Printer-friendly version

Being in the military does not create any particular rules for establishing paternity. Commanders cannot order servicemembers to support children born out of wedlock absent a court order, and they cannot order a servicemember to undergo a DNA test (again, that's a civilian court matter).

Child Support

The Code of Federal Regulations spell out DOD policy with respect to paternity claims, and the starting point is a requirement that there be a court order of paternity or for child support. 32 C.F.R. 81.3

Army Regulation 608-99, Para. 2-2(a), applicable to the Army, succinctly sums up the position of the military: "Soldiers will comply with the financial support provisions of court orders arising from paternity. In the absence of a court order identifying a soldier as the father of a child, a male soldier has no legal obligation under this regulation to provide financial support to a child alleged to have been born to him and the child’s mother out of wedlock." If there is a court order adjudicating paternity, but not establishing a specific child support obligation, the Army will treat the child as any other child of the member. Assuming proper jurisdiction, foreign court orders will be honored. Army Regulation 608-99, Para. 2-2(c).

Air Force Instruction 36-2906, Para. 1.2.3.8.2 provides: "If the member denies paternity, inform the claimant accordingly and advise that the Air Force does not have the authority to adjudicate paternity claims." Moreover, if the servicemember acknowledges paternity, he is simply to be referred to legal counsel for advice - there is no provision for the actual payment of support.

Navy MILSPERSMAN 5800-0100, Paternity Complaints requires a member to comply with all court orders for support. Absent a court order, the manual provides for the member to be counseled on his "moral obligation" to support a child born out of wedlock. Para. 6.

Marine Corps Manual for Legal Administration, MCO P5800.16A, Chapter 15, Section 15003.3 provides "In instances where a request for support is for a child born out of wedlock, the Marine shall provide support under this under this chapter only when paternity is established by court or administrative order, or formal written acknowledgment by the Marine." Note the italicized portion - apparently in the Marines an acknowledgment of paternity may be sufficient to trigger a support obligation, even without a court order.

Coast Guard COMDTINST M1000.6A, Personnel Manual, Chapter 8M, Chapter 2.e.5.f echoes the Navy requirements - absent a court order, the member will be advised of his "moral obligation" to support his illegitimate child.

Finally, the federal government requires a court order to garnish any federal pay, including military pay, for child support purposes. 42 U.S. Code §659(i)(2)

ID Cards & Military Benefits

The services all have a jointly-published regulation governing the issuance of ID cards.  Though the terms are identical, it's known as Air Force Instruction 36-3026(I), Army Regulation 600-8-14, BUPERS Instruction 1750.10B, Marine Corps Order P5512.11C, and Commandant Instruction M5512.1.

Para. 4.9 provides that DOD will issue an ID card to the illegitimate child of a male servicemember if:

  • There is a court order of paternity and birth certificate presented, or
  • The member has executed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.

To obtain an ID card, the servicemember needs to complete a DD Form 1172, Application for Uniformed Services Identification Card DEERS Enrollment.

Though it may appear incongruous, the bottom line is that while the military will issue an ID card and provide benefits to an illegitimate child, a servicemember is not required to pay support to that child absent a court finding of paternity.