How can child support of a military member be enforced?

A civilian spouse can get a child support order enforced within the chain of command of the military spouse or former spouse.

The company or unit commander is responsible for the enforcement of an interim child support order, as required by military regulations, for example. After a court order is obtained, the service member’s pay can be garnished or a portion can be allotted to child support, as required in the court order.

Military pay can be garnished for certain permissible purposes, and child support is a listed permissible purpose. Other types of pay that can be garnished are military retirement pay, reserve pay, federal civilian employee pay (if the spouse is a civilian employee of the military, say).

Housing allowance nor the food allowance is subject to garnishment or taxes, for that matter. All other forms of active pay can be garnished, including special skills pay.

A custodial parent can also use what is called an “involuntary allotment,” also called a “mandatory allotment.” An involuntary allotment is a wage-withholding order that is enforceable against service members.

An allotment pays more and is easier to obtain than garnishment.

An allotment can attach basic pay and the housing allowance, which is not permitted under a garnishment, and in most cases it is easier to obtain an involuntary allotment than a garnishment.

In order to obtain an allotment, a spouse must first obtain a legal order, either from a court or an administrative agency, for child support. Then she must wait until the ex-husband has not paid child support for at least two months. Once this occurs, a spouse can obtain a court or a state IV-D agency (a public agency that enforces child support orders) to send a notice to the appropriate military branch requesting initiation of an involuntary allotment. The allotment is in the amount of the monthly support obligation.

The allotment will not enforce the payment of the arrearage. The arrearage is the trigger for seeking an allotment. To receive any arrearages, a spouse must make a specific request. There must be an order, either by a court or an administrative agency, requiring the payment of the arrearages.