Child support and military laws - FAQs
- How to collect child support or alimony from a military member.
- Can back child support or alimony (arrearage) be collected?
- How do I enforce health insurance coverage.
- Do I need to send documents by certified mail?
- Why don't I receive the full amount of child support?
- Why do I need to include the social security number?
- What if my ex-spouse has more than one child support order?
- What about multiple orders for the same children?
- How much does DFAS charge to process child support orders?
- How do I stop child support payments if my child is ineligible?
- Why does child support stop when the member retires?
- Additional DFAS References
Up 1. How to collect child support or alimony from a military member.
DFAS Cleveland processes all court ordered garnishment for child support, alimony and commercial debts for all military members and all civilian employees paid by DFAS, plus court ordered divisions of military retired pay under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act.
In order to implement a garnishment or wage attachment against any member of the military or any civilian employee of the Department of Defense (DOD), an income withholding order, or similar process, must be served upon Defense Finance and Accounting Service DFAS at the following address:
Defense Finance and Accounting Service
PO Box 998002 Cleveland, Ohio 44199-8002
Direct questions concerning child support/alimony to:
Customer Service: (216) 522-5301;
Garnishment Operations Facsimile (FAX) Phone Number:
Commercial (216) 522-6960 or DSN 580-6960.
WARNING! The order must direct the government, as the employer, to withhold moneys and remit payments to satisfy the support obligation. Submitting just a divorce decree or other order that directs the individual (debtor) to make the payment will not work!
The withholding order does need to name the specific government office in which the debtor is employed but, it must include, as a minimum:
- Debtor's full legal name'
- Member/Employee Social Security Number (SSN) - Court Orders/Documents will not be processed if the SSN is not on the document;
- Return Phone Number;
- Return Fax Number;
- Ensure original documents are clear and legible; and
- In each fax transmission, include only correspondence for one member or employee (if you have multiple documents for one member, they can be sent on one fax transmission).
Other identifying information such as a home or work address of the debtor would expedite processing. Be sure to include a return address on ALL correspondence, not just on the mailing envelope.
For child support, contact your local child support enforcement agency to obtain a copy of the "Income Deduction Order" or "Income Withholding Order".
For alimony, you'll need a garnishment order from a court or child support agency that directs the government to pay monies for support or alimony. Plus, you'll need to send copies of the divorce/separation decree.
Up 2. Can back child support or alimony (arrearage) be collected?
Yes, if the withholding order says so and collection is limited to the allowable amount. (discussed below).
Up 3. How do I enforce health insurance coverage.
Send a copy of the order directing the provision of coverage to the non-custodial parent's military personnel office, commanding officer or First Sergeant. They are required to follow up on your claim and report back to you within 15 days of receiving your request.
Typically, they ask the JAG to review the order and, if legally sufficient, the commander orders the member to complete the required paperwork to obtain medical coverage which may include special ID cards for the dependent and ex-spouse.
Up 4. Do I need to send the child support/alimony order by certified mail, return receipt requested?
No, regular United States mail, or fax is fine.
Up 5. Why don't I receive the full amount of the ordered child support/alimony?
There may be several reasons but the most common is the military member does not have sufficient disposable earnings to allow deduction of the full amount.
The Consumer Credit Protection Act (15 U.S.C. § 1673) limits the amount that can be deducted from 50 to 65 percent (50% to 65%) of disposable earnings. If members provide proof that they are providing more than half the support of dependents other than those for whom the support is to be deducted, and they have not accrued an arrearage then the full ordered amount will be deducted as long as that amount does not exceed the maximum percentage allowable.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Percentage amounts (part of the total amount ordered) are only deducted if the member does not have sufficient disposable earnings to allow for the full ordered amount.
Up 6. Why do I need to include the military member's social security number?
Without it the child support withholding order or alimony garnishment will not be processed.
Up 7. What if my ex-spouse has more than one child support order?
If the member has sufficient disposable earnings, the full amounts are deducted for all child support orders.
Otherwise, federal law mandates that a pro rata share of the available earnings is paid toward each obligation. This is calculated by dividing the amounts of each order by the total amount of disposable earnings available to determine what percentage of the available disposable earnings will be paid toward each obligation. The process is very similar to most states and U.S. Territories.
Up 8. What about multiple orders for the same children?
The most recently served order is honored. If you, or someone else, has a child support order on file and a court amends the order (or a new child support order is rendered), the latest (newest) order on file gets paid according to the disposable income and percentage rules outlined elsewhere.
Up 9. How much does DFAS charge to process child support orders?
DFAS does not (and cannot under federal law) charge for their services.
Up 10. How do I stop child support payments once my child becomes ineligible?
It depends on the method used to start the payment.
If an order was issued by a Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA), then, in most cases, the same agency must send DFAS a termination order.
If DFAS is making payments from a retired military member’s retired pay based on an application made under the authority of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, then a review of the language in the divorce decree that sets forth the child support obligation may be determinative.
If the decree states when payments are supposed to stop, then that would be controlling. If it doesn't state when child support is going to stop, then the member will need to go back to court to obtain an order stopping the child support payment. There is no federal statute that controls this and so it is up to the state court that issued the order to instruct DFAS to terminate the payment.
If the divorce decree does state that payments will stop upon some condition (usually turning 18 and graduated from high school), then the member will need to provide us proof of that condition being satisfied. Acceptable proof of graduation is a program from the commencement that lists the child’s name, or a letter from the school stating the child has graduated.
A problem arises when the divorce decree orders support payments for more than one child. If the divorce decree does not state how much to reduce the payment when the first or subsequent child is no longer eligible to receive payment, then the parties will have to get the court to issue an order instructing DFAS on this issue. There is no rule that makes it automatic, that the emancipation of one child requires a proportional reduction in the amount of child support. Unless it is spelled out clearly in the decree what is to happen, DFAS requires the parties to go back to court and get the order modified.
Up 11. Why does child support stop when the member retires?
Currently, DFAS does not have an automated process to allow the child support payment instructions to move from the active duty pay account to the retired pay account. When a member retires, it can take between 30 and 60 days to build the retired pay account because of the need to get documents from the personnel community. Therefore during this time, no child support deductions can be made. An automated solution to this problem is being worked but not available as of yet.
In the meantime, if you are a member about to retire and have a support obligation that needs to continue, you should call customer service Toll Free Phone: 1-888-DFAS411 (332-7411) or send an e-mail to let them know of your status.
If you are the person receiving the funds and you know the member is about to retire, call Toll Free Phone: 1-888-DFAS411 (332-7411) or send an e-mail to let them know of your status. Have the member’s SSN (Social Security Number) ready.
Up 12. Additional DFAS References
DFAS Customer Service