It's stressful and frustrating when you decide you need to turn to the courts for help in getting a child support order and getting it paid. You need the funds for your child's care, the legal process often seems confusing, and receiving support payments can't happen fast enough. One more thing: Your child's other parent is in the military.
You stay in control and keep your stress to a minimum when you know what to expect in your case. Learn how child support cases differ when the paying parent is in the military.
Some of the issues when your child has a military parent are:
- Locating the parent
- Setting support based on military income and resources
- Enforcing a child support order
In the end, parents do have a duty to support their children
Locating the Military Parent
You need to know where a military parent is located no matter what stage your case is in – from getting an order for support to collecting on an existing support order. Sometimes it's difficult to locate an active duty member of the Armed Services.
Start your search with the basics in hand: Know the military parent's full name and social security number. Check these sources for leads:
- The local recruiting office that handled the parent's enlistment or his or her former unit office. They may be able to provide the parent's duty station
- The World Wide Military Locator Service (WWML) can provide a work address for a military member on active duty
- The parent's last unit. Military personnel usually leave a copy of their reassignment orders with their unit when they leave
These methods can also help when you're looking for a retiree or reservist.
Managing State Law and Military Regulations
Deciding child support issues is a matter for state courts, but military regulations do matter. Each state has laws and guidelines governing the duty to pay support and setting support amounts.
The Law and the Duty to Pay Support
Military regulations also require parents to support their families. Some branches of the military make it a crime if personnel fail to meet their support duties. Regulations generally require a military parent to pay court-ordered child support.
Sometimes there are questions about which state's courts is the correct one to handle your case and how to manage parents and children living in different states. Working with an experienced attorney is often the best decision you can make.
Deciding Support Amounts
Compensation is different in the military than in a civilian job, and it can affect child support awards. Work with your attorney and understand military pay, allowances and benefits. For example, get copies of the parent's Leave and Earning Statements (LES), rather than an income tax return.
Military regulations also cover what portion of base pay should be used for family support and the allowances and benefits given to service members with dependents.
Collecting Child Support and Military Employers
Federal and military laws and regulations apply when you want to collect child support from a military parent's pay. The government is the parent's employer, after all.
You need an income withholding or deduction order directing the government to pay child support from the parent's wages. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) web site has instructions on getting your payments started.
Child support backpayments can be collected in the same way.
There are limits on amounts withheld from military paychecks, just like in the civilian world. A military parent may lack the disposable income needed for full payment.
You may find that managing child support issues and a military parent is no more daunting than when your child's other parent lives across town, much less the country or the world.
Questions for Your Attorney
- How does the military divide pay when someone owes child support to more than one family?
- Can I go to state court and have my child support order changed if my ex-spouse is stationed overseas?
- How do I show a court the value of my ex-spouse's military compensation so my child receives a fair child support award?