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Whenever a parent asks me if child support in Pennsylvania is tax-deductible, I usually tell the client this story: A few decades ago, one of the financial aspects of settling a divorce was the fact that Pennsylvania law required divorcing parents to provide for the college education (or any type of serious education beyond high school) of their children.

Finally along came a parent with the time and financial resources to challenge this law and take the challenge up to our State Supreme Court. The Court saw the light in a very big way. Justice Stephen Zappala wrote the opinion for the Court ruling, finally, that divorcing parents could not be compelled to pay for their children’s education beyond high school. Why the change? The Court reasoned that since married, non-divorcing parents could not be compelled to provide that education, how could the law, in all fairness, force parents to do so because they were getting a divorce?

Makes eminent sense, does it not? How does that relate to child support (and spousal support, by the way) not being tax-deductible? Think about it. While the two parents are living together, what they spend raising their kids is clearly not deductible, right? Why should that change when the parents go their separate ways? The obligation to provide for your children has not changed one bit. We indeed get a tax exemption for dependents, but that is the case whether the parents are together or divorced or not. Regarding who gets that tax exemption, the parents can either agree on that (sometimes that one parent will get it or sometimes that they will share it, taking it every other year) or they can contest it. In the event of such a contest, the parents better have kept complete and accurate records as the IRS will give the deduction to whichever one can prove he/she contributed over 50% of the cost of raising the child for the tax year in question.

In a related issue regarding tax deductibility, prior to January 1, 2019, alimony (which Pennsylvania has had in its law since 1980) was a tax event, taxable to the receiving party, and deductible for the paying party. Neither is any longer the case. Finally, please remember to distinguish between alimony (which is payments from one EX-spouse to another EX-spouse, after the divorce is final) and spousal support (which is payments from one spouse to the other spouse, while they are married but living separately).