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How does the military govern family support?

All branches of the armed forces have regulations that require its service members to give adequate support to family members following a divorce. However, enforcement is unclear because the military cannot enforce support payments unless a court issues an order.

A commander cannot order a service member to pay support. A commander can punish members who do not pay through nonjudicial punishment, reducing a person's rank, issuing a reprimand, denying promotions or even through a discharge. However, these sanctions may not be disclosed to family members or anyone else under the Privacy Act of 1974.

Th definition of adequate support also differs among the service branches. In some branches, the base commander can set or waive requirements. Seeking a court order is the best way of seeking or enforcing child and spousal support. Courts can also issue temporary orders that help assure until the divorce is final. If these orders are issued, a spouse may seek court enforcement through a garnishment or involuntary allotment order. These allow deduction of support payments from military pay without intervention of the spouse's commander.

Federal law permits garnishment, in accordance with New Mexico law, of the pay of active duty, reserve, Guard and members of the military who are retired. Federal law also determines how the pay is garnished. Allotments from military pay of active duty members are also authorized under federal law for child support and alimony. Allotments cannot be used solely for spousal support alone. Payments must be two months in arrears.

However, the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act provides some protections to military personnel. If the servicemember cannot appear in court because of active deployment or overseas assignment, for example, a state court must grant a 90-day delay of any judicial action.

If seeking court intervention is impossible, a spouse should file a written complaint with the member's commander, executive officer, first sergeant or similar ranking member. They can initiate an investigation and provide assistance on obtaining support.

An experienced attorney can help assure that support orders are issued in a manner that allows for their enforcement. A lawyer can assist with utilizing federal and New Mexico law to assure that support is paid.

Source: the balance, "Military divorce and separation-child/spouse support and garnishment issues," By Rod Powers, Accessed Aug. 28, 2017

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