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Military offers child support guidance for service families

All states, including Pennsylvania, have their own guidelines that define the support obligations that parents have toward their children. Most parents understand that both parents must provide financial support to their kids in the event of divorce or separation or when the parents have never been married to each other. Each child support case is unique, however, and sometimes disputes arise when the supporting parent fails to meet his or her responsibilities. The solutions to these disputes can be as simple as negotiations or as difficult as court-ordered wage garnishment for chronic deadbeats.

Military families face their own unique challenges when it comes to child support. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has worked with the Department of Defense to provide a way for these families to learn the basics of applying for and receiving child support. The guidelines listed in "A Handbook for Military Families: Helping You with Child Support" start by explaining how noncustodial and custodial parents apply for, send and receive child support, as well as how to have those orders enforced. Federal child support services provide assistance to families whose children receive support through such federal programs as Foster Care Maintenance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, as well as those families who are supposed to receive child support ordered by state agencies. In addition, military families who receive most forms of public assistance are automatically entitled to child support services from the federal government.

Custodial parents can go to state agencies to apply for child support. Noncustodial parents also can go to these agencies to modify existing child support orders.

Child support orders for military families are subject to change, especially when service members are deployed or discharged. It is important that these parents read the guidelines to learn more about child support. They can also seek professional advice from a lawyer if they currently face legal issues regarding support.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, "A handbook for military families," accessed Jan. 5, 2015

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