We at the Consolidated Legal Assistance Office have been encountering clients that do not understand their requirement to provide financial support to their dependents. Often, this lack of understanding is the result of Marines failing to read or to understand the pertinent regulation. More distressingly, it appears that misunderstanding is sometimes due to well-intentioned officers or staff NCOs providing incorrect advice. This quick guide is designed to assist the Marine and his superiors in determining the Marine’s basic support obligation.
Court Orders, Separation Agreements and Interim Support
. In accordance with chapter 15 of the Legal Administration Manual (MCO P5800.16A) all Marines must provide financial support to their dependents. But how much? If there is a court order for support, the Marine is obligated to provide the amount designated in the court order. If there is a separation agreement, the Marine is required to comply with the dependent support provisions of the separation agreement. If and only if there is neither a court order nor a separation agreement, and a complaint for nonsupport has been made to the command, then the support amount is determined by using the interim support required under the Order.
. The Order contains a chart to determine the amount of “interim” support (support in the absence of court order or agreement). That chart is reproduced below. The obligated amount is the greater of the amount indicated in the center column and the percent of BAH and OHA (overseas housing allowance) indicated in the far right column. BAH received in the form of housing and not paid in cash to the Marine is not counted for the purposes of this chart. In no event can the interim support required by the Order exceed one third of the Marine’s gross monthly pay (pay and allowances prior to taxes and deductions).
|# of Dependents Entitled
|Minimum Amount of Monthly
Support Per Requesting Family
|Share of Monthly BAH/OHA
Per Requesting Family Member
: Sgt H is married to W and has one child of the marriage (X). He lives off Base in Jacksonville, NC and has a gross monthly pay of $2,000, of which $600 is BAH. (BAH and pay amounts in this example are used only for illustration and ease of calculation and may not reflect an E-5’s actual pay and BAH). The center column yields a minimum support requirement of $572 ($286 for each of two family members entitled to support). The right hand column yields a support amount of $400 (1 / 3 of the $600 BAH per family member entitled to support.) The greater of these amounts is $572, which is the interim support obligation for Sgt H. This amount does not exceed 1 / 3 of his $2,000 gross monthly pay and need not be reduced for that reason
Determining the number of dependents entitled to support can be complicated in cases wherein the Marine is obligated by court order, separation agreement or otherwise to provide support to dependents other than those making the nonsupport complaint.
: As in the previous example, Sgt H is married to wife W and has a child of his current marriage, child X. He lives off base and receives a monthly gross pay of $2,000, of which $600 is BAH. However, in this example, he has a child from a prior marriage, child Y, and the divorce decree in that prior case ordered him to pay support for child Y. Now there are three family members entitled to support (current wife W, child of current marriage X, and child of prior marriage Y). Two of these family members (current wife and child) have made a claim of nonsupport to the command. The center column yields a support amount for current wife and child of $466 ($233 per requesting family member). The far right column yields a support amount of $300. (1 / 4 BAH - $150- for each of two per requesting family member, for a total of 1 / 2 BAH, of $300 ) Sgt X’s support obligation in this scenario is $466.
Reduction of Interim Support Amounts
. The Marine can request that the Commanding Officer reduce the support obligation. It is up to the Marine to come forward with sufficient information and documents to establish a basis for reduction of the interim support requirement. The Commanding Officer may, but is not required to, reduce the interim support obligation in only four very narrow circumstances, as follows:
-Spouse’s Income Exceeds Marine’s Income
. The CO may reduce or eliminate the interim spousal support requirement if the gross income of the spouse requesting support exceeds the gross military pay of the Marine. This does NOT relieve the Marine from providing support to his minor children.
. The CO may reduce or eliminate the interim spousal support requirement where the Marine is the victim of spouse abuse as substantiated by conviction, issuance by a court of a permanent restraining order, or determination of the Family Advocacy Case Management Team that abuse occurred at a level II degree of severity or higher.
- Payment of Regular and Recurring Obligations of the Family Member Requesting Support
. The CO may reduce or eliminate the interim support requirement when the Marine is paying debts of the family members requesting support “of sufficient magnitude and duration as to justify a reduction or elimination of support.” Such debts should be those of the family members and not the Marine’s own debt. Example: Sgt H broke up with his spouse and now lives with a friend. His wife and children rent an apartment elsewhere costing $350 per month. Sgt H pays rent for the apartment where his wife and child reside (and he does not) directly to the landlord. Sgt H may request that his CO reduce his support obligation by $350 to account for the payments he makes on a monthly basis to the landlord.
This short primer on the USMC support regulation answers only the most common questions concerning dependent support. Chapter 15 of the Legal Administration Manual can be found on line by clicking: Here