Federal regulations require military service members to provide financial support to their children. Unlike civilian courts which only require that the non-custodial parent provide child support to their child by way of court order, military courts consider it the service member’s duty to provide support to his or her children regardless of whether the service member parent is custodial or non-custodial.

How is Child Support Calculated?

Military services have regulations requiring members to “provide adequate support” to family members. They can be issued by court order or via interim support measures until an official court order is obtained. What constitutes “adequate support” differs from service to service and is governed by the laws of your state.

In general, child support is calculated by adding the amount of money the service member makes, determining the gross monthly income and applying it to the attorney general tax chart, and multiplying that by a specific percentage for each child.

How Do I Enforce Child Support?

You can enforce child support if you received a court order for child support payments. This can include a “temporary support order” which the court can issue if there is pending resolution on your divorce case. It’s important to note that you can enforce child support regardless of where the service member is stationed, whether in the United States or abroad.
If the service member still fails to pay child support despite the court order, you can obtain a garnishment or involuntary allotment order. This allows the wages of any active members of the military, as well as reservists and retired persons, to be garnished in order to pay the court-ordered child support. Other types of pay that can be garnished are military retirement pay, reserve pay, and federal civilian employee pay (if the spouse is a civilian employee of the military).
For some people, obtaining a court order is not possible. In those cases, make a formal complaint to the service member’s superior (commander or executive officer). The complaint should be in writing so that the military can adequately investigate your claim.

How Do I Get a Court Order for Child Support?

Court orders can be issued through two basic methods:

  1. They can be in connection with a court proceeding (such as in conjunction with a child custody hearing); or,
  2. They can be filed at a separate time from any hearing or proceeding (for example, filing a motion for child custody).

What Happens if the Military Parent Retires?

Federal law allows wages of active and retired members of the military be garnished for child support payments. There may be a short break in payments (1-2 months) when the service member retires, but the non-service member parent is otherwise permitted to receive child support payments.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

Because of the special circumstances of military life, it may be wise to consult with a skilled family lawyer. Speaking with an experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and help you navigate the complicated court system.