Military marriages aren’t easy, and that makes military divorces extra difficult. For example, many military spouses are unemployed or work part time due to their spouse’s ever-changing work assignments. As a result, parents often have difficulty making decisions regarding their children. Luckily, the United States Military offers family law support and may oversee some disputed issues in a military divorce if the enlisted spouse is not cooperating with court orders.
Child Support in Military Divorce
Each branch of the military has its own rules and regulations for child support payments. For example, Army Regulation 608-99 “Family Support, Child Custody and Paternity” outlines the United States Army’s guidelines on child support. Specific details in the Army regulations include the Army’s responsibility in ensuring members pay financial support as ordered. However, the Army also uses a special equation to calculate a soldier’s mandated child support payments in the absence of a court order. Ultimately, a military spouse requiring child support payments should research the applicable branch’s requirements.
If a member of the military refuses to pay child support per court order, the collecting parent can file for garnishment against the soldier’s pay by the government. To do so, they must send a copy of the official support order to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). This order will direct the appropriate government agency to transfer child support from the military member’s pay. According to DFAS, the Consumer Credit Protection Act (15 U.S.C. § 1673) limits the value of garnishment from 50 to 65 percent of a soldier’s disposable income.
Child Custody in Military Divorce
Unlike support orders, state courts oversee child custody and visitation disputes in military divorce just as they do for civilians. In fact, family law judges are expected to base rulings regarding child custody and visitation matters for military families on the same guidelines as civilians’. Even so, many parents still worry that their military status will impact a judge’s decision on child custody. Additionally, they may fear that the other parent will request a court order on custody while they are deployed! Luckily, enlisted military members do have one form of protection in child custody cases: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
SCRA’s Protection Against Default Judgment
For deployed military members involved in a contested divorce, the SCRA provides protection against default judgment. More specifically, the law states the following:
The SCRA states that for civil court proceedings where a defendant servicemember has not made an appearance and it seems that he or she is in military service, a court may not enter a default judgment against that defendant until after it appoints an attorney to represent the interests of that defendant servicemember. (50 U.S.C. § 3931)
In other words, a family law court could NOT make a child custody order while a military member is deployed or otherwise in active service until an attorney representing them can appear at a hearing or before 90 days have passed.
Importance of Custody Agreements in Military Divorce
While active duty service shouldn’t affect the court’s ruling on child custody orders, it can affect the day-to-day routine of custody arrangements. For example, a soldier with sole physical custody of a child may worry about how the situation will change upon deployment. Some military members’ ex spouses may not provide the best living situation for their children. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of divorcing spouses and their children to create a custody agreement upon legal separation.
Custody agreements, parenting plans, and family care plans are all great solutions for child custody issues in military divorces. In fact, the military requires family care plans in many situations! These documents typically include full-time, long-term, and short-term caregivers’ names and contacts. This information is especially important when the other parent is not one of the custodial appointees. Additionally, the plans should include proof of a power of attorney for appointed caregivers.
Get Legal Help With Your Military Divorce
Some military divorces, especially with contested issues or conflicts, may require representation by a divorce attorney. Additionally, military spouses can get more information and help from their branch’s local legal assistance office. Alternatively, they may call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for help with family law issues.
That said, military spouses requiring assistance with divorce or legal separation paperwork in California should contact A People’s Choice. We provide hands-on, flat-fee assistance completing and filing all required divorce paperwork throughout California. Plus, while we cannot provide legal advice, we offer family law services tailored to your exact needs. Give us a call today at 1-800-747-2780 to learn more about how we can help.
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