Just because you are an enlisted member of a military branch does not mean that your life outside of your commitment to our country does not continue. Unfortunately, you will need to deal with problems regarding your family at some point. From reading our past few blog posts on this subject you can see that we recommend handling any issues related to child support or child custody before being re-stationed in another part of the country or being deployed abroad. Doing so will ensure that you have less to think about outside of your duties serving our country.
To be sure, the challenges that you and other active duty servicemembers and veterans have to handle are unique and typically more complex than what civilians must endure as far as child custody and child support cases are concerned.
Your being relocated with frequency means that your rate of pay may change just as often which can cause problems in paying child support as you are obligated to do so in court orders. One your obligation to the military runs out, finding working back in the United States can prove more difficult than it ought to. This also can be a problem when it comes to paying child support on time and in full.
These problems are in addition to the stress and anxiety that servicemembers often encounter as a result of being involved in armed conflict while serving the country. Coming back to the country and entering civilian life means losing a lot of the assistance available to you as a veteran. The Veterans Administration takes a great deal of time (often times a year or more) to pay benefits out that are earned by our veterans.
Distance from children may be the most significant problem facing military members
If you have found yourself being moved around with a great deal of frequency due to your military commitments then you are not alone. Many servicemembers find themselves living a great distance from their home state. This means that it is probable that your children do not reside close to you and often times reside a great distance from your new home.
As a result, visitation has likely become much more expensive and difficult for you and your family. If you are the custodial parent to your child you risk losing this right because of the frequency of your moving. If you are the noncustodial parent the precious little time you have afforded to you in a court order for visitation may be lost due to your time commitments for work and a custodial parent who is not willing to work with you on allowing your child greater flexibility to spend time with you when you are allowed free time from the military.
Child support problems that affect military members
Your inability to meet your child support obligations can affect your performance in your job as well as your family as a whole. Unfortunately, military child support issues tend to be more time-consuming and difficult to sort through when compared to civilian child support issues.
This is due to the fact that your case may involve out of state orders from when you and your family lived in another U.S. State. Having to reconcile multiple child support orders can be difficult and costly. Determining what court actually has jurisdiction over the case often times causes problems from the start for many families.
One way the State of Texas can help military families
We hear all the time in the media about how more ought to be done for our servicemembers and veterans.
That this particular politician or that particular politician is going to turn around a government agency or other entity in order to help veterans. While it is a noble pursuit to help veterans and active duty servicemembers, very little as far as specific policy objectives are outlined in these type of scenarios. Broad, blanket statements are made about how Washington, D.C. or Austin are failing our men and women in uniform. What is a specific way that our elected officials can step in and help you and people like you?
One that sticks out is how the Texas Family Code should allow for a change in an active duty status to be a substantial change sufficient to allow a modification (decrease) in the child support obligation of veterans who owe child support. Most civilians do not have to go through times where we are working in a certain field and then with some abruptness, we have to leave that field in search of work elsewhere. This can be an especially trying time for those veterans who are young and do not possess an education beyond high school.
The law right now is that you can seek a modification of child support after three years of the order being in place. As it stands when you retire from the military it can take a long while (three to four months) in order to have your pay transitioned to retirement compensation.
During this transition period, you can fall behind in paying support and cause yourself to be susceptible to your child’s other parent filing an enforcement case against you. Through no fault of your own, therefore, you may fall behind into arrears. This should not be the case and the Texas Legislature ought to do something to change the law to help active duty servicemembers and veterans.
Finally, judges should receive some training in identifying PTSD and issues specific to military families like yours. The special circumstances of members of the military should be more well known to judges.
Ultimately your ability to pay child support, parent your child or take advantage of the visitation time allotted to you in a family court order is dependent upon your ability to maintain a healthy mental state. Not having the ability to seek care or to have diagnosed mental health conditions should not keep a judge from fairly applying the law to your situation.
Conclusion: The military can help you and your family, but you need to help yourself first
All branches of the military need to treat family law problems- child custody and child support specifically- as possible impediments to their servicemembers being able to perform well in whatever role they are targeted for. If you are having to serve the country abroad in difficult situations the last thing you need to worry about is whether or not there is a problem at home with your paycheck being garnished correctly to pay child support. The military ought to do more to help servicemembers and veterans in these areas.
The bottom line, however, is that you need to be as educated as possible on these issues so that you can help yourself avoid problems down the road. You are at a good starting point if you are reading this article, however.
Continue to educate yourself on the issues and do not assume that you do not have resources available to you that can provide assistance. Our office is available six days a week to ask questions of our licensed family law attorneys. Most attorneys will go out of their way to help a veteran or active duty servicemember.
Child custody and child support cases are like any other problem in your life- they will not get better on their own. Take steps to positively impact your life before transitioning into a new role within the military or as a civilian. Your children- and your future self- will thank you.
If you have any questions about the subject matter that we have discussed today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. As I mentioned a moment ago, we offer free of charge consultations to anyone with questions regarding family law in Texas. Our licensed family law attorneys are a great resource to ask questions of. We can discuss with you the services that we can provide to you as a client and how our experience can be put to good use in representing you.