The most common way to establish child or spousal support in a family case involving a servicemember is to obtain a court order. Support orders are usually made in divorce or paternity cases. Wisconsin will grant orders for child support or spousal support (known as spousal maintenance). However, even if a state court order does not exist, the military will require a servicemember to pay support for his/her family. Each branch has different rules and calculations:

  1. Air Force: Total number of supported family members (children) x the member’s Base Allowance for Housing.
  2. Marines: The greater of a minimum monthly support (between $152 – $350) or a fractional share of the BAH (both based on the number of family members).
  3. Navy: a percentage of gross pay (base pay + BAH) varying from 1/3 (spousal support only) to 3/5 (spouse + 4 children).
  4. Coast Guard: the Guard does not have the legal ability to force a servicemember to pay support, although such obligations are considered binding and a member’s failure to do so can be grounds for separation or discipline.
  5. Army/National Guard/Reserve: largely same as the Air Force calculation.

There are many exceptions to the above, and many different types of military pay, bonuses, etc. that play a role in the calculations. It is usually most effective to obtain a state court order establishing support. However, servicemembers and their spouses should discuss the various options with their family lawyers to ensure the fairest and most effective support arrangement.

Attorney David Kowalski routinely handles military divorces for both servicemembers and their spouses, and can assist with these agreements. Contact him at 608-709-5000 with any questions.

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