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How Does Military Service Affect Child Support Payments in Michigan?

 Posted on December 18, 2019 in Divorce

Farmington Hills child support attorney military divorce

Divorce is a fairly common occurrence these days, especially when compared to decades ago. Recent studies show that approximately 40 to 50 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce. Although this may be a somewhat disheartening statistic, it is a reality in today’s modern world. Regardless of whether the breakdown of a marriage was caused by infidelity, addiction, or financial problems, for many couples, legally ending their union may be better for everyone in the long run. Once a couple decides to divorce, many issues will need to be addressed, such as property and asset division, spousal support, and child support if children are involved. Child support in Michigan is determined based on various factors, but what if one or both parents are serving in the U.S. military? Service to our country can affect how child support payments are implemented. 

Legal and Parental Obligations

All parents are responsible for the emotional and financial security of their children, no matter whether they are married, divorced, separated, or they never tied the knot. This obligation applies to parents in the Armed Forces as well. Several laws exist to ensure children are provided with the necessities to live a healthy and joyful life. In most situations, the parent with the majority of the parental responsibilities and parenting time (the custodial parent) will receive child support payments from the other parent (the non-custodial parent). 

Child support payments are typically calculated based on several factors, including the income of each spouse, the children’s needs, and other relevant issues. Courts must use the Michigan Child Support Formula when determining or modifying child support obligations in the state. In addition to a salary, members of the military often receive other benefits, such as housing and food stipends. Therefore, calculating child support in a military divorce can be complicated, because civilian spouses typically are not afforded the same allowances. Because of these additional factors to consider, courts sometimes need a longer time to determine the amount of child support and issue the support order. 

Interim Child Support

Prior to the court issuing a formal child support order, military parents will still be required to pay child support for costs related to the well-being of their children. These payments are referred to as interim child support, and they are generally made to the civilian custodial parent to be used for the children’s expenses before the court has decided on a final payment order. Interim payments depend on the military member’s gross pay and his or her Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). If the supporting parent is deployed overseas, he or she may have trouble paying simply because of limited access to his or her bank account. In these situations, military parents can set up automatic withdrawals through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. 

If the military parent does not pay child support as ordered, their children’s other parent can notify his or her ex-spouse’s commanding officer, who may punish the service member for failure to pay. Punishments may be in the form of extra work details, less pay, or possibly demotion to a lower rank. It is important to know that if a military parent is in arrears with child support, an order for arrearages may be requested by the custodial parent. Military pay can be garnished, just like a civilian parent’s pay would be. However, housing and food allowances cannot be garnished or taxed. If a service member has more than one legal obligation, current payments take priority over arrearages, and child support has priority over spousal support. 

Active-duty service members who are obligated to pay child support must meet several requirements, including: 

  • Notify the court that he or she has been called to active duty.

  • If child support is taken out of the military member’s paycheck, his or her employer must contact the court.

  • If the member’s income is reduced while on active duty, he or she may ask the court to modify the payment amount. 

  • If military deployment requires a passport, and more than $5,000 is owed in child support, the parent can discuss special payment options to preserve eligibility for a passport.

  • A child of a military parent can enroll in TRICARE, the health coverage plan for military dependents (if medical coverage is not available from an employer while on active duty).

Contact a Novi, MI Divorce Attorney

A divorce can be challenging under any circumstances, with many issues to resolve. One of the most important is child support, which is calculated with the best interests of the child in mind. Family law matters can become complicated when one spouse is a member of the Armed Forces. Whether you are the paying or the receiving parent, it is imperative that you understand your rights in a military divorce. Our knowledgeable and dedicated Oakland County child support lawyers understand the legal steps necessary to order and enforce child support payments. We will work tirelessly to advocate on your and your child’s behalf to achieve a favorable outcome. Call our office today at 248-344-9700 to schedule your free consultation. 



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