Although unmarried soldier and veteran parents are more likely than their civilian counterparts to have a formal child support and visitation order, they often face unique challenges caused by their military service that make it difficult for them to meet their parenting and child support obligations. Frequent changes in station, lengthy deployments, concomitant changes in pay, combat-related stress, and transitions to veteran status are fundamental elements of military service, but they can pose challenges for noncustodial parents to pay a fair amount of child support and to co-parent their children; and for custodial parents to receive adequate child support and share their children as agreed upon.
The challenges associated with military service are consequential to all parties involved, including the child support system, the military, and the families. In the end, it is the children and families for which these issues matter most. Children benefit from the financial and emotional commitment of both parents, and soldiers and veterans deserve special attention to help resolve the issues regarding their child support and parenting obligations that are often made more difficult due to their service to this country.
A new CFRP report, Child Support & the Military: Efforts to Help Our Heroes, provides an overview of the challenges military service may pose with regard to child support and parenting obligations, as well as a review of Texas and other states’ and federal efforts to address these important challenges. The report concludes with a summary of recommendations that the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), state legislatures, judiciary, state child support offices, and the military should consider to ensure that soldiers and veterans are well-served, military readiness is maintained, the burden on state child support systems is reduced, and children have the support they need.
Information in the report is drawn from a rigorous evaluation of the HEROES Project conducted by the Child and Family Research Partnership at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin under the direction of Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D.