Receiving a BAH After Getting Divorced

By Beverly Bird

Divorcing when you are a member of the military has its own unique set of concerns, many of them associated with the military pay system. Your right to receive a Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, can be affected by divorce, but in most cases, you'll continue to receive it. It may be adjusted to reflect your new marital status, depending on whether you have children. The computations are complex, so if you have questions, consult with an attorney familiar with both family and military law.

How BAH Works

BAH is money given to you by the government to help you pay for housing. In most cases, you can’t live in government quarters to qualify. The government determines BAH based on several factors: your pay grade, whether you have dependents, and the median housing cost for the geographical area where you’re stationed or where your family is living. BAH generally will not cover all your housing costs, but it should meet about 80 percent. The more dependents you have, the higher your BAH will be. If you're stationed away from your family, such as if you're on active duty, BAH is intended to cover their housing costs even though you're living on base.

Effect of Divorce

If you and your spouse have no children together, and if you are the service member, you’ll continue to receive BAH post-divorce, provided you don't move into single-unit government housing. If you continue living off-base, you’ll receive the BAH-WITHOUT rate rather than the BAH-WITH rate because you no longer have a dependent -- your spouse.

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Effect of Custody

The issue becomes more complicated if you have children. You'll continue to receive BAH, but at either the BAH-DIFF rate or the BAH-WITH rate, depending on your custody arrangement and where you live post-divorce. If you move into single-unit government housing after your divorce and your ex has custody of your children, you'll receive BAH-DIFF if your child support obligation is at least as much as that calculated amount. If you live off-base, you can still claim your children as dependents and qualify for BAH-WITH, even if you don’t have custody. However, your child support obligation must be equal to or greater than the BAH-DIFF rate you would have received if you lived in single-unit government housing. If you do have custody, your children are your dependents, regardless of the fact that, in most cases, you would not be paying child support.

Two Military Parents

If your spouse is also in the military, the Department of Defense mandates that only one of you can receive BAH-WITH authorization. You can’t both claim the same dependent children for this rate. The BAH-WITH designation goes to whichever of you provides more than half of your child’s support.

Effect on Child Support

The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t tax BAH as income, but most states will include your BAH payments as income for purposes of calculating child support when you divorce. The higher your overall income, the higher your support obligation usually is. The law requires that your child support obligation must be at least as much as your BAH-WITH post-divorce to qualify for that rate if you don't have custody of your children.

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Why Does a Parent That Doesn't Have Custody Have to Pay Child Support?

References

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How Does Child Support Work in a Shared Custody Arrangement in Michigan?

The Michigan divorce court will divide child custody between you and your spouse and order a child support arrangement based in part on the child custody schedule. If you and your spouse can agree on a custody split, the court can approve your agreement. Child support is also based on your income, so when your income changes dramatically or your custody schedule changes, your support amount may need adjustment.

Military Divorce Spousal Benefits

Unlike most spouses, those married to members of the United States military have the federal government in their corner if they divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act provides them with certain immutable benefits. This is both good and bad. The rules are ironclad, so divorce courts can’t deny you these benefits. But a sympathetic judge can’t do much to override them, either, and give you more than the USFSPA provides.

Can My Spouse Cancel My Tricare Benefits if We are Going Through a Divorce?

Many military benefits are based on the status of the service member and your relationship to him, including military health insurance, called Tricare. Since a divorce changes your relationship to the military member, your access to benefits changes, and you are no longer eligible for most benefits after your divorce is final. However, your spouse generally cannot terminate your eligibility for benefits while you are still married.

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