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Family support rules vary across military branches

Spousal support and child support often take center stage in divorce. Whether spouses reach an agreement on their own or need a court order, both sides have an interest in finding the right support amount. Military service members also must consider regulations in their branch of service. Each military service, in some way, requires its members to support their families.  

However, each branch of the United States military approaches family support payments differently. Some use specific formulas to help commanders decide the amount a service member should pay. Others allow for more discretion. Below are some of the basic guidelines used by the branches most present in Alabama.

Air Force

The Air Force rules on "Personal Financial Responsibility" do not set out a specific formula for family support. Instead, they hold service members accountable for paying "adequate financial support" as set out by court order, written agreement, or decision by their commander.

Marines and Navy

Support rules for Marine and Naval service members come from Naval Personnel Manual Section 1754-030. In the absence of a court order or written agreement on support, commanders decide an adequate amount of support based on the following guidelines:

  • Spousal support only - 1/3 of gross pay
  • Spousal support and child support for one child - 1/2 of gross pay
  • Spousal support and child support for two or more children - 3/5 of gross pay
  • Child support for one child - 1/6 of gross pay
  • Child support for two children - 1/4 of gross pay

The guidelines above are used as a "basic instrument" for calculating support. Other factors, such as the service member's current family status, can impact the support calculation.


Army regulations approach support payments in a similar way to Air Force rules, requiring service members to provide support equal to the basic housing allowance. Army Regulation 608-99 sets this amount at the "with dependent" rate.

As we saw with the above guidelines, these rules apply when there is no court order or prior written agreement that addresses spousal or child support.

Divorce is hard enough. For those in the military, additional obligations and rules come into play. Consulting with a divorce attorney experienced in military matters can help.

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