Every branch of the United States Armed Forces has a general order regarding family support. Each order applies to service members until the civilian court enters an order for family support. For example, if a service member separates from his spouse, and files for divorce, his branch’s family support order says what he must do or pay to support his spouse until the civilian court enters an order granting or denying spousal maintenance and determining child support if the couple has children.
The orders vary from service to service, but they are generally based on the service member’s Basic Allowance for Housing (“BAH”)and the number of dependants the service member must support. For example, when I was on active duty, the Marine Corps general order for family support was, in a nutshell, that the service member must pay a fraction of the BAH to the spouse, and the fraction of the BAH depended on how many children the service member had who were living primarily with the spouse.
If a service member does not support his or her dependants, the spouse may contact the service member’s command and the command must enforce the general order. The local legal assistance office can help service members and their spouses in determining what the service member must do, contacting the service member’s command, and helping with filing in the civilian courts. In my experience, the military general orders generally require larger payments to the dependant spouse than the civilian courts.