When one or both spouses are active duty military personnel, in the National Guard or reservists, divorce often presents a unique set of challenges that normal civilians in Texas don’t have to face. One of these challenges is the process of determining and calculating child support. Of course, the child’s best interest takes precedence, but federal and state laws, as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), can make things more complicated when it comes to support payments.
Military divorce in Texas
Federal laws exist to protect service members from being taken advantage of by their spouses. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows active duty military personnel to request a stay or postponement of civil proceedings (including divorce) if it would interfere with their military duties. The SCRA also caps the interest rate on debts incurred before active duty at six percent.
Texas is one of many states that have enacted specific laws regarding child support and military families. For instance, the non-custodial parent must provide medical insurance for the child if it is available at a reasonable cost through the non-custodial parent’s employment or membership in a group health plan. If the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay child support and is later deployed, the deployment can be used as a basis to modify the support order.
Calculating child support
According to military family law, the process of calculating child support in Texas is based on the income of both parents, the number of children involved and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. The court will also consider whether either parent has other children from a previous relationship, any special needs of the child and the parent’s ability to pay. Although judges typically follow these set guidelines, they may stray from them if they believe it would be better for the child.
If the non-custodial parent falls behind on child support payments, there are a number of enforcement options available, including wage garnishment, interception of tax refunds and denial of passports. Military personnel cannot be denied their security clearance for failure to pay child support, but they can be court-martialed if they fail to make support payments that they can reasonably afford. As a result, it is often recommended to request the modification of the child support order the moment it becomes difficult to make the necessary payments.