In divorce proceedings, generally the higher income party is required to provide adequate support to the other. This is particularly the case when one of the spouses has remained at home to raise the children. In military divorces, the concept of adequate support has differing shades of meaning across the various branches, but the one factor common in each case is that adequate support is difficult to enforce.
Authority to Enforce
Civil family courts have the power to enforce support that it orders. This is usually in the form of wage garnishment, seizure of personal property and liens on real estate. In extreme cases, a person who fails to provide support may be placed in jail. However, military divorce courts do not have such authority. They do have the power to punish a servicemember, and indeed they usually do, but this is held in strict confidence and the nature of the punishment cannot legally be disclosed.
Branch-Specificity and Adequate Support
Commonality among the branches of the military ends there when it comes to adequate support. This is because each branch has a somewhat different perception of what adequacy means and how support is stipulated. As your lawyer will tell you, this makes for much confusion.
- The Army: Divorcing members of the army are required to pay family support in an amount equal to one of the basic housing allowances at the “with dependent” rate. The method of calculating this formula is complex;
- The Air Force: In the Air Force, the notion of adequate support per se does not exist. Instead, the unit commander makes a determination of what is appropriate based on such matters as the member’s pay rate and number of dependents; and
- The Navy: The navy prefers that support matters be handled by the courts. However, when no order is made, the Navy will defer to its Naval Personnel Manual section on spousal and dependent support to formulate member payments.