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My Spouse is in the Military and Stopped Paying Spousal Support. What Do I do?

military man in camo with backpack

The military protects our country but also has certain expectations about protecting both, servicemembers and the family members and dependents that rely on the military member. The military will protect the spouse and dependent children to make certain that those reliant on the military member have their needs met.

What Can You Do?

The Military has guidelines regarding the spousal support and dependent support that family members are entitled to, typically based upon the housing allowance (Basic Allowance for Housing or abbreviated BAH). Of course, the amount determined by the military based on their formulas can always be adjusted by a court, but the military has a formula amount that dependent family members will be entitled to.

What Do You Do If Your Military Spouse Does Not Honor Their Support Obligation?

You can obtain an interim spousal support order. This is done through the military spouse’s unit commander or chain of command. After the support amount is determined and ordered, the military servicemember can have his or her wages garnished by DFAS (the Defense Finance and Accounting Service) to ensure payment. Along with garnishment of bae pay, reserve pay, military retirement and federal civilian pay can also be garnished.

Regulation 608-99

This Army Regulation requires that a solider or member of the military provides financial support to family members and honors or obeys court orders regarding child custody matters. Even if the family is required to be separated due to military service or a change of duty stations, the military servicemember must still comply with civil orders regarding child custody and support of dependents. Generally, the military prefers that there be a court order regarding support, but when there is not, the dependent family members will be entitled to an amount generally qual to the basic allowance for housing rates with the dependent pay calculation.

The Military requires that servicemembers provide interim minimum financial support to ensure basic stability and protection for dependent family members. Whether the servicemember has more than one family unit to support and whether both spouses are serving in the military all plays a role in the calculated/determined amount of interim support.

What are the General Parameters for Support?

If the servicemember has only one family unit to support (meaning no children from a prior relationship), then he or she will provide the following family support: (if the servicemember’s family is not living in government family hosing), the BAH with dependents rate shall be provided. This is required even if the servicemember is not receiving BAH or is occupying government family housing. If the family is living in the government family housing, no direct financial support payment is required. When the family moves out of the government housing, then the BAH rate will be provided.

What if the servicemember has multiple family units? In such circumstance, such as where the servicemember is married with a family and has a child from a previous marriage or relationship, the BAH amount shall be divided on a pro rata share between all of the servicemember’s dependents. The dependents who are subject to support requirements include the servicemember’s spouse, children and adopted children (not step-children for whom the servicemember does not have a legal support obligation for though). If there are court orders providing for support obligations, those will be given first priority for payment, and then any remaining family members (who are not subject to an alternative support order), will be given the remainder of the BAH amount, again, assuming they do not reside in government housing.

What if the Servicemembers are Married to each other?

Servicemembers are not required to provide financial support to a spouse who is also on active duty in the military unless there is a court order or other written agreement to do so.

What About Children of Two Parents in the Military?

If the servicemember does not have custody of any child of the current relationship then the servicemember will pay an amount equal to the BAH with the differential rate based on the other servicemember parent having custody, so long as neither parent is living in government housing. If the other spouse and the children are living in government housing then no additional support obligation through the military will be mandated. If each servicemember has custody of one or more children from the parties’ marriage then neither servicemember is required to support the other or the children in the other parent’s custody during the pendency (absent a court order to the contrary).

How Does a Servicemember Seek Relief from Support Payments?

If a servicemember wants to reduce ordered support payments, the servicemember must go back to court to get a court order reducing the required payment. In some situations, a Battalion Commander may decide to release a servicemember under his or her command from a support obligation under AR608-99 (or the equivalent for other branches of the military). Generally this occurs in the following limited circumstances: the order was issued by a court lacking in jurisdiction; the court order is silent as to financial support obligations; the income of the spouse seeking family support exceeds the military servicemember’s income, the servicemember has been the victim of a substantiated incident of physical abuse, the supported family member is in jail; a supported minor child is in the custody of a third party custodian who does not have a lawful right to custody or an alternative amount of support has been provided for at least 18 months.

What Method and Form of Support Payments are Available?

Unless the court order provides an alternative method, generally the financial support needs to be paid by cash, check, money order, allotment through pay. The monthly support payments are due no later than on the first day of the month following the month when they are due. A servicemember may also comply with AR 608-99 by paying on governmental housing expenses, including such things as rent, real property taxes and property insurance due under an escrow agreement, the principal and interest payments due on any outstanding loan secured on the non-government housing, and essential utilities such as gas, electricity and water. Nongovernmental housing expenses do not include other housing costs such as telephone or cable television charges. A servicemember will receive credit for payments to others, on behalf of, and with the agreement of supported family members. If there is a disagreement on the terms of payment to others in an oral agreement which cannot be resolved, then the servicemember will continue to make full payments directly to the spouse in cash, check, money order, or allotment.

How Do you Make a Nonsupport Complaint?

A family member who needs support from a servicemember or is not receiving support when obligated can contact the servicemember’s chain command directly. The commander is responsible for researching the allegation of nonsupport and responding to the dependent of the servicemember who made the claim or issue, including speaking with their legal assistant or attorney. The family member is also able to contact the civilian social services, retain an attorney or speak with a legal assistance attorney through the JAG office. If needed, an involuntary allotment can be initiated through the servicemember’s allotment.

What Can Be Done about Dependent Identification Cards?

If a servicemember refuses or cannot or will not sign an application for dependent identification cards or the servicemember’s whereabouts are unknown, the spouse or dependent can go to the ID card section of the personnel office and obtain a card, as well as the dependent reaching out to the servicemembers’ chain of command.

How Can Pingel Family Law Help?

If you believe a divorce or other family separation is imminent and you or your spouse are in the military, it is crucial that you seek legal representation from an experienced, knowledgeable family law attorney. Our office is passionate about representing military servicemembers and their spouses in appreciation for the service your family has provided. Call Pingel Family Law today (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation to determine your rights and obligations. Allow us to help you and your family.