Child Support and Military Service Members

Black girl hugging leg of returning soldier
LWA/Dann Tardif / Getty Images

Child support rules and procedures that govern most parents are different from those that govern military service members, but there are rules in place that require military personnel to cover costs associated with a dependent—it's just a matter of which method you want to go about for acquiring this financial support.

Federal regulations require military service members to provide financial support under the terms of a court order, per a written support agreement in the absence of a court order, or through interim support measures until a court order is obtained.

However, when it comes to getting the right level of support for your child from a service member, it's best for Child Support Services (CSS) to obtain a voluntary support agreement, and only if this is not obtained should the CSS proceed through interim support measures until legal precedent can be established. Keep in mind, though, that interim measures typically award less child support than most state guidelines would mandate.

Child Support Calculation for Service Members

The first step in the process of calculating the amount of money owed by a service member is to determine how much money that member makes including totals and figures from the leave and earning statement, military pay chart, and attorney general tax chart.

Once you've determined a service member's pay, add all income to determine an annual income, then determine the gross monthly income by dividing by 12 and take that amount and apply it to the attorney general tax chart, and then multiply that by the allowable percentage for each child. Keep in mind that 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).

In addition to the amount determined by the child support formula, a servicemember may also be responsible for health insurance and child care expenses, which may increase while a service member is deployed and unable to assist the custodial parent with caring for the child. 

Regulations Governing Child Care Support

Service members are required to provide care for their children and those who fail to provide this support may experience disciplinary action or even separation from military service. For more information, look to the state law—as well as the branch of the military's regulations—to determine how to calculate child support for a military service member.

Once this has been determined, it's important to set up a means of receiving the support payments, which the military does not regulate, leaving the decision up to the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent (NCP) service member. However, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) does allow military parents to set up an amount automatically withdrawn from pay known as a voluntary allotment.

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, meaning that officers can pursue non-judicial punishments against members who fail to support their families.