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How to Calculate Child Support if the Paying Spouse is in the Military

There are always some extra complications in the divorce process when one or both spouses actively serves in the military. Among the various elements of the divorce that could be affected is the child support arrangement you develop.

To start with, you can use the child support guidelines for your state. However, if you and your spouse are unable to agree on the support amount and the court hasn’t already come to its own decision, you can use the military guidelines that exist. Each branch of the armed forces has its own official guidelines for interim child and family support if the state has not yet established an official support order. You should keep in mind, though, that the amount dictated by the military  can be more or less than what state guidelines apply, so if you are the recipient spouse, you’ll want to make sure this is a temporary support arrangement until something more official and permanent can be decided.

Determining the support amount

To determine how much money the service member will pay in child support, you’ll need to be able to calculate that service member’s income. Military paychecks are very different from other standard paychecks, so it can be hard to know exactly how much a service member’s pay is.

You can start with the base salary the service member receives, but you’ll also need to consider the housing allowance, which is calculated using family commitments, the service member’s pay grade and station location. You must also consider pay for hazardous assignments or certain responsibilities, and in-kind compensation for meals, housing or other types of non-monetary benefits.

Rather than using a tax return to determine the service member’s income (some income they receive is not taxable), you should use the Leave and Earnings Statement the service member receives, which is like a more detailed pay stub. This shows information such as basic income, housing allowances and additional benefits, the number of dependents the service member claims and how much accrued leave they have available.

In some cases, you may need to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to get the LES if your spouse is uncooperative in the divorce process.

For more information about what data you need to gather to develop a child support arrangement when the payer is in the armed forces, contact an experienced divorce lawyer at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia LLP.