Even if you’re an experienced military wife, there may be things about the military that you don’t know and, if you don’t ask, could ultimately hurt you in your divorce. If you’re hoping to get information from a JAG attorney (or, even worse, his attorney) you could find yourself receiving less than you deserve in your settlement.
Military pay is different than civilian pay because there are certain things that aren’t taxed. In most civilian divorces, the W-2 is the document that has all the critical information about what a person earned in the last year. These are like little golden nuggets, and we can often use them to calculate child and spousal support accurately.
If your husband has received a W-2, it may or may not be an accurate reflection of his earnings during the last year, and you should make sure that you check before you use this number to calculate any support figures. Remember that a W-2 only reflects taxable income, so it doesn’t include anything that he has earned that wasn’t taxed.
What kinds of things could he have received but that wouldn’t be taxed?
- Housing (his BAH)
- Special duty pay
- Hostile fire pay
Remember, too, that base pay and bonuses are included only if paid in a taxable zone. If these things were paid in a tax-free zone, some of it may be missing from your W-2!
So, how can I find out what he earned?
The best, most accurate statement of what a military service member earned in the last year is the December LES statement. It’s also a good idea to request the most recent LES statement, too. You may or may not have access to these documents (which most service members receive electronically), but your attorney should be sure to request these documents in discovery.
The LES statement holds a lot of juicy information that can be incredibly helpful to you. For example, you may also find that he has an allotment. There may be a hidden savings account somewhere, so you’ll definitely want to check!
Even though the military can be a little more complicated, there are ways to make sure that you’re getting the best, most accurate information possible when you’re trying to determine child and spousal support. Make sure you get that LES statement!