“Adequate Financial Support” – No Longer Adequate
While all of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces require their personnel to provide temporary support to family members during separation, the Air Force was for a long time the only branch without an articulable standard.
And that’s putting it mildly – the requirement was almost non-existent. In the absence of a court order to the contrary, Air Force Instruction 36-2906 merely required members to “provide adequate financial support to family members.” In other words, if you were separated from a member of the Air Force, you had better have a court order, because the command was going to have a tough time enforcing such a standard.
I’m embarrassed to admit that the Air Force changed their standard with so little fanfare that it took me a while to notice. But in July 2018, AFI 36-2906, Personal Financial Responsibility was modified so that the Air Force standard is more aligned with how the Army has long done things.
Air Force Family Support Based Upon Non-Locality BAH
In the absence of a court order or written agreement to the contrary, AFI 36-2906, para. 4.1 now requires members to support their families during separation with pro rata shares of BAH With Dependents w/o the locality adjustment (what the military used to call BAQ, without the VHA add-on, back in the relative stone age until the mid-1990s).
The non-locality BAH Rates are published in an annual table, and as the name suggests, they are national rates, so an E-9 in Hawaii pays the same as one in Wyoming or Colorado. Sample rates for 2020 are:
- O-5 $1829.40
- W-3 $1308.60
- E-7 $1172.10
How Much Support Is Owed?
As indicated, the support obligation is the pro rata share of BAH, which means you take the BAH and divide it by the number of dependents, and each receives that amount. So a separated E-7 with a spouse and no other dependents owes the spouse $1173.10/mo. If there is one other family member – a child living with the spouse, the obligation remains the same.
In situations where the family is split between households, the pro rata component becomes important. If the member has two children living with her, and a spouse living elsewhere, the spouse is one of three family members, so is entitled to 1/3 of the BAH. However, if the family is living in government housing, then no further support is required.
There are exceptions to certain parts of the support obligation – for example, if the spouse earns more than the member, or has committed domestic violence against the member. Only a squadron commander can release a member from the obligations, and only in limited circumstances.
For a complete discussion of the family support obligation for Air Force personnel, and how the exceptions work, see our updated Air Force Family Support Requirements article in the Military Divorce Guide.