Military child support has its own challenges. When service members are faced with providing child support they have their own regulations regarding it. In the civil courts, the child support order only applies to non-custodial parents who are separated from their spouses or are unmarried.
However, the military branches obligate the service member’s duty to financially support their dependents regardless of their marital or custodial status. Therefore, this grants the authority to the commanding officers to pursue non-judicial punishments even against service members who are married but who fail to support their families.
How is the Child Support Amount Determined?
The process of determining child support amounts is similar for both the military and civil non-military parents. Like most states, there is a formula used for calculating child support, and if there is an agreement between the parents this process is much smoother. However, if the parents are in disagreement the court will intervene.
For instance, if the parents who share custody reach an agreement on child support, they can confer on the amount and schedule of the parents. But, if the parents cannot agree on this, then the family judge will decide the amount and schedule for the payments in accordance with the state law.
The factors that are used in general to determine the child support is the income and liabilities of each parent. Child support cases are unique in such that each family has their own dynamics and circumstances that may not apply to all. Therefore, the judge examines this child support calculation on a case by case basis. This is especially important for military families because they need to make a plan about their child support order and what action needs to occur if the military parent is deployed overseas, or cannot access his or her bank accounts.
Some states may have special statutes in place for military parents, so it is recommended to consult a local family law attorney. This helps ensure that the child support is fair and complies with state laws. In addition, it is a good idea to keep the official court order to ensure you have a record of the child support payments and to make note of any missed ones.
There is a process of requesting the military parent’s commanding officer for child support assistance prior to a court order being finalized. The officer may investigate and can then order the military parent to make interim support payments. It is important to note that all the various military branches have their own regulations for determining child support payments, which are usually based on a formula that accounts for a service member’s gross pay and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). A service member is mandated to pay these interim support payments until there is a court order or child support agreement with the other parent setting the amount and schedule of payments. The interim support payments through the military will not supersede the child support order contained in a court order or agreement.
In general, military paychecks are different from any other paychecks, it can be difficult to determine what a service member’s actual pay is. This is not an ideal situation because usually a parent’s income is the basis for calculating child support. To begin the process with your state’s child support guidelines, you will need to be informed about the service member’s income as well as the amount of any payments the service member is making for the children’s health insurance or for work-related day care.
For example, you can start with the service member’s base salary. Among this there is also a housing allowance, calculated using location, family commitments, and the service member’s pay grade. In addition to this, you have to pay differentials for hazardous assignments. In trying to determine the other parent’s income, do not use a tax return, because some of the income that service members receive is tax-free, and you will be working with an amount that is very low. But instead you may want to utilize the Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), which is similar to a pay stub but more comprehensive. The LES will allow you to see the service member parent’s basic pay and housing and other allowances, as well as information about how many dependents the service member is claiming and how much leave is available.
The IRS does not tax military housing and food allowances, however most states’ child support guidelines include all income, whether it is taxable or not. More recently, with many more service members on active duty, state courts have started to consider these issues. They all seem to universally agree that even though allowances and in-kind compensation are nontaxable, they should be counted as income for purposes of calculating child support. The in-kind compensation can include onbase housing, therefore if a service member lives on the base, the value of the housing can also be included.
It is understandable that when you are dealing with the U.S. military, you may not have an easy time getting access to the information you need. In fact, you may be required to submit a Freedom of Information Act request if your spouse will not cooperate and provide the LES. You can request assistance from an enforcement agency to ensure you receive the needed support from the military parent. However, it can get complicated and you may need to contact a local military child support lawyer.
How to Collect Child Support from Military Service Members?
If there is a court order you must abide by it. The interim child support decided by the military will be overridden once that court order is finalized. Keep in mind that moving forward, all child support payments will be handled in the same way as they would for any other civilian parent.
However, in general the payments may be difficult to issue if the supporting parent is deployed and unable to access their bank accounts on a regular basis. For this main reason, military parents may set up a specific payment through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which can automatically withdraw the appropriate amount from the service member’s regular pay.
As with interim child support, if the supporting military parent fails to make payments, the receiving parent may write to the military parent’s commanding officer. The receiving parent should include documentation of the child support order and evidence that the military parent has failed to make payments, at this point the commanding officer may punish the military parent. The punishments may include extra duty rounds, a decrease in pay, and even a reduction in rank.
But even though the military parent’s commanding officer can issue non-judicial punishments, they cannot force the military parent to pay. Another option, if the military parent still fails to pay, the receiving parent can attempt to enforce the court order by legal means.
When Do I Need to Hire A Family Lawyer?
If you are a military service parent or your former spouse is a member of the military, make sure you understand how child support can be affected. While these rules apply to all military service members, there may be additional rules that apply to specific branches of the military. Therefore, to better comprehend your specific situation, you may need to contact your local family law attorney for legal assistance.