Alimony and child support are two issues that commonly arise when people get divorced. If your spouse has been awarded both types of compensation, this means that you are being ordered to support her and your child. Alimony and child support are awarded separately because they pertain to different issues and are likely subject to differing terms.
When a person is ordered to pay alimony and child support, it means that he has an ex-spouse who needs his assistance and a minor or disabled child whom he is responsible to care for. Alimony is the money that will be used to care for your ex-spouse, and child support is the money that will be used for the care of the child.
Alimony is generally awarded to the person who will be financially disadvantaged at the end of the marriage. If your ex-spouse was not working when you two decided to get a divorce, the law will generally view it as unfair for you to leave her destitute. Even if she was working, courts commonly assess the amount of resources that were acquired during the marriage. In many jurisdictions, according to the law, such resources belong to both parties regardless of who earned or acquired them.
It is also likely that the court considered the lifestyle that you and your ex-spouse had during the marriage. Even if she works, the court is likely to find it unfair if she will not be able to maintain the lifestyle that she is accustomed to. That may be the reason that you are ordered to pay alimony.
Child support is a completely different type of obligation. This money is awarded to care for your child. Courts generally award this money to the custodial parent because the failure of non-custodial parents to support their children creates major problems in society, such as increasing the levels of poverty and the reliance on social service programs.
Alimony and child support are usually awarded separately because there may be different terms attached to each type of obligation. One primary difference is that your obligation to pay one type of compensation is likely to end before the other. For example, you will probably only have to pay child support while your child is a minor. You may have to pay longer if she enrolls in college or if she is physically or mentally disabled. The length of time that you will be held liable for alimony can vary from a couple of years to life.
Another possible reason for the differentiation between alimony and child support is that, in some jurisdictions, support paid for spousal maintenance is tax deductible. Therefore, it needs to be explicitly determined which funds are being used for which purpose. It is important to note, however, that alimony and child support are usually subject to modification if certain circumstances arise.