Military Service Makes Child Support Determinations More Complex

Military service is notably hard on families, especially in times of pre-deployment, deployment, and upon return home. When members of the military divorce, child support is frequently one of the factors that must be addressed because approximately 50 percent of active-duty members and 70 percent of National Guard members are parents, according to the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). Plus, an estimated 30,000 soldiers become unmarried fathers each year. Read on to learn more about military divorce and child support in Gwinnett County.

How Does the Military Handle Child Support Obligations?

The military will uphold whatever child support order the court issues, as long as it is not in opposition to any statute or government policy. There are two mentionable aspects of child support for service members that are unique from civilian divorces.

You have to follow the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s (DFAS) guidelines for garnishments. Basically, you have to send the DFAS an order from the court or from a child support enforcement agency that directs the government to pay monies from the service members’ pay for support. The DFAS advises: “For child support, contact an attorney or your local child support enforcement agency to obtain an Income Deduction Order or Income Withholding Order.”

There is a cap on how much of the service member’s pay can be garnished for child support. Depending upon how many families the service member supports and how much debt he owes, the Consumer Credit Protection Act (15 U.S.C. § 1673) mandates that the maximum deduction for child support or alimony ranges from 50 percent to 65 percent of the member’s disposable earnings. Your attorney can advise you of which cap applies to your case. The military has no problem deducting the full amount of child support, as long as it does not exceed these limits.

Complexities of Calculating Service Members’ Income for Child Support

Like in a civilian divorce, each spouse in a military divorce generally has to file a financial affidavit detailing all assets and income. Regardless of whether the service member is the paying parent or the parent receiving support, his or her disposable income must be valued accurately in order for the courts to establish child support figures correctly. Calculating income for military members can be a lot trickier than for civilian families. It is not just the member’s base pay that needs to be considered. Below are some of the other things that must be taken into account.

  • Housing allowance (which is calculated using location, family commitments, and the service member’s pay grade)
  • Pay differentials for things such as hazardous assignments
  • Any “in-kind” nonmonetary compensation, such as in the form of housing and meals
  • If you are a military member or the spouse of one and are going through a divorce, you can bring a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) to your attorney for help calculating child support. LESs are akin to pay stubs, but they include a lot more information. They detail base pay, housing allowances, the number of dependents being claimed, and the amount of available accrued leave.

Have Questions About Military Divorce and Child Support in Gwinnett County?

There are several resources to which you have access that shed a lot of light on complicated topics such as child support for military divorces. You can visit the DFAS website or contact them at 888-DFAS411 with specific questions. You also can visit the Administration for Children & Families website and download a copy of the OCSE’s handbook for military families, Helping You with Child Support.

Talk to a military divorce attorney at Ward Law Firm in Gwinnett County, Georgia for answers to your questions. We are able to assist you with any aspect of military divorce, including child support, property division, alimony and custody. Contact us today at 770-383-1973 or fill out our online contact form for a free, no-obligation consultation.