What is DFAS Garnishment?
DFAS stands for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. This government agency is responsible for providing payment services for the U.S. Department of Defense, including the enforcement of garnishments against former and current members of the military. The DFAS Garnishment Operations office is located in Cleveland, Ohio.
In most cases, men and women who are (or were) in the military can have their pay garnished just as those with private employers can. However, there are some different regulations and provisions that apply to military members. In general, the wages of a military service-person can be garnished for child support, alimony (spousal support,) commercial debt, and via the Uniformed Services Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA.)
DFAS Garnishment for Child Support and Spousal Support
For the DFAS to enforce a garnishment for child support or alimony (spousal support), a court order must provide the basis for the garnishment. This order must specifically direct the employer (the government) to withhold the money. If you’re seeking a DFAS child support garnishment, the first step is to contact your state’s child support enforcement agency, or an attorney who specializes in family law, to obtain such an order.
To stop a DFAS child support or spousal support garnishment, the agency or court that issued the withholding order must issue a termination order. These garnishments will also stop if the withholding order specifies an end date, or if the garnishee can provide proof that the obligation is no longer in effect (such as if the supported child reached the age of 18.)
DFAS Garnishment for Commercial Debt
Creditors (such as banks or credit card companies) who have been awarded a civil judgment against a military member can seek the DFAS’s assistance in enforcing the judgment. This is in the form of an “involuntary allotment." Implementing an involuntary allotment requires submitting form DD Form 2635, “Involuntary Allotment Application" to the DFAS, along with a copy of the civil judgment (which must be signed by a judge.)
Creditors seeking an involuntary allotment are advised to review CFR Part 112; 113 (1995), Indebtedness of Military Personnel and the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act prior to applying.
Military members are required to be given 90 days notice prior to any deductions are taken, and only one involuntary allotment can be in place at a time.
Under U.S. Federal Law, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) allows for state courts to award a portion (percentage or dollar amount) of the pay of retired servicepersons to an ex- spouse. It also requires the Department of Defense to assist in the enforcement of these orders.
The USFSPA doesn’t provide for such entitlement in itself. In order to seek relief under this Act, there must be a court order that awards the payments (such as a decree of divorce or annulment.)
Additionally, the military member and the ex-spouse must have been married for 10 years or more, during which the military member performed at least 10 years of military service.
Payments issued under the USFSPA stop upon the service member’s death.
DFAS Garnishment Limits
The amount of pay that can be subject to garnishment for child support and/or spousal support obligations are subject to federal law, which requires that no more than 50-60% of the garnishee’s disposable income be garnished. Disposable income is defined as the garnishee’s gross pay, after legally-required deductions, such as taxes, are withheld. The exact limit depends on certain circumstances such as if the person being garnished is supporting another dependent.
For commercial debts, up to 25% of the members’ disposable income can be garnished under federal law.
The highest amount that a former spouse can receive under the USFSPA is 50% of the member’s disposable retirement pay. When there are both USFSPA and child support/spousal support payments being made, the total amount being deducted from the member’s retirement check can’t exceed 65% of their disposable income.
Note that the DFAS also processes garnishments for civilian employees of certain government agencies, but different regulations and rules may apply to these types of garnishments.
Additional information regarding DFAS garnishments can be found on the DFAS website at www.dfas.mil/garnishment. You can also call the toll-free DFAS customer service hotline at 1-888-332-7411.
- Defense Finance and Accounting Services, Garnishment – http://www.dfas.mil/garnishment.html
- Military.com, Military Garnishment – http://www.military.com/benefits/content/military-pay/military-garnishment.html