All parents are financially responsible for their children in some regard, but military parents have a specific obligation to provide for their families. There are several laws in place designed to protect children and ensure that they receive the support they need so that they enjoy a healthy, prosperous childhood. Military service members are held to an even higher standard and are subject to punishment from their commanding officer if they fail to provide for their families. This applies to military parents who have divorced, separated, and those who were never married to their child’s other parent.
If you are a military parent or your child’s other parent is a servicemember, make sure you know how child support rules apply to you and your family.
When Child Support Is Necessary
Child support is necessary in any situation where both parents are no longer married or living together. When parents are no longer together, they will share parenting duties, which means they will also be responsible for sharing the financial responsibility of raising their child. Whether the parents share custody or one has sole custody while the other is granted visitation, both parents are financially responsible. Support is designed solely for the purpose of helping the child, not the custodial parent. In most cases, the noncustodial parent will be asked to pay support, or the parent who earns more may be asked to pay additional funds to support the child.
When a parent is a military member, it is likely that he or she will be ordered to pay support payments to their child, especially if that parent does not have custody.
Calculating Child Support
As with any other child support case, the payments will be calculated based on the income of either spouse, the child’s needs, and other relevant factors. However, it can sometimes take a while for courts to make such decisions. Before the court has issued a formal child support order, military parents will still be required to pay child support in order to benefit their children. These payments, called interim child support, often go to the civilian custodial parent for the benefit of the child before the court has decided on a final payment order.
Interim Child Support
Although each military branch is different, the basics of this rule are universal. All military members are required to pay for their children even if there is no court order. The payment depends on the service member’s gross pay and their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). If a service member fails to make these payments, their co-parent may send notice to the military parent’s commanding officer, who can then punish the service member for failing to pay.
Abiding By Court Orders
Once the court has ordered child support, the interim child support decided by the military will be overridden. Moving forward, all child support payments will be handled in the same way as they would for any other civilian parent. However, payments may be somewhat difficult to issue if the supporting parent is deployed and unable to access their bank accounts on a regular basis. For this reason, military parents may set up a specific payment through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which will automatically withdraw the appropriate amount from the service member’s regular pay.
As with interim child support, if the supporting military parent fails to pay, 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 which point the commanding officer may punish the military parent. Punishments may include extra duty rounds, a decrease in pay, and even a drop in rank. However, even though the military parent’s commanding officer can issue non-judicial punishments, they cannot force the military parent to pay. If the military parent still fails to pay, the receiving parent can attempt to enforce the court order by legal means.