You and your spouse must agree on how much spousal support, if any, one of you will pay to the other and for how long after the divorce is final. If you and your spouse cannot agree on whether spousal support will be paid and, if so, how much, a judge will decide. The judge will base the decision on specific factors that are spelled out by Virginia law. However, a civilian spouse can seek interim guideline support which is readily available through the military and is similar to the child support guideline. This guideline for support is calculated based on the military housing allowance, referred to as the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). While this is an effective temporary measure for seeking alimony until a court order is in place from which the recipient spouse can seek an allotment.
The issue of alimony is most prevalent for military families when it comes to the division of a military pension which is governed by the Services Former Spousal Protection Act (USFSPA). The USFSPA also permits a former spouse to receive military benefits that include commissary, medical and exchange privileges depending on the length of the marriage and length of military service by the member of the armed forces.
The spouse who is entitled to alimony can seek enforcement by contacting the service member’s commanding officer. A member of the military can be disciplined for failing to pay alimony, so this is a powerful tool if the paying spouse is serving as active duty. The non-service member spouse will need to carefully consider the unintended consequences before using this tool. A military divorce attorney on our team can advise both the service member and the non-service member spouse as to the recommended course of action to achieve the desired result.
However, the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides some immunity from civil actions to enforce alimony. While the statute does not relieve a member of the military from paying alimony, it can provide a stay of litigation and relief from the time limits for responding to court proceedings.
Military compensation can be garnished to some extent for alimony depending on the type of pay. Forms of military compensation that can be garnished include military pay, reserve pay and military retirement pay. A temporary order can be obtained by going through the unit commander. Once a court order is in place, the pay of the service member can be garnished as required by the court order. While the housing and food allowances of the service member cannot be garnished, the civilian spouse can obtain an “involuntary allotment,” which is a wage withholding order against basic military pay and the service member’s housing allowance. There are, however, limitations on the percentage of the service member’s pay that can be garnished.