Military Family Support
Servicemembers are generally subject to the child support laws of the state where they file for child or spousal support and/or dissolution of marriage. However, servicemembers are also subject to military regulatory guidelines which apply before a court issues a child or spousal support order. For example, in the Army, Army Regulation (AR) 608-99, provides for family support in the absence of a court order or agreement between the parties, and sets forth the amount of support which is based on the rank of the servicemember. The regulatory amount is intended to be a temporary protection until the spouse can secure a court support order. The other services also have family support regulations.Military Assistance
If a servicemember does not provide support, then the family member can contact that servicemember’s commander to request assistance. The bottom line is that servicemembers are required to support their family members. The ability to contact a commander is an avenue of approach unique to the military and provides a family member with a solution in addition to that offered in a court of law.
A military commander may order a servicemember to provide support to their family members and a servicemember may be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice for failure to comply. If a family member makes a nonsupport inquiry to the command, by regulation the military commander must respond. Ideally a servicemember voluntarily provides support and the military command does not have to become involved, however this does not always happen.In-Kind Payments
A servicemember may comply with the financial support requirements of AR 608-99 by making “in-kind” payments by paying housing expenses such as rent, mortgage, property tax or utilities. In contrast, in the Marine Corps it is up to the military command to determine whether in-kind payments will be permitted. As with state law which varies by state, regulations also vary by military branch. There are some situations where a military commander may waive the servicemember’s support obligation. One such situation is if the family member has committed domestic violence against the servicemember.Support Agreement Options
Other options for support short of a court proceeding include a verbal agreement and a written agreement between the parties. An oral agreement may work, however if it does not it is difficult to enforce. A written agreement between the parties, if signed by both parties is enforceable as a contract. An agreement issued as a court order, however is enforceable by the court.Another Tool in the Toolkit
Not only are military commanders required to respond to family support inquires, but they are also required to respond to paternity and child custody (allocation of parental responsibilities) and visitation (parenting time) inquires. These matters are best resolved outside of the military system, however if there are difficulties with resolution outside of the military system, AR 608-99 and the other services equivalents offer another tool in the toolkit for the military family member.Consult With an Attorney Who Knows the Military
If you have questions about family support and the military, consult with an attorney who knows the military and the challenges that servicemembers may face as well as their families. Attorneys can not only assist with court proceedings but also with assisting family members in obtaining financial support through the military system itself. Whether you are a servicemember or a family member, someone who know the military system will be able to offer the most targeted assistance for your situation.