Child Support for Military Service Members

When Child Support Is Necessary

Child support is a concern that has to be dealt with whenever a marriage that produced children is about to end in a divorce. Ex-partners will be sharing parental responsibility, which includes the responsibility to provide for their offspring financially. Regardless of parental rights (custody or not), a parent is still responsible for supporting his/her offspring financially. The payments must be used to provide for the child, not for his/her guardian. Even if courts don’t grant you custody of your child, you may be required to provide him/her with financial support. In some cases, courts might consider the financial capabilities of former spouses when determining the amount of child support payments.

If one of the former spouses serves in the military, courts will most likely obligate him/her to provide financial support for the child, even more so if a military member is not the legal guardian of the child.

Calculating Child Support

As with any other child support case, the payments will be calculated based on the income of either spouse, the child’s needs, and other relevant factors.

However, it can sometimes take a while for courts to make such decisions.

Before the court has issued a formal child support order, military parents will still be required to pay child support in order to benefit their children. These payments, called interim child support, often go to the civilian custodial parent for the child’s benefit before the court has decided on a final payment order.

To come up with a reasonable number for child support payments, check the child support guidelines of the state where you reside.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your former spouse on how much child support payment should be, follow military guidelines. The military branch that is one of the spouse’s employers will have temporary family support recommendations until the state has issued an order. However, military recommendations for child support amounts tend to be less than average state guidelines.

Sometimes you might struggle with finding military recommendations for child support amounts. If you want to try temporary child support payments, get the help of your state’s child support enforcement agency or make an inquiry with the Legal Assistance Office. Utilize the online tool legal services locator to find the nearest location.

Calculating a Service Member’s Income

Because of the complexity of military paychecks, determining the actual income of a military service member can be difficult. Because of this, coming up with a child support payment amount, which usually depends on the parent’s income, might be a struggle.

In the first place, you’re going to need to know how much a service member actually earns and whether or not he/she’s covering certain costs for children, like daycare costs or health insurance coverage.

Calculating a military member’s income should start with accounting for his/her base salary.

Another payment that should be taken into account is a housing allowance, which is usually calculated depending on the location, marriage status, his/her responsibilities towards his/her family, and other factors. Army sometimes also issues payments “in-kind” for their service members. These types of payments include housing, food, and other valuable resources.

A certain part of a military member’s income is not taxed, so using tax returns for determining a service member’s total income doesn’t reflect the reality. Using the Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) is a much better idea because it includes much more information. This document features important information about the military member:

  • basic income,
  • additional income in the form of allowances,
  • family responsibilities,
  • and information about leave.

Child support guidelines for most states don’t differentiate between taxable and tax-exempt income, so the fact that some of the military member’s incomes are not taxed by the IRS won’t make a difference. During the past few years, states have concluded that even though some types of military payments are not taxed, they should be accounted for when coming up with a child support amount.

A lot of times, the military will provide free housing to its members. This is just one example of in-kind payments that should be considered.

It is typical to struggle with gaining access to the information you need from the U.S military. If your former spouse is uncooperative and refuses to give you access to the LES, you might have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to get the information you need. Usually, you’ll need to have an attorney handle this for you. Alternatively, you can also get help from a child support enforcement agency. Check National Child Support Enforcement Association to learn about the whereabouts of these agencies in your state.

Interim Child Support

Every military branch usually has its own set of rules, but the core concept of this rule is universal.

Individuals who serve in the military have an obligation to support their children financially, even if the court hasn’t issued an official order yet. The exact amount of child support payments will be calculated based on gross pay and the military member’s housing allowance. In case his/her former spouse notifies a service member’s commanding officer about a failure to complete child support payments, there will be punishment.

Abiding By Court Orders

Once the court has issued an order about child support, a temporary measure imposed by the military will be replaced. Afterward, a military member’s child support payments will be no different from the payments made by a regular person.

In some cases, a deployed army member might not have free access to their bank accounts. A possible solution for this problem is making arrangements with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to make the payments by taking money from your bank account.

Similar to temporary child support, a former spouse of a military member can retribute by notifying the commanding officer if the service member fails to make his/her child support payments. If the non-military parent can back up his/her claims with the relevant documentation, a commanding officer has the right to punish the respective member of the military. Punishment can take various forms, such as additional duty rounds, lowering the salary, or even demotion in rank. However, issuing punishments is all that the commanding officer can do. A commanding officer can not force a military parent to make child support payments. If the appeal with the military doesn’t get your former spouse to pay his dues, you will be within your rights to seek legal action.

If one of the former spouses serves in the military, check out rules specific to your branch regarding child support payments. It is also a good idea to consult with a Family law attorney to receive more in-depth information.

Child Support Payments

The military does not dictate what kind of method to use to make the payments. It is up to the guardian parent and non-custodial parent to decide on an optimal solution for both of them. Once the two parties have agreed on the amount of child support, they should also arrange for a method to receive the payments when the military member’s deployment prevents him/her from sending the money or seeing the child in person.

Military members can refer to DFAS to set up a system that deducts the relevant amount of money from the salary and automatically makes child support payments. This is a method called a voluntary allotment.

Child Support Regulations

Despite the fact that the U.S military does not issue regular payments to the NCP, its rules still obligate members of the military to financially support their children and act in accordance with rules that the two former spouses agreed on, the court order or temporary child support mechanism imposed by the military.

In the case of civilians, court orders will only be issued to former spouses who are currently separated or haven’t married. The military has a different code of conduct. Every military member is made responsible for making child support payments, without exceptions.

The primary method to punish the service member who does not make child support payments is to notify his/her commanding officer. Commanding officers can use various powers at their disposal to punish the offending military member. Punishments can be quite severe, in some cases threatening the military career of the offending individual.

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