Military Divorce: Division of BAH Benefits

On July 23, 2018

Divorces involving active duty members of the armed forces are unique in a number of respects. Lengthy deployments, multiple relocations, and a complicated system of compensation and benefits can make the end of a military marriage even more challenging than a divorce between civilians. Navigating a Colorado military divorce is something no soldier, sailor, airman, or military spouse should do without the guidance of an experienced military divorce lawyer.

What is BAH & How is it divided in a Colorado Springs military divorce?

One of the more valuable benefits that military families receive is the active duty service member’s Basic Allowance for Housing, commonly known as “BAH.” This benefit helps service members pay for a large percentage of their housing and utility costs when they are not living in government-provided housing.

The amount of each service member’s BAH is based on a number of factors, including rank, location of posting, and the number of dependents if any. It is this latter factor – and issues of custody and child support in particular – that can have a huge impact on whether a service member or will continue to receive BAH and how much they will receive if they do.

As a preliminary matter, it should be noted that BAH is payable to the service member, not their spouse. After a divorce, a non-active duty spouse will not receive BAH, though, as is discussed below, any child support payments they are entitled to may be in part funded by BAH received by the service member.

Related article: Choosing a Child Support Attorney

How is BAH impacted by divorce?

Let’s examine three common scenarios to see how BAH is impacted by divorce:

  • Active-duty member without primary custody. When the service member does not have primary custody of the children, he or she will be ordered to pay child support. Child support obligations can be a crushing burden for an underpaid service member. When they no longer have dependents living with them and are reassigned to government-issued housing, BAH would theoretically no longer be available. However, a calculation called BAH-DIFF is used such that the amount that BAH is reduced is instead allocated towards child support payments. BAH-DIFF is the housing allowance amount for a member who is assigned to single-type quarters and who is authorized a BAH solely by reason of the member’s payment of child support. The BAH-DIFF amounts, originally calculated in 1997, are updated annually based on changes in the Basic Pay tables. A non-custodial service member will only be entitled to BAH-DIFF if the monthly rate of their child support obligations is more than the BAH-DIFF rate.
  • Active-duty member with primary custody. A service member awarded legal and physical custody of their children are authorized BAH at the with-dependent rate if not assigned to adequate family-type government quarters.
  • A divorce between two active-duty members sharing custody. Both members may not receive BAH based on the same dependent. When the former spouses share legal and physical custody of the child, each parent is authorized BAH at the with-dependent rate during the period the child is actually in the parent’s physical custody. Both parents may not receive a housing allowance for the child during the same period. 

BAH is just one of many benefits that are impacted by the end of a military marriage, along with the allocation of retirement and pension benefits, VA services and disability benefits, thrift savings and survivor benefit plans. base privileges, TRICARE and more.

If you’re ready to move on from your marriage, contact a military divorce lawyer in Colorado Springs. Your life and the life of your children will be impacted for years by how you handle and address all of these issues. Make sure that you retain an experienced military divorce lawyer who fully understands the complexities involved when the men and women or our armed forces and their families confront one of the biggest challenges of their lives. 

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