One of the most important issues in a military divorce case is calculating the amount of money owed for alimony and child support. This, in turn, depends on a proper calculation of a service member’s military “income.” Whether you are paying support, behind in support, or in need of receiving adequate support, an experienced military divorce law firm like Law Offices of Scott Davis, P.A. can help you understand and protect your rights.
A. MILITARY REGULATIONS GOVERNING FAMILY SUPPORT
As a threshold matter, members of every military marriage should be aware that, in addition to the state court process for awarding alimony and child support, each branch of the military has its own regulations concerning family support. These military regulations operate in the absence of (and prior to) the entry of a divorce agreement or court order.
Because of delays that may occur in a state court divorce proceeding, a spouse who is seeking financial support has the ability to contact the service member's chain of command to obtain interim enforcement of family support obligations. It is important to retain counsel who is experienced in the enforcement of such regulations to make sure that deductions from military pay are fair, accurate, and appropriate.
B. CALCULATING A SERVICE MEMBER’S PAY
When the family court is tasked with establishing the amount of child support or alimony, the military pay system presents special issues.
Some of the relevant pay information is available from the service member’s Leave and Earnings Statement (“LES”), which is the equivalent of a military pay stub. The LES reflects not only earnings and deductions, but also the service member’s rank and years in service.
Money paid to service members that is designated as "pay" is typically taxable. Examples include basic pay, combat pay, hazardous duty pay, and flight pay.
Military "allowances,” however, are typically tax free, such as housing allowances (BAH), subsistence allowances (BAS), cost of living adjustments (COLA), disability pay, and per diem payments. The question of whether such tax free allowances increase a service member's "income" for purposes of determining the amount of child support is a question that has vexed even experienced divorce judges in Florida. The answer depends on whether these payments reduce the service member's cost of living.
BAS and BAH are cash benefits that are typically included as “gross income” for purposes of calculating child support. However, if a service member receives in-kind benefits, such as living in military housing in lieu of receiving BAH, the cash benefit may no longer be treated as gross income and may require a more complex analysis.
Moreover, Florida's appellate courts still have not agreed on how disability and retirement pay should be treated for purposes of awarding alimony.
Furthermore, because service members receive differential pay when they are deployed, the calculation or child support or alimony may need to be based on a yearly average pay amount.
Your divorce attorney has to understand all of these issues at the beginning of your case. Otherwise, your rights may be compromised.
We can help you make sense of how military pay should be calculated for purposes of determining child support, alimony, ability to pay attorney's fees, and other issues in a Florida military divorce or family law case.
Please continue reading to learn more about us. If you or someone you care about is facing a military divorce or family law case, we can help. Please do not hesitate to call us today at (813) 251-6222 or contact us online.