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Maximum payment for alimony and child support in military divorce

As previous posts have discussed, military divorces can be very different than civilian divorces. Despite these differences, the same major financial decisions need to be decided in both types of divorces. With regards to alimony and child support, divorcing couples in New Mexico and elsewhere can request these payments during dissolution. However, in a military divorce, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act or USFSPA designates how much a former spouse can request.

According to the USFSPA, the maximum payment that can be paid to a former spouse is 50 percent of the service member's disposable retired pay. However, in matters where there are payments for both alimony and child support, pursuant to the USFSPA and 42 U.S.C. 659, the total amount paid by the service member cannot exceed 65 percent of their disposable earnings for the purpose of garnishment.

If a former spouse is awarded a certain percentage of a member's disposable retired pay, he or she should note that any changes made to the service member's authorized deductions would alter the amount he or she receives as the former spouse. Additionally, percentage awards automatically also receive a proportionate share of the service member's cost-of-living adjustments; however, these are not available for fixed dollar amount awards even if they were awarded in the court order.

Lastly, the right to any of these payments will terminate upon the death of the service member or the recipient former spouse. These payments could terminate at an earlier time if an applicable court order provides for an earlier termination.

A military divorce is often more complex than a civilian divorce due to the additional laws that govern the process. Because of that, it is important that both spouses understand the process and are able to work through the steps of dissolution. Additionally, those seeking a financial award such as alimony or child support should take the time to fully understand the amount he or she is entitled to.

Source:, "Maximum Payment Amount," accessed Feb. 29, 2016

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