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How child support issues can affect a service member’s career

On Behalf of | Apr 24, 2024 | Military Family Law |

Generally, people’s employers don’t get involved in their child support obligations beyond wage garnishment, if it’s ordered. They typically don’t face work-related consequences, however, if they get behind in their payments.

That’s not the case if someone is in the military. Commanding officers are allowed to penalize service members if they fail to support their children or other dependents. In fact, even before a child support order goes into place, if the other parent needs interim support, they can ask their co-parent’s commanding officer to order the military parent to make support payments until the order becomes effective.

Military consequences up to and including court-martial

Once a support order is in place, if a service member fails to make the required payments in full and on time, their ex can report them to their commanding officer (provided they have the necessary documentation) and ask them to address the issue. While officers can’t order those under their command to pay, they can impose other consequences such as extra duty reduction in pay and even reduction in rank.

In some cases, a service member could even be court-martialed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for failing to pay child support. The charges would generally involve one or more of the following:

  • Willfully disobeying an officer (Article 90)
  • Failure to obey order or regulation (Article 92)
  • Bringing discredit upon the armed forces (Article 134)

If a military parent still doesn’t pay, their co-parent can ask a court to order garnishment of their wages, which will involve the DFAS withdrawing money from each paycheck just as any other employer would have to do.

Setting up automatic payments can help avoid problems

It can sometimes be difficult for service members to make required payments, particularly if they’re deployed overseas. That’s why it’s typically best to set up what’s known as a voluntary allotment through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). This will allow child support payments to be automatically transferred each month.

Whichever side of the equation you’re on, having a commanding officer become involved in child support collection isn’t often good for anyone. If there’s a child support issue, it’s wise to get legal guidance as soon as possible so that it can be resolved efficiently and effectively.