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How does military income change child support determinations?

Like civilian families, military families live in and around Clarksville, Tennessee, experience the ups and downs of family life, which may sometimes end in divorce. Like civilians, military families also have to deal with issues such as child support during the military divorce process. However, in a military member's case, the determination of income is somewhat different than with civilians because of factors such as military allowances and other income, which are not applicable to civilians.

Laws in Tennessee, and most other states in the U.S., require all divorced parents to declare all taxable and nontaxable income to determine the child support amount. With military members, that includes base pay, pay for special skills, bonuses and a number of allowances such as basic allowance for housing. The Department of Defense compiles all data pertaining to military members' income and sends a quarterly report to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. The information contained in the report is also available on a military member's Leave and Earnings Statement.

The LES is a comprehensive income statement that is critical to the process of determining income as well as to the process of establishing the child support order. The LES has 78 fields and provides a lot of information pertaining to a military member's pay, allowances, entitlements, leave balances, details of dependents and legal residence. The LES is such a comprehensive document that most child support agencies will ask for it when a divorced military member or a military spouse seeks child support services.

It is important for military members and their spouses to remember that there is skill-related and hazard-related pay, which a military member earns only for a specified period. Therefore, it is important to notify the court and agencies about the start and end dates of such pay. Another important point to remember is that bonuses are generally not processed by the Defense Finance and Accounting Services departments and, as a result, it is noted retroactively in the LES. Separated military spouses can identify such income by looking at the year-to-date earnings instead of the earnings listed in the active pay period section of the LES.

Source: ACF.HHS.gov, "A Handbook for Military Families," Accessed on April 22, 2015

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