Custody + Child Support


Many myths surround custody and military parents, including the myth that a military parent cannot have primary custody of a child. This is simply not true. Each state provides guidelines for custody arrangements and many states require parents to develop a plan that is flexible enough to meet the job demands of each parent as well as the needs of the child.

When military parents are developing a custodial plan they should keep in mind the age of the children, what will happen when the service member deploys, what will happen when the service member returns from deployment, and what the visitation schedule will be like if the service member transfers out of the state or out of the country. When developing a custody plan try to think beyond the current living situation and age of your child. Custody plans can change based on a change in circumstances, including age of child, new job for either parent, remarriage of either parent, or any other criteria your state permits.

Child Support

Federal and state laws impose responsibility on both parents to financially support their children. Child support proceedings can generally be initiated through the local child support enforcement agency where the custodian parent and child reside. Child support calculations vary by state and may take into consideration the number of dependant children, special needs of the children, number of overnight visits the child has with the non-custodial parent, shared custody arrangements, etc. A family law attorney or child support enforcement agency representative can provide guidance on the child support guidelines in your state.

In the absence of a court order for child support, or written agreement between the parents, each Service has regulations which require service members to provide "adequate support" to family members. Family support guidelines vary by Service and can help reduce financial strain until a child support order is finalized.

Family Support Guidelines:

Air Force 36-2906:

Army Regulation 608-99:

Coast Guard (See Chapter 8.M of the Personnel Manual, Commandant Instruction M1000.6A):

Navy & Marine Corps Support Guidelines:

Garnishment orders can be enforced within the military. Garnishment means the child support court order directs the employer (in this case the military) to deduct child support directly from the service member's paycheck each month. The garnishment order must be served on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) at the following address:

Defense Finance and Accounting Service
Cleveland DFAS-DGG/CL
PO Box 998002
Cleveland Ohio 44199-8002
1.888.332.7411 (toll free Customer Service)

Once a garnishment order has been established it can only be stopped or changed by a written instruction in the original court order or through a subsequent court order directing DFAS to stop or change the current deduction.

Click here to download the DFAS Child Support FAQs.

Special Note for Activated Reservists

Are you a military reservist with a child support order who has been recently activated? Be sure to contact your state child support agency as soon as possible. If your income level has changed or will change, you may be eligible for the agency to review and adjust your child support. If your support payments are being withheld from your civilian paycheck, the state agency can help you transfer your support obligation to DFAS.

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