Child Support Regulations for Military Service Members

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Federal regulations require U.S. military service members and veterans to provide child support to their custodial and non-custodial children. The rules for military personnel do not override or conflict with state rules regarding child support. Instead, they ensure compliance with payment and provide an interim guideline for calculating financial responsibilities when a legal agreement has not yet been reached.

If there is a written support agreement between the military service member and the child's other parent or when there a state court order has been in place, a military service member is required by law to provide financial support under the terms of the agreement or legal court order. In the absence of a plan for financial child support, interim support measures are determined by the military until a court order is obtained.

When it comes to getting the right level of support for the child or children of a service member, Child Support Services (CSS) uses a voluntary support agreement. Only if an agreement does not exist or is not obtained will the CSS proceed through military-determined interim support measures until a formal long-term plan or agreement is established.

In many instances, interim measures may award a lower amount of child support payment than state guidelines would mandate.

Child Support Calculation

When you are not relying on a military interim measure to determine the amount of child support obligation, the calculation of the required child support payments is the same for a service member as it would be for a non-military service member, and is based primarily on income.

The first step in the process of calculating the amount of money a service member is required to pay for dependent child care is to determine how much money that military service member earns. This calculation can be determined using several resources.

First, the military pay chart can give an estimate of military income, the payments from the leave and earning statement should be added, and other sources of income may need to be considered as well. Some allowances are also added to a service member's pay including Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Basic Allowance for Subsistence or Separate Rations (BAS).

Once you have determined a service member's earnings, add all income for the full year to get the full annual total. You can then calculate the service member's gross monthly income by dividing the yearly total by 12.

To find the amount allowable for each child, consult your state's attorney general child support formula, and then multiply the total income by the allowable percentage for each child. A service member may also be responsible for health insurance and child care expenses.

For more information about how to use these calculations and how to determine the financial obligation of a service member per child, look to your state law which provides individual state rules to calculate child support, and find details regarding child support policies that pertain to the individual branch of the military.

Child Support Payments

The military does not regulate the method of child support payment, leaving the decision up to the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent (NCP) service member. Once the monthly child support amount has been determined, it is important to set up a means of receiving the support payments when a service member is not able to assist in physically caring for the child or able to send money easily due to deployment.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) allows military parents to set up an amount automatically withdrawn from military income. This is known as a voluntary allotment.

Child Support Regulations

While the U.S. military does not routinely send payment to the NCP, the U.S. military does require service members to provide financial care for their children and to abide by either the agreement between parents, the court order, or the military interim support measure.

In contrast to civilian child support courts, where orders only apply NCPs who are separated or unmarried, the military branches consider it a service member's duty to provide support for dependents regardless of custodial or marital status.

If a service member does not fulfill child support duties, you can contact his or her commanding officer. Officers can pursue non-judicial punishments against members who fail to support their families, and those who do not follow child support regulations may experience disciplinary action or even separation from military service.

1 Source
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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A handbook for military families: Helping you with child support.

Additional Reading
  • US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support and Enforcement. Military and Veterans.

By Debrina Washington
Debrina Washington is a New York-based family law attorney and writer, who runs her own virtual practice to assist single parents with legal issues.