Decoding the LES…Military Income Available for Support

San Diego is home to the nation’s largest concentration of military personnel. San Diego’s seven military bases serve the approximately 100,000 active duty service men and woman and their families (the total rises to 175,000 when dependents are taken into account.)  In addition, San Diego is home to 60% of the ships in the fleet of the U.S. Navy, and 1/3 of the active duty force of the U.S. Marine Corps.  In fact, the military and its spending in the region accounted for 26% of the jobs in San Diego in 2011.  None of this accounts for the more than 250,000 veterans who call San Diego home.  With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that San Diego family law attorneys handle many military dissolution actions.

For the most part, military divorce is very much like any other divorce.  The issues, such as child custody, child and spousal support, property division are the same as any other family law case.  However there are aspects of military divorce that are unique to service men and women.  In this blog, I will discuss some issues military members confront concerning child and spousal support.

To the uninitiated, a military member’s Leave and Earnings Statement (commonly called an “LES”), can be a difficult document to decipher.  This blog is not about reading an LES (This link provides a very thorough and comprehensive explanation).  This blog is about unique issues military members or their spouses encounter when addressing child and spousal support orders.

Military Income and Support:

Income is one of the most important pieces of information to determine how much support will be ordered in a case.  For military members compensation, or allowances, are set forth in box 10 of the LES. In most LES forms, Box 10 you will find Base Pay, BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing), BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence). Other allowances, such and Family Separation Allowance will also be set forth in Box 10.

What is unique about military pay is a large percentage of a member’s compensation is non-taxable.  Generally, the only taxable portion of a member’s compensation is Base Pay.  BAH, BAS and other allowances can be significant too.  For example, an E-7 with over 10 years will have a base pay of $3,875.  This amount is taxable.  If that same E-7 has dependents (Wife/Husband/children), in San Diego the BAH allowance is $2,886 a month and the BAS allowance is $368.29.  That means this E-7 earns $7,100+ a month, but pays no taxes on 45% of the income.

BAH, BAS, and any other allowances paid to service members are deemed income available to pay child and spousal support and are categorized as non-taxable income.  The issue of whether the allowances were income available to pay support was conclusively decided by the California Court of Appeal in a case that originated from San Diego name Marriage of Stanton.  That means service members will likely pay a higher amount of child and spousal support when compared to their civilian counterparts receiving the same gross income.

Child or spousal support orders are a big part of any divorce case, and can be difficult to understand or navigate without the assistance of qualified counsel.  The attorneys at Bickford Blado & Botros have experience necessary to address the issues in your military divorce, and to ensure your rights as a service member, or the spouse of a service member, are protected.

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding military divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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