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Rules for garnishing military pay for spousal and child support

In a divorce involving Kentucky couples with one or both spouses in the military, questions may arise about enforcing spousal or child support orders.

According to Military.com, federal law allows a spouse to get a court order to garnish, or take, a service member’s pay to cover alimony or child support.

Garnishment may apply broadly to military pay

Garnishment rules apply whether the military spouse is on active duty, in the reserves or retired.

The non-military spouse may collect spousal or child support from basic pay, special pay and incentive pay. However, housing and subsistence allowances are exempt from garnishment.

Disposable earnings may limit pay subject to garnishment

Even with a court order, a service member may be unable to cover all support obligations. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service explains that disposable earnings may establish the percentage of military pay subject to collection.

If military pay cannot cover 100% of a service member’s obligations, federal law limits garnishment to a percentage of disposable earnings:

  • ​50% if the military spouse provides over 50% of the support owed to other dependents and has not accrued an arrearage
  • 55% if the military spouse provides over 50% of the support owed to other dependents and has accrued an arrearage
  • 60% if the military spouse provides less than 50% of the support owed to other dependents and has not accrued an arrearage
  • 65% if the military spouse provides less than 50% of the support owed to other dependents and has accrued an arrearage

If insufficient disposable earnings are available to pay all support obligations, payees may receive a pro rata share of court-ordered support.