payments to the custodial parent to provide for the child's needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and education. These remittances are what is generally referred to as child support.

Determining the amount of support

A standard formula, which considers each parent's income level presented during the divorce proceedings, usually determines the amount of child support. Both parents must submit evidence of their earnings, but note that the amount of child support involves more factors than the current income.

For instance, if one or both parents are unemployed or working in a lower-paying job deliberately to lessen the amount of child support, the court can estimate the parents' earning potential. Factors considered when determining potential earnings include their skills and education, making it challenging to avoid child support payments through unemployment or underemployment.

Is Child Support Tax Deductible or Taxable?

Child support payments are not tax-deductible or taxable. Essentially, they are considered “tax-neutral.” You are effectively fulfilling the financial responsibilities you would have had for your child if you hadn't gotten divorced. The only difference is that those payments are made through your ex-spouse instead of directly covering these expenses. As it is akin to other personal expenses, child support does not have tax-deductible status.

If you are the custodial parent receiving child support, the tax implications are pretty much the same, which often leads to the question, "Does child support get taxed?"  

Can Parents Deduct Child Support Payments?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) generally does not allow parents to deduct child support payments from their taxes. An exception exists for your child’s medical expenses. Noncustodial parents may claim an itemized deduction for their children's medical costs under certain specified conditions:

  • The child lived with either parent for at least half the year;

  • The child is related to you; and

  • You and your ex-spouse collectively paid for more than half of their living expenses during the tax year, where you are claiming the deduction.

Remember, since it’s an itemized deduction, you must forego standard deductions when you file your taxes. Also, only those medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income may be claimed as a deduction.

Do I Have To Report Child Support Payments as Income?

If you are a custodial parent, you are not required to report child support payments as income. Taxable income categorically includes earnings from wages, salaries, tips, and other benefits derived from employment or a business. Child support is not income because it isn’t derived from work or business activities. As the custodial parent, you are simply receiving money that your ex-spouse would have otherwise spent on your child before the divorce.

Who reports alimony payments as taxable income?

The IRS stipulates differing rules for reporting alimony payments, and this heavily relies on the date of your divorce decree or legal separation:

  • On or before December 31, 2018: The person receiving alimony must report it as taxable income, and the person paying alimony may file a deduction for it.

  • After December 31, 2018: Alimony is neither taxable nor tax-deductible.

If your divorce decree was issued on or before December 31, 2018, but you later had it modified, any explicit revocation of the alimony deduction within the modification means that it is treated as if you received the divorce after the cutoff date. Therefore, the recipient doesn’t pay tax on alimony, and the payer can't claim a deduction.

Does Your Ex Have To Claim the Money as Income?

Child support is never considered income. However, as previously explained, in the context of alimony, your ex-spouse might have to report it as income based on the date of your divorce decree. Understanding these nuances can greatly impact your fiscal responsibilities following a divorce. Always consider consulting a qualified attorney or tax professional to navigate these complex issues effectively

Are There Any Other Available Tax Benefits?

Even though you can't claim child support payments as a tax deduction, there are several other tax benefits you can capitalize on, such as the Child Tax Credit, provided you and your dependent child meet certain qualifying conditions. These conditions could vary by tax year and typically include factors like your child's age, relationship with them, and income level.

If you need to catch up in child support payments, the Treasury Offset Program can let you utilize your federal tax refund towards these payments, given you meet specific qualifications. The Financial Management Service can attribute your tax refund towards any existing debts, including your child support.


Whether you're the payer or the custodial parent, a thorough understanding of the tax implications of child support is essential, and a qualified lawyer can help you with this. Generally, child support does not influence taxes as taxable income or a deductible expense. Nonetheless, you can avail of particular tax benefits to help lessen your financial burden.

Article by
Kateryna Adkham

Kateryna Adkham is a highly skilled and experienced content specialist at Lawrina. With her expertise and knowledge in content creation, Kateryna plays a crucial role in developing high-quality and engaging content for Lawrina.

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