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Collecting child support and alimony in a military divorce

As any California family who has gone through a divorce is aware, it is often an emotionally and financially difficult period. While the laws that regulate how to obtain alimony and child support are spelled out fairly clearly in a civilian divorce, the process can be more involved during a military divorce. The best approach is to have as much information available when attempting to collect these often vital monies.

While there are similar rules for all branches of the military, each branch has a different system when it comes to collecting support money. One important fact to keep in mind may be that the military is not authorized to force a service member to make these payments. It also cannot order a garnishment on its own authority. A commanding officer may attempt to encourage service personnel to meet their support obligations through negative consequences but they cannot withhold the service member's pay. If a service member does face consequences due to the failure to meet his or her obligations, the commanding officer is prohibited from sharing that information with the former spouse or family member attempting to collect these monies.

When a service member neglects to make payments, one may believe that contacting the immediate supervisor is the first step in collecting these funds. However, it is better to contact the commanding officer by written communication, being sure to include all of the pertinent facts of the case. When a service member is under court orders to pay, then it is recommended to contact the Defense Finance & Accounting Service in order to provide the court order information, including as much detail concerning the service member so that the office can process the order in a timely manner. 

The military is prohibited from enforcing any child support and alimony orders under its own authority. Likewise, unless a prior written agreement applies or a court that has authority over the service member orders otherwise, the military guidelines dictate how much of a service member's pay is subject to support payments based on the current circumstances. California residents who are in the process of obtaining a military divorce may feel unsure of how or where to begin. Enlisting the services of an experienced family law attorney who is well-versed in handling these matters is often the best first step.

Source:, "Child & Spouse Support & Garnishment in the US Military", Rod Powers, Accessed on Nov. 12, 2017

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