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How does military service affect child support?

When children are involved, divorce can be complex due to determining custody, parenting schedules and child support. Adding in a parent who is active in the military can make these things more challenging to figure out.

Although custody issues may be the main focus for military families going through divorce, active duty also affects the calculation and modification of child support. Knowing the law concerning these issues can help you financially prepare, whether you are the obligor (payer) or obligee (payee).

Calculating child support

The basic guidelines for establishing the amount of child support are the same for all families:

  • Number and ages of children
  • Income of each parent
  • Custody arrangement
  • Special needs of the children

However, additional factors may apply for active servicemembers. For example, does frequent deployment of the military parent mean the stateside parent cares for the children all the time? Are both parents in the military? Will spousal support also be necessary if one spouse turned down education and employment to be the primary caretaker while the military spouse was serving abroad? An attorney can review your case with you to estimate what child support would look like for your situation.

Modifying child support

If you and your ex do not come up with your own agreement, the court will decide on the payment amount based on what is best under the current circumstances. When those circumstances change, you can request a modification of the child support order. For example, a military spouse who faces deployment can petition for a review to reduce the payment amount. Usually, the reduction will only last until the parent returns, and then the original amount will continue. Promotions to higher-paying positions may be cause for the obligee to pursue a modification to increase the amount. Retiring from the military will also affect child support, especially as it will probably change the custody arrangement. 

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